Ten years after the fact, information has finally begun to emerge that Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren’t bullied outcasts and that videogames had nothing to do with launching them on their rampage.
On April 20, 1999, the two students at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, embarked upon a shooting spree that left 12 students and a teacher dead and 23 others wounded. In the immediate panic-fueled aftermath of the massacre, inaccurate information and accusations about the killers and their motives flew freely; they were reported to be social outcasts, members of the “trenchcoat mafia,” victims of intense bullying and, of course, obsessive videogame players. Rabid gaming critics like Jack Thompson seized on the incident as evidence of a generation of teenagers being turned into killers by videogames – Thompson actually appeared on 60 Minutes in the wake of Columbine as a self-professed “expert” on the social impact of games – but ten years after the fact, evidence has been revealed which shows that neither videogames nor any of the other cited “triggers” actually had anything at all to do with their decision to murder their fellow students.
“The killings ignited a national debate over bullying, but the record now shows Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold hadn’t been bullied – in fact, they had bragged in diaries about picking on freshmen and ‘fags’,” according to a report by USAToday.com. “Contrary to early reports, Harris and Klebold weren’t on antidepressant medication and didn’t target jocks, blacks or Christians, police now say, citing the killers’ journals and witness accounts.”
“At the time, Columbine became a kind of giant national Rorschach test,” the article continues. “Observers saw its genesis in just about everything: lax parenting, lax gun laws, progressive schooling, repressive school culture, violent video games, antidepressant drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, for starters.”
But the truth, according to psychologist Peter Langman, author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters, is both simpler and far more complex. His studies of ten school shooters, including Harris and Klebold, found that nine of them suffered from the “potentially dangerous” mix of depression and suicidal thoughts. “It is hard to prevent murder when killers do not care if they live or die,” he wrote. “It is like trying to stop a suicide bomber.”
In the case of Harris and Klebold, they didn’t become mass murderers because they were “disaffected videogamers who wore cowboy dusters,” or because they were lashing out after years of abuse at the hands of their fellow students, or because years of playing Doom had left them unable to separate fantasy from reality. “These are not ordinary kids who were bullied into retaliation,” Langman wrote in his book. “These are not ordinary kids who played too many video games. These are not ordinary kids who just wanted to be famous. These are simply not ordinary kids. These are kids with serious psychological problems.”