'We got it wrong': Columbine author reflects on school shootings and the media

Dave Cullen, author of the definitive book on the Columbine massacre that occurred 20 years ago, has hailed what he believes are the first signs of hope that America might be finding a way out of the epidemic of gun violence that continues to claim scores of young lives.
Writing in the Guardian in an article, Cullen praises the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, for potentially leading America out of the bloody trap in which it has been gripped for the past two decades. The Parkland massacre was the deadliest shooting at a high school in US history.
In the article, to be published by the Guardian this weekend, he labels the students’ demands for change a year ago an “uprising”, equivalent in scale to protests against the Vietnam war.
“When Parkland was attacked last Valentine’s Day, supporting gun safety was considered politically toxic,” he writes. “Suddenly, for the first time in a generation, it is starting to grow politically toxic to oppose it.”
Students, including Parkland shooting survivors Tyra Hemans and Emma Gonzalez, center, gather for the March for Our Lives rally demanding gun control in Washington. Photograph: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters
ThGuardian article is being published on the eve of a grim double anniversary in what is framed by Cullen as the “school shooter era”. Thursday will mark one year on from the Parkland shooting that killed 17 pupils and staff, while 20 April is the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre, which Cullen defines as the birth of the epoch.
His reflections on the 20 years that divide the two tragedies read partly as a mea culpa. He laments that as one of the first reporters on the Columbine scene he contributed along with the rest of the media to the creation of myths that then provided fertile soil upon which further gun violence could grow.
“We got it wrong. Absurdly wrong … What I failed to grasp that day was how we were botching the story – and the staggering ramifications of mislaid good intentions. I had no idea that I might be playing a role, and bear some responsibility for the children still dying around us two decades later.”
In Cullen’s analysis the initial misrepresentation of the two Columbine shooters as “outcast boys” lashing out at the jocks who bullied them served to turn them into mythical figures that then inspired other distraught individuals to follow suit. He calls the repeated gun rampages “spectacle murders” that are “essentially performances – and without the media, they have no stage. No voice. We play right into their hands.”
That stage has brought America to a sorry pass. Studies have ranked 2018 as the worst year for school shootings on record, both in terms of number of incidents (94) and fatalities (55). Despite such ongoing carnage, politicians have been cowed into submission by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and in Cullen’s bleak assessment “the US has settled into a state of defeatism”.
Parkland survivors-turned-activists Emma González and David Hogg stand with Mitch Dworet, father of Parkland victim Nicholas Dworet. Photograph: Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images
Which brings us back to the Parkland kids and that rarest of things in America’s contemporary gun debate: green shoots of hope. Parkland “flipped the script”, he writes, overturning two decades of media obsession with the shooters by swinging the spotlight instead on to the survivors.
Who can recall the name of the Parkland shooter? By contrast, David Hogg and Emma “we call BS” González, among other Parkland students, are known the world over. González has 1.7m followers on Twitter, under her handle @Emma4Change.
Cullen, whose new book is published next week under the title Parkland: Birth of a Movement, is not starry-eyed. He notes that the NRA has yet to roll over, “and the battle will rage for years”.
But having been a horrified observer of this uniquely American bloodletting, he is clearly relieved that an alternative to despair has finally emerged.

Source: https://in.news.yahoo.com/apos-got-wrong-apos-columbine-180001838.html


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