Obligatory Columbine Post or My favorite Ninja Turtles characters were Wingnut and Screwloose.

I should have known better than to write about conspiracy theories in the same entry that I talked about the Columbine shootings. In response to those terms crashing together in a Google search engine, I got the following comments on my previous blog entry:

" starviego says...

You are still being lied to about Columbine. Big time. If you want to find out what really happened at Columbine I suggest you read what the eyewitnesses had to say:


Now, normally [not that this has ever happened before], I think I'd just say something like "Jesus God, poke a hole in the ground, and these wackjobs just spring up like roses planted in the finest cow shit," but two things occurred to me; one, I didn't enable comment moderation in the first place because of my firm stance against censorship of any kind, and my deep want for the blog to be a comfortable, open place for the exchange of ideas. Any ideas. And two, this subject is something I know enough about that I can actually speak on, so why not expend the few minutes or so it will take to set this starviego [who on a mountain of skulls, in a castle of pain, sat on a throne of blood...] fellow straight?

Not that I expect it to do the least bit of good.

First off, let me say it kind of sickens me to link to tabloid garbage like "What Really Happened," so to assuage my guilt, and assure equal time and representation to both sides of the issue, I'd like to link Dave Cullen's book "Columbine." Again, I can't recommend this book enough, and I hope Viego will take the time to pick the book up and read it, if nothing else then to find out what really happened [see what I did there?], from someone who's followed the tragedy from the very beginning.

Excerpts of the book and commentary from the author are available at slate.com, where Cullen is a frequent contributor. Enjoy the freebies here:

"God I Want to Torch and Level Everything" - Columbine killer Eric Harris plans the massacre.
By Dave Cullen

The Depressive and the Psychopath - At last we know why the Columbine killers did it.
By Dave Cullen

The Four Most Important Lessons of Columbine - How "leakage" and the "active shooter protocol" have prevented other tragedies.
By Dave Cullen

Inside Columbine - As the assault raged, students fought to keep a wounded teacher alive.
By Dave Cullen

Now, with that done, to address the "truth" I was linked to. I would also like to say this isn't the first time I've come across this page about the Columbine tragedy -- while working on an earlier draft of my college penned screenplay "Un-Filmable," I had plans for one of the characters, a hacker, photographer, and conspiracy shut-in to go on a Lone Gunman-esque rant about the tragedy, and in my searching for something ludicrous that could possible pose as the truth, I came across this page. In the end, I wound up going with much more subtle references to Columbine, mostly just out of fear that if "Un-Filmable" ever defeated its own name and became a real movie, I didn't want anyone lending any credence to that garbage because they'd "seen it in a movie."

I considered going line by line with the article, ticking off each huge mistake, but in all honesty the lack of citation and the endless repetition of the same, erroneous point would make that a bit useless. Instead, I'll focus on what the author or authors seem to want the point to be, conveniently stated at the top of the article:

"Columbine : 101 witnesses can't be wrong" Right away, we have a statement that is emphatically not true -- eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and while still used, the fact that this article immediately assumes that anyone who was there during the shootings obviously saw and heard everything exactly as it happened. However, the following "accounts" of victims seeing people other than Klebold and Harris attack the school can easily be accounted for through high stress and costume changes.

Yes, that's right, costume changes. As the shooting proceeded, Klebold and Harris shed their "trademark" [Re: God, cringe] trench coats, and continued their attack. To illustrate, imagine you witnessed the beginnings of the shooting outside the school, where both killers were still dressed in their coats. You run into the school to take cover, and the shooters enter the building soon after, one of them shedding their coats. What you see, however, is two shooters outside dressed in long black coats, and two more shooters inside, dressed in a black coat and another in a simple t-shirt. Coupled with the stress, it is not unlikely you now believe you are being attacked by not two, but perhaps three, even four shooters, as opposed to the actual two. When looking at the size of the attack, along with the sheer brutality and the slowed response of law enforcement in this instance, common sense might even indicated to someone in that situation that they were being attacked by not two shooters, but an entire platoon of natural born killers. But it is important to remember that Klebold and Harris were moving, changing weapons, and shedding their coats, and all of those actions would lead eye witnesses to incorrectly believe there were more attackers than there actually were.

Another oft-mentioned point in the article is eye witness identifying other kids at the school as shooters, which can be explained away as easily as a byproduct of the size of Columbine's enrollment. Though Klebold and Harris were not the outcast they are often portrayed to be, the school had upwards of 2,000 + students at the school, and not everyone knew the shooters by face or name, and faulty identifications are not only likely, law enforcement expected it.

Furthermore, had there been other, living shooters at the school, there is no logical reason law enforcement wouldn't have identified them and brought them up on charges. Remember, out of a desperate need to blame and charge someone, Mark Manes, who provided the shooters with some of their weapons, was given what many see as an excessive prison sentence. If there were others to be held up and charged for this, what possible reason would there be for them not being pursued?

Other parts of the article mention the explosions happening in some parts of the building, while the shooters were identified as being in different parts of the school. The explanations here are far more banal -- many of the bombs that Eric Harris built for his attack had timers and fuses, and lots of them were left or thrown far from the killers during the attack. It is also important to factor in the stress on the victims during the attack, and the echo chamber that that the hallways of Columbine effectively became.

A final note is that many students reported later than Klebold and Harris had approached them with their plans before the attack, often times joined by other students, such as Chris Morris [it is important to note that Morris cooperated with the police throughout their investigation]. This is absolutely true, in so much as Harris and Klebold leaked their plans many times, and Harris was actively hoping to recruit other shooters for the attack -- however, many of his friends blew this off as "Eric being Eric," and by the time of the Columbine attack, the only accomplice Eric had effectively recruited was Dylan Klebold.

So, to answer that ludicrousness, YES, 101 eye witness can be mistaken. Sorry, Viego, this is why an investigation takes place after the eye witness interviews.

to those in a position of power, and even more ludicrous because in the aftermath, both boys left in-depth documentations of their plans and thought processes. Hiding a The final bit to the "What Really Happened" article is the part I find most insulting and disturbing, because it suggests this tragedy was somehow planned or staged to help push through the Brady Bill [which was pretty much assured to pass at this point anyway] and similar gun control laws. This would mean some outside force would have had to put Eric Harris up to the attacks [Eric psychopathy made him generally unresponsive to adult influences, and it seems equally unlikely that with how transparent the boys were in their personal materials that neither would have revealed a secret co-conspirator], and then abandoned him completely, fully assured that Harris would be able to construct the timers for his bombs and get the guns and ammunition needed without a problem. In actuality, Harris hit walls in both situations, almost not getting the weapons he needed in time and ending up with many bombs that did not detonate properly.

"What Really Happened's" bogeyman is somehow both a genius, Oz-like master planner, and an inept people manager [the George Lucas of the New World Order, I suppose], the kind of monster that bitter, NRA pledging gun-nuts love to picture as their antagonists, but one that doesn't quite stand up to things like proven facts. Luckily, these right-wing conspiracy cranks have never been ones to let that stop them before, and probably aren't going to let that stop them now.

Again, I implore anyone who disagrees with me to pick up Cullen's book, as well as downloading the wealth of information that has already been released to the public about the case. As a strong supporter of the First Amendment, I respect the lunatic fringe's right to post this kind of speculation all over the internet. But it also lets me reply, and add my bewildered and dismissive final comment:

And I just thought "Idiot Summer" was a clever title for my last blog.

6 comments :: Obligatory Columbine Post or My favorite Ninja Turtles characters were Wingnut and Screwloose.

  1. Haha, nice, this is about the last thing I thought I'd end up reading about today. I wonder if ol' boy will be back to read your response?

  2. I always get a big kick out of people who think they know more than the people who were actually there and saw and heard what happened. The occasional contradictory witness account is acceptable, but you simply cannot discount the huge number of people who saw the others who were involved.

  3. And I always get a kick out of people who think they know more than the detectives, investigators, reporters, psychologists, judges, and social scientists who studied the case. These conclusions were not just my own. There is a reason, sir, that we do not end the investigation with the eye witness reports, and that is because 101 can seem the same event and their individual accounts can differ wildly.

    My suggestion to you would be to pick up the Cullen book, put an order in for the official transcripts from the Littleton Police Department, or at the very least get your crackpot theories from a website that doesn't try to connect personal and political agendas to national tragedies with the flimsiest of conjecture.

    Glen- I'm glad we didn't put money on this. I really didn't expect the ol'boy to come back.

  4. Wow! Our worlds collide again! I was bored and thought I'd check back in to see if you heard that Bennington was doing a memorial service for Steven on May 17th.

    My office overlooks Rebel Hill and Clement Park. I work for the Jefferson County Public Administrator here in Littleton. One of the attorneys I share an office with lives next door to one of the shooter's parents ( I won't specify whom for privacy sake.) Since April '99 I have learned 3 things about Columbine.

    #1 - the grief remains prolific! Students and Parents of students who died are experiencing something completely unimaginable. Their grief manifests itself in many ways... conspiracy theories abound....anything that will ease/justify/explain the pain of the horror they will live with every day. Who can judge this unless we've experienced it?

    #2 - There are valid reasons from within the community to believe cover-ups, lies, lack of due diligence and other possibly negligent activities took place in the investigations and prosecutions of Columbine. There was immense pressure for answers and for someone to blame. 10 years out and I think we have more questions than answers.

    #3 - no matter how much research is done, no matter how much investigation was done, those who experienced Columbine first hand have a story to tell. We'd be wise to listen to it. We may learn something. If nothing else, it might help them heal from an unimaginable trauma.

    Best Wishes,

  5. This blog was so silly.

    The eyewitnesses know that Columbine was a conspiracy. It is a fact.

  6. Cara -- excellent points. I respect your opinion greatly, and the next post is going to be about some clarification, especially to your points.

    "SJCP" -- I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. That said, your simple, dismissive statements such as "silly" and "this is a fact" don't address just what sort of conspiracy you believe I'm missing, so I've really no way to respond.