Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, April 22, 2004 8:50 pm

Columbine: Self-aggrandizement via slaughter


Earlier this week was the fifth anniversary of the mass killing at Columbine High School in Colorado by two teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the worst school shooting in history.

We “learned” a lot about them and the crime in the weeks and months afterward … most of which, it now seems, was wrong. In particular, Dave Cullen writes in this scary, fascinating article on Slate, we know these important things:

  • The shooting was never intended to be the worst “school shooting” in history. In fact, it was intended to be, and almost became, among the biggest mass murders in history.
  • The killers were not depressed outcasts, taking revenge for the abuse inflicted upon them by their social betters. In fact, Eric Harris was a psychopath (the term, unfortunately, is never defined in one place in the article, but it’s discussed enough to make clear that the meaning probably isn’t what you think) who probably bullied the more depressed but also more empathic Klebold into joining him in what he saw as self-aggrandizement via slaughter: “Harris was not a wayward boy who could have been rescued. Harris, [psychologists on the case] believe, was irretrievable. He was a brilliant killer without a conscience, searching for the most diabolical scheme imaginable.”

The case contains only the grimmest of silver linings: “If [Harris] had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.”

It’s unpleasant, but probably essential, reading.

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