Letters to the Editor

The race angle on Littleton massacre; Conason just doesn't get punk music.

By Letters to the Editor
May 11, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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White lies



I, too, was puzzled by the media's tone on the tragic killings in Colorado.
"How could these upper middle-class white boys do something like this? Must
be that Goth thing, or their video games or cliques ..." The
violence occurring in inner cities gets only a shrug and an "It figures."


America is so saturated in violence that everyone is affected.
Even pretty little towns in the Rockies are susceptible. The folks who fled
the scary violent cities have discovered that the enemy is in their own
picket-fenced backyard.

-- Meg Pearson


In "White lies," Jill Nelson sets up a pretty brittle straw man. After all the school mass shootings by and of white kids in the past few years, how could she really be surprised and relieved that the killers
weren't black?


Come on. That's like being surprised and relieved to find out that the
rush-hour traffic jam you hear about on the radio wasn't caused by a
rampaging elephant.

-- Josh McHugh

Crazy as they wanna be


"Crazy as they wanna be" and "White lies" have honestly and precisely pinpointed the ugly foundation of racism on which much of the infrastructure of this country is based.


On the evening of the Littleton massacre, a white woman at a staff meeting asked if I had heard about the shooting. I had been in meetings all day and had not. She explained the incident as best she could, and then looked at me and said, "I thought this type of thing only happened in Compton." I was visibly surprised at her statement, and asked, "Have you ever heard of this type of thing happening in Compton?"

I hadn't mentioned the word race, but we both knew that race had everything to do with her statement, and with my response. The sad part was that she thought that her statement was innocent. She didn't realize how deeply images of what criminals look like are ingrained.


-- Russell Davis

Dickerson's article was so typical; white children are continually going on murderous rampages, yet somehow the black community's problems are at issue. Certainly the black community does not take "comfort" in the mass killings by white children.

After all, what Dickerson fails to relate is that blacks have been through the gun-violence holocaust of the '80s crack cocaine war. I find it particularly egregious for Dickerson to mislead readers with a heading that depicts an article on white mass killers, but detours (purposely in my opinion) to the usual montage: Blacks have a shorter life expectancy; blacks commit more crimes; blacks have more babies out of wedlock. We blacks have heard it all a million times. Too bad Dickerson was too apprehensive to confront a problem that seems to plague whites.


-- Willie Bass

I very much enjoyed Debra Dickerson's "Crazy as they wanna be." But
I just can't resist pointing out to Dickerson and Salon that the
reason the director didn't include any blacks in "Saving Private Ryan"
is because the U.S. Army was very much segregated at that time. It's
pretty doubtful any blacks would have been allowed anywhere near
Normandy until the beachhead had already been secured. Kind of hard to
fault Spielberg for being historically authentic.

-- Jim Morekis


Hitler youth?

While I very much appreciated the fact
that Joe Conason urged people to read "eerily prescient" magazines such as
Hit List in order to better understand such counterculture phenomena, it
was disheartening to discover that he exhibited almost as much confusion
about such groups as the rest of the media -- apparently even after reading
Kevin Coogan's article on "The Politics of Black Metal" in the
February/March 1999 issue of our magazine. Indeed, Conason not only was
unable to differentiate clearly between such radically distinct
music-oriented countercultures as punk, industrial and black metal, but
also to distinguish between diverse currents of the radical right and
various "underground" religions.

Perhaps Conason would be better able to make such crucial cultural
distinctions if he did not have such a condescending attitude toward all
forms of what he refers to as "screeching, atonal music" and other
"offensive crap." Only after overcoming such prejudices will he be in a
position to discuss such topics more objectively, and in the process to
transcend the biases of the mainstream media.

-- Jeff Bale

Editor, Hit List Magazine

Berkeley, Calif.


Joe Conason, like everyone else, is missing the point about the Littleton
murders. These two kids did not kill because they wore black trench coats,
or listened to a certain type of music, or believed in a certain set of
sociopolitical theories. They killed because they saw themselves as
worthless, useless and hopelessly out of sync with the mainstream that
surrounded them. Like thousands of other teenagers who act out in ways
ranging from cutting class to cutting classmates, they were constantly
bombarded with the idea that they were different, and that different was

This event did not occur out of the blue. If one parent,
one teacher, one student, one administrator had made the effort to help
these kids, this whole incident might never have happened. Until we stop
creating children with a need to strike back at a world which is crushing
them, all the gun control laws in the world won't stop the next Littleton
from happening.

-- Ayah Setel

It's clear that Conason simply hasn't done his homework. Industrial music is generally quite liberal, culturally distinct from heavy metal and possesses at least a
rudimentary sense of humor. By casting it as violent neo-Nazi Satan worship,
he contributes to the fast-growing suspicion that those who are in any way
"different" are budding killers. In characterizing Throbbing Gristle (a
band, I will wager, that he's never heard) as neo-Nazis, he ignores their
subtle, anarchic, left-wing lyrics (and their long history of
misunderstanding by tabloid media), as well as their deeply held moral
values. He does further injustice to the true "industrial" movement by
lumping it together with puerile poseur Marilyn Manson and the fascist
Norwegian black metal scene. "Black metal" is by no means a "subset of
industrial music." Try again, Salon.


-- Greg Lyon

Oberlin, Ohio


My column clearly referred to "certain ugly elements," not to all industrial or punk or metal or thrash bands. Nor did I declare those genres "offensive" or crappy in totality -- the antecedent to that sentence is the glamorization (by groups like Throbbing Gristle) of Nazi iconography, Charles Manson, etc. Beyond that, I cede the ongoing, tedious debate about precise genre boundaries to musicians, fans and critics like Jeff Bale, adding only this from Bale's own introduction to the Coogan article: "[M]any new youth countercultures [have] emerged from the radical neo-fascist milieu, especially since the mid-1970s." Exactly my point. And it is in within those countercultures that we may discover where disturbed kids like Klebold and Harris get the idea that Hitler is cool.

The disturbing case of "Ben H.," the messianic marksman


Dr. Frank's hatred, judgment and character assassination are ugly even when
concealed under a veneer of political correctness. If Dr. Frank is your house psychiatrist, you should look into a different HMO. He succeeds more in making a mockery of himself and his profession than anything or anyone else.

-- Tom Quigley

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