Maciek's Reviews > Columbine

Columbine by Dave Cullen
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Sep 02, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, true-crime, read-in-2012, reviewed
Read in August, 2012

On April 20th, 1999, two students of Columbine High arrived at their school for the last time. They were about to begin what would be known as the deadliest schooting in an American high school, killing one teacher and twelve students. What is less known is that Columbine has originally been planned as a bombing; the pair has left two petrol bombs in the school cafeteria, and positioned themselves outside the entrances so they could shoot possible survivors: it is probable that had the bombs exploded all of the approximately 488 students in the cafeteria would have been killed. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters, would have committed an atrocity equal in scope to Jonestown, undoubtedly the deadliest and largest murder at a high school in any country. Because their bombs failed to explode - they were badly made - the pair amred themselves up with shotguns, rifles and semi-automatic weapons, and entered the school, where they killed twelve students and one teacher, wounding many others, before taking their own lives.



The worst part of the Columbine shooting occured in the school library, where students have been hiding under the tables, forgetting in fear that they could be easily seen. In the 13 minutes they spent in the library, Harris and Klebold have killed 10 students and injured 12 others. Part of the shooting which occured before they entered the library and the entrance itself is captured on a 911 phone call made by the teacher Patti Nielsen. The call is chilling: both Eric and Dylan can be heard shooting and cheering in the school corridors, dropping pipe bombs, and their voices have been caught on tape near the end of the call. Eric orders the students to "get up!" and Dylan shouts "everybody get up!". This is only a part of the call - Nielsen left the phone hanging as the moved to a better hiding position, and all of the massacre has been captured on police tape.



The two shooters have returned to the school cafeteria, captured on the school camera in what is most probably the best known image from the shooting: there Eric tried to detonate the bombs they left by shooting at them, which is probably his first suicide attempt. They succeeded in starting a small fire, but as it was later revealed it was completely extinguished by the fire sprinklers. The two eventually returned to the library, where they comitted suicide; just 49 minutes after they entered the school.

Dave Cullen's book is an attempt to study Columbine in depth: the author sets out to discovers what was the killers' motive and how they prepared for the event. The writing is very coloquial and pretty plain; at times it feels to b forcefully hip and in tune with the age group that is being described. It does not necessarily have to detract from the text, but it posesses neither the lyricism nor the power of "In Cold Blood", a work to which it has been compared. Nevertheless, "Columbine" moves at a brick pace and remains interesting and captivating throughout the whole text.

I have significant problem with the author's thesis, which essentially boils down to this: Eric Harris was a psychopath - and killed people; and Dylan Klebold has been his accomplice because he was depressive and thought about ending his own life. That's pretty much it; it's the main point of the book and the explanation for the events that occured. The author cites many pages from the diary of Eric Harris which he uses to support his point. At the same time, he completely downplays the bullying which took place at Columbine; while he acknowledged that bullying existed, he states that Eric and Dylan never complained that they were bullied (but then what bullied kid would?) Eric wrote out his gruesome fantasies in his journal, but he also wrote how he was abused:

"Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how fucking weak I am and shit, well I will get you all back: ultimate fucking revenge here. you people could have shown more respect, treated me better, asked for my knowledge or guidence more, treated me more like senior, and maybe I wouldn't have been as ready to tear your fucking heads off. then again, I have always hated how I looked, I make fun of people who look like me, sometimes without even thinking sometimes just because I want to rip on myself. Thats where a lot of my hate grows from, the fact that I have practically no selfesteem, especially concerning girls and looks and such. therefore people make fun of me... constantly... therefore I get no respect and therefore I get fucking PISSED."

Eric and Dylan made a series of tapes which they recorded in Eric's basement. Eric's family frequently moved and Eric recalls how he always had to earn respect anew, to "start out at the bottom of the ladder" and how people always made fun of him: "my face, my hair, my shirts". Dylan recalls how he was abused even by his own brother, who constantly ripped on him. He says: "If you could see all the anger I've stored over the past four fucking years...(...)You made me what I am. You added to the rage." During the library massacre, Dylan is said to have suggested that knifing people might be more fun than shooting them.

Brooks Brown, who was a friend of both boys recalls one of the incidents of bullying, where both Eric and Dylan have been picked on in the cafeteria. Although Brooks is mentioned in the book, he is notably absent from the acknowledgments section.

"People surrounded them in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots," Brown says. "That happened while teachers watched. They couldn't fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it."

In this clip from "The Columbine Killers", a documentary of the shooting, Brooks describes the bullying which took place at Columbine, and openly says that Eric and Dylan have been bullied daily and everybody knew about it. Brooks says that Eric and Dylan were the lowest of the low, two uncoolest kids in the whole school. A female friend of Dylan says how a jock pushed her into a locker when he saw her talking to Dylan, "that faggot". The except from the amateur video shot by Eric's friend seems to confirm that: it shows Eric, his friend with whom he is talking and another friend who documents their conversation. Please notice how both boys are cheerful and talkative during the beginning of the filming, and when they see a group of jocks approaching they immediately fall completely silent and stop all gesturing; in an instant they become sullen and fearful. As the jocks pass them, one jock rams his elbow into Eric's back so hard that he almost knocks out the camera from the hand of the boy who was filming. And as Brooks point out, neither Eric nor the two boys react in any way: they are so used to this behavior that they simply walk away and hope that they will be left alone.

When Eric and Dylan entered the library, they ordered everybody with a white hat to stand up; at Columbine jocks wore white hats. Survivor of the shooting, Bree Pasquale, describes on video shortly after the shooting that one of the boys told her explicitly that at least one of the reasons was the fact that he was bullied. An article in the Denver Post describes in how for some students at Columbine life has been pure hell.

Another article
from the same newspaper expands on the issue, with one survivor recalling: ""They ... pointed a gun at my head and asked if I was a jock. They said it's revenge time on jocks for making us outcasts".

Both boys have made amateur movies where they portrayed themselves as saviors of abused students from the evil jocks.

In Cullen's book, Columbine is almost a storybook school; almost none of this is mentioned, and the principal is portrayed as almost saintlike (most of the time he is affectionately called "mr. D"). The bullying factor is completely neglected, brushed aside, as if it did not exist. Evidence indicating otherwise is ignored in favor of a simpler, perhaps easier explanation: the shooters were psychopatic and depressive, and there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent them: Cullen goes for the theory that psychopaths are born, not made. This topic is the subject of intense discussion in the field of psychology and psychiatry, far from being settled. While there is no doubt that the author did an impressive amount of research for this book, it seems that he tailored it to fit his already made conclusion: a nice, reassuring wrap up, "he was just a psychopath" end of story. I am afraid that the story is far from settled and perhaps never will be, and that the book is far from being a definitive work on the topic of Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 65) (65 new)


Trudi As always, great review Maciek, and you raise some valid points of criticism. I would argue that while it may be oversimplifying matters for the author to have relied so heavily on the "psychopath theory", I also feel very strongly that the "bullying defense" up to this book's publication was also overused and a red-herring.

Criminal psychology shows mass murderers (as opposed to serial killers) are a very particular psychotic breed and to blame Eric's violent fantasies, ego, and lack of empathy for his victims on the premise that he had been bullied does not hold much water for me. The historical record shows adolescents who are mercilessly bullied are much more likely to kill themselves than their tormentors (in Eric's case, he was just as satisfied to cut down an innocent bystander as opposed to a bullying jock).

I also think there is merit to the argument that had Dylan not been friends with Eric, he would not have acted on his own. Like many teens who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide, left to his own devices I feel Dylan would have killed himself before hatching a violent plan to grandiosely slaughter others.

But that's my bias showing and certainly I had those strong feelings before even picking up this book. I am convinced that Eric was a psychopath while the nature/nurture ratio of that psychopathy will continue to be debated.

I also think bullying is a very serious matter that continues to be the cause of deep suffering for many youth. I just don't think Eric Harris should have ever been made the poster child for victims of bullying.


Maciek Thank you for your kind words and valuable input, Trudi! I agree with what you said. In no way did I mean that bullying alone can be used as justification for this massacre. However, I felt that the explanation offered in this book is just as simplistic - implying that Eric was a born psychopath, and that this is the reason for him planning and carrying out the bombing, and when it failed the subsequent shooting. The message which resonates from this book is misleading at best - Cullen's thesis is that psychopaths are born, not made, and this is a controversial statement in itself, but even more so when you notice that he basically brushes aside much of the evidence of bullying at Columbine and toxic atmopshere which did exist at the school, and to which both Eric and Dylan have been exposed and affected by.

I think that from what the boys planned it's obvious that they did not plan to go out of the school alive. Susan Klebold, Dylan's mom, wrote an essay for Oprah's magazine where she says that after reading her son's journal she understood that her son did not want to get out of that school alive. One of the boys said in the cafeteria: "Today the world's going to come to an end. Today's the day we die". I think that had the bombing succeeded, killing everyone in the cafeteria, Eric and Dylan would commit suicide by engaging in a firefight with the police, bound to be shot down.

I think that Eric had an inferiority complex, which can be an explanation for his violent fantasies. But to say that bullying did not play any part in the formation of his character is a gross mistake. Eric complains about being bullied every time his family had to move, never feeling adequate to the rest of the group, being picked on because of his appearance, etc. There exists at least one video of Eric being bullied - the one I linked in my review - and numerous testimonies of his classmates and friends. To completely ignore that and pretend that it does not exist because it can contradict the point the book is trying to make is a gross injustice to this case.

I agree, though to an extent. I think that if Dylan did not meet Eric, he would not shoot anyone; what is probable is that he would commit suicide. But on the other hand if Eric's life turned out different - if he got accepted into the army, for example - none of this might not have happened, either. However, together the two understood each other and become fuel for each other's anger and fury at the school and the jocks: Dylan certainly does not appear to be just a reluctant follower of Eric. He can be heard screaming "yeah!" in the 911 recording as he shoots at students and teachers, and he suggests that he and Eric knife people to get a bigger kick out of it. The boy's have been carrying so much anger and fury inside of them, and being bullied and humiliated every day at school only added to that. I think that this pushed them over the edge and made them commit the massacre. What is interesting is that they did shot at random students, but they definitely also wanted to single out jocks and athletes (as proved by the testimonies of students who survived the library rampage). Later, they passed whole classrooms of students which they could have easily killed, but didn't.

I don't think that neither Eric nor Dylan should be made a poster boy for school bullying, but focusing on a controversial theory about psychopathy does not do justice to this case. There is evidence that the atmosphere at Columbine was toxic, and that both boys have been bullied repeatedly, yet this study completely ignores that, prefering to focus on facts which support a blanket statement that "he was a psychopath". What is missing from this analysis is the context of the attack on Colunmbine: the fact that for both boys it was a revenge attack for what they had experienced there. Blaming inherent evil is an easy way out, and one which can be reassuring for many people; it gives them a comfortable pat on the back, providing them with a sense of false calm by telling that they could have done nothing to prevent this. However, I think that it's simplistic at best and not true at all in this case. The nature of the atmosphere at Columbine High and both Eric and Dylan is way more complex that this book would want us to believe.


message 3: by Aloha (new) - added it

Aloha I agree 100% with what Trudi said. You and I have been bullied, Maciek, and we did not go on to abuse people, innocent or otherwise. I think there is an "inherently evil" type of personality that will commit evil act with little instigation. Look at children who have committed crimes against their parents for doing nothing more than usual disciplinary actions such as taking away a video game.

However, I do agree with you, Maciek, that as a journalist responsible for documenting all the facts related to the case, the author is doing the case and the reader a disservice by not including all the facts relevant to the case. Maybe he thinks the bullying is not relevant compared to the horrendous act, but it did contribute to the reasoning, even if it's warped.

I do agree that the jocks created an oppressive environment in the school with their bullying, as evidenced by how assuredly they formed a wall wherever they go, creating intimidation and commanding obedience. Bullying is an issue in the schools that needed to be addressed and wired into every child's mind, and maybe it would be worth it to use the Columbine case to raise the issue, although I don't think it excuses Dylan and Eric's crime.


Maciek All over the world kids are bullied and do not commit any violence against their opressors. Nowhere do I aim to excuse the murders committed by these two boys, but I think that bullying had a definitive influence here, and at the very least served as a justification for the killers. I think the jury is still very much out on the question of psychopathy, and the whole thesis of this book relies on an assumption that one of the boys was inherently evil, and openly states that both boys were not bullied - despite evidence to the contrary. Kids who commit acts of violence against their parents for taking away their video games are addicted to them, and their reaction is similar if not the same as of an addict who has his drug taken away. They're under the influence of the video game, which fulfills their needs and dsesires, and when it is taken away they feel withdrawal and would do anything to get it back.

In his journal Eric writes about wanting to start a revolutionl he wanted to get exposure. I can suppose that perhaps he meant a school revolution, show everybody thatboth boys fought against the bullies and authorities who let them be bullied. Yes, of course their reasoning is warped, but to ignore the influence of bullying, abuse and singling out of both boys is something which should not take place here.

It does not excuse their crime in any way, but neither should it be brushed under the carpet; the fact that it is largely, if not completely ignored in this book is something which is very surprising.


Trudi All great points Maciek. I will concede to you that the author definitely had a skewed agenda to go so far out of his way to ignore the bullying aspect at Columbine. I do think he had a good reason for doing so: up until this book it had only been about the bullying as if the Columbine parents/teachers/students were somehow culpable in their own tragedy for not "seeing the signs" soon enough or "looking the other way". I know this is not what you're arguing here, but for a long time that seemed to be the standard analysis of Columbine and it never sat well with me from the very beginning. It smacked too strongly of blame the victims as if the real tragedy here was the deaths of Eric and Dylan. How they suffered. How no one was there to reach out and help them.

I understand your frustration at the author's determination to try and debunk the bullying angle, and I'll also give you that maybe he did go about it the wrong way to ignore it completely. But I have my doubts that bullying at Columbine was any more severe than the bullying at thousands of other high schools. Did it play a factor in heightening Eric's violent fantasies and feed an urge to "get back"? As you say, there really is no way to come up with a definitive answer of cause and effect in this case.

It is my bias that psychopaths can at the very least be born with a "predisposition" to antisocial behavior. I don't see it as "an evil force" and I don't think it's an easy answer to make us all sleep better at night. I just see it as a human development fact. Some of us are born without the ability to develop empathy, which leads to antisocial behaviors like lying and stealing, and then in extreme cases, violence and murder. Can good behaviors be learned and bad ones reinforced? Of course. I would never try to deny "the nurture" aspect. But I do believe there is something fundamentally different in the brain chemistry of serial killers and mass murderers that shouldn't be discounted and the faster neuroscience can unlock those mysteries the better off we'll all be as a species.

Could anything have prevented Eric from committing mass murder? Less bullying? More friends? A sympathetic teacher? We'll never know and that's the frustrating part. That's the part that keeps the parents up at night I bet. As for me, I think Eric was on this road, all the symptoms for personality disorder were present, and if it hadn't been his high school, it would have been a college campus or his place of employment. I don't think this was an adolescent phase that given time and opportunity he would have grown out of.

But I stress, that's my bias. I realize that. And most likely the reason why this book resonated so much more with me than it did you. You've definitely given me a lot to think about Maciek, especially in light of the more recent massacre in Colorado at the movie theater.

Jesus, maybe it's just something in the water there, hey?


message 6: by John (new) - added it

John I was bullied at primary school but not in secondary school. I was lucky in that I wasn't perceived as a victim or target when I reached my teens. I was a volunteer with the Irish equivalent of the Territorial Army and I can remember after a day on the firing range joking with a friend that all the bullies in my school were so lucky that I couldn't take my rifle home...

I am not condoning what happened in Columbine High but as a former victim of bullies I can identify with the anger and frustration these kids may have felt. Bullying in schools is a problem everywhere, but in a country where guns are readily available it is no wonder that tragedies such as this occur.

Parents and teachers need to be more aware of who is being bullied and of who are the bullies. Children too need to be educated in identifying bullying behaviour and bullies.

It will never stop as it is a part of our development as adults but it needs to be recognised so that it is never allowed to reach a point where a young person feels he has no other option than to pick up a weapon to end another person's life.


message 7: by mark (new)

mark monday excellent and absorbing review, Mace. great follow-up comments as well. just a really good job on this one.

i agree with your points. i've never really been a victim of bullying so it would be hard for me to chime in about how deeply i think it would affect someone, inherent mental health issues or not. but it is not too hard a stretch for my imagination to see how a person who has felt oppressed and victimized much of their life would want to do something - anything, heinous or otherwise - to try to take some power back. suicide and other forms of self-directed abuse is a response i can definitely understand. but so are violent and other externally-directed actions.


message 8: by Maciek (last edited Sep 04, 2012 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maciek Trudi wrote: "All great points Maciek. I will concede to you that the author definitely had a skewed agenda to go so far out of his way to ignore the bullying aspect at Columbine. I do think he had a good reason..."

Thank you for your long and detailed comment, Trudi! I agree with what you said - this explanation is too simplistic and blaming the victims is not the way to go, especially since many of the victims were not directly involved with Eric and Dylan. They did not have a specific hit list; they wanted to blow the cafeteria up. They rage extended towards the whole school and everyone who was in there.

I don't know how Columbine compared to other schools - but from the documentaries I watched and materials I've read it was described as a sport school, where athletes have always been given leeway because of their sports performance. Reports exist which state how teachers often turned a blind eye on bullying in Columbine - an example is the quote from Brooks Brown, who says that Eric and Dylan have been sprayed with ketchup while the teachers watched. The article from Denver Post describes how the jocks essentially ruled Columbine High. It was their territory, and they picked up their bullying subjects - among them were Eric and Dylan, who have been described both by Brown and by the students from the article as outcasts. Even talking to them was dangerous - in the video I linked a female student described how a jock pushed her into a locker and called a "dyke" just because he saw her talking to Dylan, whom he called a "faggot". I don't know how bad bullying at Columbine was, but I see how bad it was for both boys. I can definitely see how Eric and Dylans saw their bullying as a justification for blowing up the whole school, a place in which they experienced daily abuse, and how for them it became synonymous with pain and anger. in his book,
Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond, Mark Ames describes bullying at Columbine as "extremely brutal", providing numerous testimonies of the parents. He quotes a report from the American Psychology Association Monitor:

“Columbine students said teachers and staff did not seem to notice the bullying and aggression; apparently such behaviors were culturally normative.”

Many parents do not wish to acknowledge that their child could have had an influence on a situation like this one by participating in the bullying. Neither do the teachers. What is notable is that Eric and Dylan really left so many clues and evidence which could make the whole plan go down if anyone picked it up: they arranged for buying guns, they bought clips at the local Kmarts, they filmed videotapes in Eric's basement, Eric made propane bombs in his room and a petrol bomb in his kitchen...the sheer amount of this makes the whole case look like it was a giant plea for attention, almost as if they wanted to be caught, stopped and helped, taken care of.

I know what you mean but I also believe that all cases must be studied individually, and so far we do not know how a psychopath is formed for certain. I would lean towards a mixture of nature with nurture: even with the chemical changes in the brain which you mention a person is still affected by his or hers circumstances - growing up, environment, family, relationships, etc. To deny the whole world and its interactions with human beings and focus solely on the chemical aspect is a gross mistake, but this is only my opinion.

In his diary Eric writes about trying to detach himself from his emotions, to not feel any sort of attachments, so he can carry out his plan - "I have a goal to destroy as much as possible, and I must not be sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy, mercy or any of that". In the tapes they filmed he expresses regret knowing how the shooting will affect his parents.
"My parents are the best fucking parents I have ever known. My dad is great. I wish I was a fucking sociopath so I don’t have any remorse, but I do. This is going to tear them apart. They will never forget it.”

Eric also warned Brooks Brown, with whom he has patched relations, saying "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home" when he met him in the parking lot that day. A few minutes later he entered the school and started shooting. Dylan also let another person he recognized in the library go; both boys walked though school and saw classrooms filled with students that they could have easily killed, increasing the victim count, but did not. Why didn't they? If Eric was a psychopath, why did he let Brooks go and why didn't he shoot all these kids he saw?

I think that if Eric did not meet Dylan he would definitely do something, though I doubt it would be a massacre on this scale. I can imagine pipe bombs destroying cars of jocks, or similar acts of retaliation. i think that Dylan would have stayed depressive, suicidal, possibly giving into it. But then imagine both boys in completely different circumstances: Eric's family did not having to move and him ebing appreciated and liked at the school; Dylan going out with the girl he liked. Both boys having many friends, not being exposed to abuse and cruelty that they experienced day by day. Eric getting accepted into the Marines, Dylan going to college. It's hard for us to understand these boys, but we must not ignore what they experienced at their school and must see it as at least a their motivation for what they did.

I really appreciate your comments and input, Trudi! Thank you for your kind words. I agree. The recent Colorado shooting also shocked me, but i have not investigated it in the way that I was interested in this case. I must look into it more.


Maciek John wrote: "I was bullied at primary school but not in secondary school. I was lucky in that I wasn't perceived as a victim or target when I reached my teens. I was a volunteer with the Irish equivalent of the..."

John, I think many people who experience bullying experience a desire to get back on their bullies, sometimes violently. I know I did. This is why I can understand at least part of what they boys must have felt and thought and why did they did what they did. I am also in no way condoning their reasoning and acts. I think that by doing the massacre the way they planned it, leaving so much written and video records where they openly speak about the abuse they experienced and how it led them to do what they did was a wish to leave a lasting impression and expose the world to bullying at schools. I can only think what they must have felt every day and it makes me very sad.


Maciek mark wrote: "excellent and absorbing review, Mace. great follow-up comments as well. just a really good job on this one.

i agree with your points. i've never really been a victim of bullying so it would be ha..."


Thanks, Mark, for praise and commment! I agree. I think that the student from the Denver Post article said it best:

"Tell people that we were harassed and that sometimes it was impossible to take,'' he told a reporter. "Tell people that ... eventually, someone was going to snap.''"

Eric and Dylan might have snapped without being harrased, but I think that the harrasment and abuse definitely contributed to their breakdown and the scale of the massacre that they planned out - remember that it was a bombing which was supposed to kill approximately 500 students - and the one they carried out.


message 11: by Greg (last edited Sep 05, 2012 06:13AM) (new)

Greg Wow! Great review, Maciek! I especially liked your martialling of evidence to undermine the author's hypothesis. I agree with everything you say.

As a college equality officer, I deal with staff and students who are bullied or discriminated against over the course of each academic year. My first day back yesterday, at the end of the summer recess, one staff member already had issues involving another staff member and this is before classes have even begun yet!

In my experience - as somebody who has been bullied or saw others being bullied, as well as dealing with cases in the course of my job - people who are bullied tend to endure the bullying for a long time before they take action. Sadly, this action may take the form of self-harm or suicide but sometimes it might involve taking revenge. Ideally, somebody who has been bullied should be able to have their case investigated by his/her school, college or employer according to its anti-bullying policy or, failing that, by a state-run organisation set up for the purpose of investigating workplace/institutional bullying.

Once an investigatory process is taken, appropriate disciplinary action can be taken against the bully or bullies concerned. Sometimes, a person who believes that s/he has been bullied might, in fact, have misunderstood something that was said or done and misconstrued it as a negative comment or behaviour directed towards him/her. In such cases, the alleged bully or bullies can be exonerated by the investigation.

When a school or workplace has no anti-bullying policy in place and neither an equality nor a health and safety officer with whom victims of bullying can speak with confidentially, the likelihood of a serious outcome either for the victim or his/her bullies is much greater. This is increased if an atmosphere of intimidation and abuse is tolerated by the management/administration of that school/workplace.

In the case of Harris and Klebold, bullying was certainly the primary factor behind their actions. The evidence for that is substantial. However, the evidence for Harris's supposed psychopathy seems poor. The rage recorded in the diary of a lonely and bullied teenager seems to me to be insufficient to demonstrate genuine psychopathy. Rather, it is my understanding that many psychopaths who were studied medically were found to have been brain-damaged either due to trauma (i.e., a head injury sustained in an accident) or to chronic alcohol/substance abuse and that this, in turn, affected their ability to feel empathy. So if Harris had had a brain scan showing some damage, or at least the record of a head injury requiring hospital treatment, this would offer strong support for the theory that he was a psychopath, as might a long criminal record of alcohol and substance abuse. Another indicator of psychopathy would be a history of torturing and killing animals - did Harris exhibit this behaviour?

But the elephant in the room, touched on by John in his comment above, is that these boys used assault weapons such as that one which can be clearly seen in Klebold's hand in the video capture used above. Had automatic and semi-automatic weapons not been available for purchase by the public in the first place, this shooting event could not have occurred. And I'm sick and tired of hearing the mantra of the second-amendment 'right to bear arms' as an excuse for the manufacture and sale of such weapons for non-military use. When the second amendment to the US constitution was passed in 1791 there were NO automatic or semi-automatic weapons, so massacres such as that of Columbine High School could not have even been envisaged by lawmakers let alone be carried out in a school in the 1790s. Until a majority of Americans decide to amend their constitution so as to ban access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons for all its citizens, then events like Columbine will be repeated over and over again as, indeed, they already have in the 13 years since.


message 12: by mark (new)

mark monday great post, Greg.


message 13: by Maciek (last edited Sep 04, 2012 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maciek Greg wrote: "Wow! Great review, Maciek! I especially liked your martialling of evidence to undermine the author's hypothesis. I agree with everything you say.

As a college equality officer, I deal with staff a..."


Thank you, Greg! I was interested in this case and was glad to read the book, but had problems with the main thesis and the omission of data I quoted above. Your example is a good one - bullying is unfortunately prevalent in schools all over the world, and it did exist at Columbine, and these two boys were subjected to it, and it did play a major role in their motivation/justification of the massacre.

I encourage you to read the book yourself - it's a surprisingly quick read, despite its gruesome topic - and see how the author presents his case. I do not want to paraphrase because I might to it injustice, but he has a whole chapter, called "psychopath", where he describes his theory in detail, comparing Eric's behavior to psychopathic behavior, concluding that he was a 100% psychopath. He bases this chapter on psychological theories of the FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier. However, from what I was able to find out, Eric did not display psychopathic signs when he was growing up: In one of the documentaries (can't remember which one at the moment) a former classmate describes him as a normal kid. Other interviewed students from his previous schools remember his intelligence, but do not give any remarks about Eric being "weird". Then there's the fact that this particular book ignores the bullying both boys have been exposed to: it might not have been their primary motivation, but it sure did not throw a wrench into things.

What's interesting is that Eric was on medication on the day of his death - an antidepressant named Luvox. From Wikipedia: "The FDA has added a Black box warning for this drug in reference to increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior in young adults and children. A study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices identified Luvox as being 8.4 times more likely than other medications to be associated with violence." Luvox was found in Harris's body during the autopsy.

Both boys did not originally intend it to be a shooting - it was a bombing that failed. They planned to detonate the cafeteria, and then shoot down the escaping survivors. I think that Eric and Dylan would try to obtain the weapons illegally; or perhaps they would not perpetrate the shooting as you said. I'm afraid we'll never know that. The right to bear arms is definitely controversial, but as this case proves it can unfortunately be deadly. What is worthy of note are Eric's writing on the subject, which come from his journal. Notice his comments on the Brady Bill, which introduced federal background checks on gun purchasers in the US in 1994. Note the irony:

"Fuck you Brady! all I want is a couple of guns, and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any! come on, I'll have a clean record and I only want for personal protection. Its not like I'm some person who would go on a shooting spree.... fuckers."

His other quote, from the video tapes he filmed in his basement, perhaps sums this up best:

"Go ahead and change gun laws - how do you think we got ours?"


message 14: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice I didn't read all the comments so hope I'm not being redundant. Just want to say that we would have to say the killer did thus-and-such and he was a psychopath, not because. If it were because, then all psychopaths would do as he did.


message 15: by Gareth (new)

Gareth Excellent review. It seems obvious that the bullying factor must have played some role, though it is also true that there is no simple cause and effect relationship here (not all victims of bullying react in the same way).

One obvious conclusion is that to ignore social factors is to leave society blameless - that the school, environment, background of the kids was not significant, so we don't have to worry about changing such things. This is edging toward genetic determinism: saint or sinner, we're just born that way. This is just wrong, I think, and seems more motivated by a political agenda than any sound philosophical reasons. So much easier to blame nature than to actually try to make a difference.

However, there does remain an interesting question about freewill. Despite their horrible experiences, the boys still had a choice, didn't they?


Maciek Jan wrote: "I didn't read all the comments so hope I'm not being redundant. Just want to say that we would have to say the killer did thus-and-such and he was a psychopath, not because. If it were because, then all psychopaths would do as he did. "

Thank you, Jan, for your comment! You are right and I will change the error now.


Maciek Gareth wrote: "Excellent review. It seems obvious that the bullying factor must have played some role, though it is also true that there is no simple cause and effect relationship here (not all victims of bullying react in the same way)."

Thank you, Gareth! I agree about the complexity of the issue, which unfortunately I did not feel was sufficiently discussed in this book.

Gareth wrote: "One obvious conclusion is that to ignore social factors is to leave society blameless - that the school, environment, background of the kids was not significant, so we don't have to worry about changing such things. This is edging toward genetic determinism: saint or sinner, we're just born that way. This is just wrong, I think, and seems more motivated by a political agenda than any sound philosophical reasons. So much easier to blame nature than to actually try to make a difference.

I absolutely agree, and wish that it understood widely. The black and white approach which this book offers I felt was misleading at best. Ignoring the problems which arise from the environment to push towards some sort of purely genetic determinism (which is also hugely disputed as a plausible theory) is not the way to go.

Gareth wrote: "However, there does remain an interesting question about freewill. Despite their horrible experiences, the boys still had a choice, didn't they?

That's true. What's worth remembering is that the boys let some possible victims live - most notably Brooks Brown, and another kid whom they saw hiding in the library and allowed to go away. They wanted to blow the school up, but their bombs did not go; still, they had knives and could viciously murder others, but didn't; Eric Harris wrote about rape, but did not rape any girl during that event - even though he had all the possibility to do so. They only shot, shot and shot. It only proves how impersonal the act of murder is made by guns; you do not need to engage in any physical contact with the victim, and just pull the trigger.


Jennifer According to the Goodreads algorithm that determines how reviews are ranked, this is the only review on the first page that does not accept Cullen's thesis that Eric was a psychopath and Dylan was a depressive follower (at least, on my screen, anyhow). As someone who does not accept that thesis, thank you. Cullen is peculiarly hostile to those who reject his interpretation, but it doesn't stack up to the evidence, much of which he omitted partially or entirely. He also included some pretty shaky stuff that wouldn't pass any test of journalistic integrity - take the depicted relationship between Eric and Brenda based solely on her claims, despite the fact that she had absolutely no proof of such a relationship and later admitted she was lying. Beyond that, no third party can validate this relationship, yet Cullen used this as his primary evidence that Eric was good with the ladies (which he further used to depict Eric as charming and manipulative, and, therefore, as psychopathic). In my view, it's completely unethical that Cullen has put forth his account as the definitive one, as I believe a more nuanced understanding (that is, one that doesn't just conclude that mental illness is the sole reason behind the massacre) would have the potential to prevent future school shootings. Thanks to his desire to sell an easy answer, such an understanding may not ever gain popular acceptance.


Maciek Thank you, Jennifer! I agree with your comment about the shaky stuff, especially with the example you cited. Both boys lamented that girls ignored them - especially Dylan, who was desperate for love and confided it in his journal. This case is much more complex than the author seems to want us to believe. This books seems to offer an easy answer to the case while ignoring many complex topics (the atmosphere at school, bullying, etc) and accounts of students which do not fit the already made conclusion.


message 20: by Stephen M (last edited Jan 02, 2013 03:38AM) (new) - added it

Stephen M Goddamn Maciek, I am in awe of your commitment to intelligent and fair discussions that you always start and participate in. My hat's off to you.

But it's hard for me to read this review and not get very emotional. I went to columbine in high school some 8 years after it happened. All that I'll say is that "Mr. D." is a saint and he was such a great principal.


Maciek Thank you, Stephen, for your kind words! And for your personal opinion of Columbine and Mr.D - obviously I did not go to Columbine so I have no idea how it actually was there (especially at the time when both Eric and Dylan were students) but I felt (and I think for good reasons) that the information presented in this book was one-sided and ignored conflicting information. Never good when that happens!


message 22: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Yeah, I think that that's fair! I'm glad I found this review because I've only heard adoration for this book up until now.


Maciek Me too! That's why I picked it up as I was interested in reading a definitive account of the shooting and its research was widely praised. I did my own research on the web and discovered these discrepancies (and what I would call outright omissions) and was disappointed. As Jennifer wrote above, I think the book proposes an "easy" answer, which satisfies the audience and that's why it is so popular.


message 24: by Stephen M (last edited Jan 02, 2013 04:17AM) (new) - added it

Stephen M Yeah for sure. But I do take issue with a lot of the answers there were given otherwise. I felt the brunt of that for sure, as scapegoats as far as video games to the matrix were hoisted up for people to direct all their anger towards. I've always felt uneasy about the whole situation given how the media handled everything and how it all got turned into this spectacle for the rest of the world to marvel at and subsume into their own big conclusions about the state of modern life. But, such is the case with all things like this. I do the same things for tragedies far from my home too.


Maciek Obviously the reason for this case is complex and different factors cannot be simply brushed under the rug (as I felt was done in this book). I also oppose to blaming video games, music and movies alone. I agree with you with how this massacre was documented and turned almost into a spectacle - I guess it was because the world was entering the digital age at that time and it was first such an even in times when it was easy to spread information across the world. Still, a lot of materials remain unreleased (video tapes the shooters did; the full audio recording of the shooting in the library). There's a some sort of grim curiosity in people which makes us curious about such things.


message 26: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M We used to watch as people (often foreign) would jump out of their cars and take smiling, family pictures in front of our Columbine sign. Yeah, I don't even know what to make of that.


Maciek That's screwed up, man. People do the same thing over here - they go to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Treblinka and take tons of pictures - not of the camps, but of themselves standing in front of the buildings, the gassing rooms, etc. Who the hell does such a thing?


message 28: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk I don't know, I guess I have a similar problem with your characterization of Eric as you have with Cullen's. Undoubtedly there must be things left out in the book, but Cullen quotes from Eric's writings quite liberally, and to me this just doesn't sound like the writings of a bullied kid. If anything, Eric seemed to have a superiority complex, he goes on ad nauseum about all those who are beneath him (a very long list). And while I have no background in psychology, he seemed to back up his theory of Eric being a psychopath rather convincingly. Just two examples:
1) the therapist Eric was ordered to see after he & Dylan were caught stealing. Eric seemed to know exactly what to say to get a glowing report from the therapist on his "progress". The therapist was so shaken after Columbine he went to Fuselier and asked him, "how did I miss this?" I don't point this out to dump on the therapist, but as an example of how Eric usually knew what to say to charm his way out of trouble (there are many, many other examples in the book). Dylan, ironically, got much less favorable reports from his therapy because he was more honest about his thoughts and feelings.
2) the incident with Brooks Brown that started with Eric throwing a snowball that damaged a car. The scene where Eric apologizes to Brooks' mother laying on the usual charm, only to have her tell him to his face that she doesn't buy his act, and his outraged reaction, is chilling.

Also, I have serious issues with the clip you linked to. First, the voiceover starts with a complete falsehood: that Eric and Dylan disdained sports and that this "set them apart". Except they didn't disdain sports, one of them at least followed one of the local sports teams avidly and went to games with his dad (I don't remember if this was Eric or Dylan). No, they weren't identified as jocks within the school, but this is still a gross overstatement. Then you have the interview with their classmate as saying they were, in the social hierarchy of the school, "the lowest of the low." Except clearly that isn't true. Eric and Dylan had quite a few friends, a rather large group of both genders that they often went out and hung around with. And Eric at least (not so much Dylan) had some favorable attention from girls. Talk to anyone who went to a public high school in the U.S., they'll tell you there are kids who have ZERO friends, none, who go to school, eat lunch alone, sit alone, go home alone. This clearly wasn't Dylan and Eric. They had dates to the prom, fer crissakes! After which they went out with a large group of friends. It's often instructive to remember with teens, they often phrase things in absolutes. That was the best movie ever. That song on the radio is the worst song ever. So while I don't think the classmate in that clip is deliberately lying, I think he's talking the way kids talk, and is reflexively exaggerating.

Also, why would Eric's writings go on about a contempt for humans in general? If he was being bullied by specific kids every day, wouldn't he focus on them? (Cullen points out that none of the specific kids mentioned in the "basement tapes" were amoung the victims; not one.) As far as his lip service about his parents being great and feeling bad for what he was about to put them through, well, I'm with Cullen in not being swayed. There's no evidence that such misgivings caused him to hesitate in his plans even a tiny bit--and remember, this attack was planned more than a year in advance. Eric didn't snap. He didn't reach a point of I-can't-take-this-anymore and suddenly bring his guns to school one day. No, he carefully planned Columbine for over a year. To me, that just doesn't sound like a desperate reaction to bullying. In my admittedly non-expert layman's take, Eric comes off like someone who could have grown up to be Ted Bundy. Cullen also mentions that even Eric's parents have apparently, in the ensuing years, come to accept he was a psychopath.

All that said, I did appreciate reading your thoughtful take on this. Sometimes people just have entirely different takes on a book.


Maciek Hi Kirk, thank you for the long and detailed comment. It's been a while since I read the book and searched for materials on Columbine, but I'll try to address your comments.

Kirk wrote: "I don't know, I guess I have a similar problem with your characterization of Eric as you have with Cullen's. Undoubtedly there must be things left out in the book, but Cullen quotes from Eric's writings quite liberally, and to me this just doesn't sound like the writings of a bullied kid. If anything, Eric seemed to have a superiority complex, he goes on ad nauseum about all those who are beneath him (a very long list).

The trouble I have with the label "psychopath" is that I feel that it simplifies the character of Eric Harris, who was a complex individual. He certainly had narcisstic features - as can be seen by reading his journal - combined with what seems to me be absolute self-denigration. He could be very ironic in his journal, where he knew that he would be seen as a psychopath by someone from the outside:

"you know what, Fuck it. why should I have to explain myself to you survivors when half of the shit I say you shitheads wont understand and if you can then woopie fucking do. that just means you have something to say as my reason for killing. and the majority of the audience wont even understand my motives either! they'll say "ah, hes crazy, hes insane, oh well, I wonder if the bulls won." you see! it's fucking worthless!"

"Fuck you Brady! all I want is a couple of guns, and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any! come on, I'll have a clean record and I only want for personal protection. Its not like I'm some person who would go on a shooting spree.... fuckers."

The most telling is the excerpt which comes after the Brady comment, where Eric writes how he was bullied by others - and how he had no self-esteem, and even made fun of people whom he thought looked like him.

"Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how fucking weak I am and shit, well I will get you all back: ultimate fucking revenge here. you people could have shown more respect, treated me better, asked for my knowledge or guidence more, treated me more like senior, and maybe I wouldn't have been as ready to tear your fucking heads off. then again, I have always hated how I looked, I make fun of people who look like me, sometimes without even thinking sometimes just because I want to rip on myself. Thats where a lot of my hate grows from, the fact that I have practically no selfesteem, especially concerning girls and looks and such. therefore people make fun of me... constantly... therefore I get no respect and therefore I get fucking PISSED."

Eric clearly states that if he was not bullied and acknowledged as a fellow senior, the whole situation might not have happened.

Kirk wrote: "And while I have no background in psychology, he seemed to back up his theory of Eric being a psychopath rather convincingly. Just two examples:
1) the therapist Eric was ordered to see after he & Dylan were caught stealing. Eric seemed to know exactly what to say to get a glowing report from the therapist on his "progress". The therapist was so shaken after Columbine he went to Fuselier and asked him, "how did I miss this?" I don't point this out to dump on the therapist, but as an example of how Eric usually knew what to say to charm his way out of trouble (there are many, many other examples in the book). Dylan, ironically, got much less favorable reports from his therapy because he was more honest about his thoughts and feelings.
2) the incident with Brooks Brown that started with Eric throwing a snowball that damaged a car. The scene where Eric apologizes to Brooks' mother laying on the usual charm, only to have her tell him to his face that she doesn't buy his act, and his outraged reaction, is chilling.


In his journal, Eric admits to being a compulsive liar - he took pleasure in lies, which he used to manipulate people. I think that these lies gave Eric the sense of superiority and were some sort of a confirmation of self-esteem which he so desperately lacked (especially with girls): he felt that he was better at manipulating people to reach his goals than others, and did this to make himself feel better. I think that he certainly enjoyed lying and getting away with it - which would explain his outrage at Brook's mother who saw through his lies. In his journal Eric writes that he hates lies - which would state that he hated the thought of being manipulated. He wanted to be in control, as much as he could, which I think was his way of reasserting his own self-worth which was put under heavy fire at school, where he was the victim. Here the victims were those he lied to, and he was in power.

"you know what, I feel like telling about lies. I lie a lot. almost constant. and to everybody, just to keep my own ass out of the water. and by the way (side note) I dont think I am doing this for attention, as some people may think. lets see, what are some big lies I have told; "yeah I stopped smoking," "for doing it not for getting caught," "no I'm havent been making more bombs," "no I wouldn't do that," and of course, countless of other ones, and yeah I know that I hate liers and I am one myself, oh fucking well. Its ok If I am a hypocrite, but no one else."

Kirk wrote: "Also, I have serious issues with the clip you linked to. First, the voiceover starts with a complete falsehood: that Eric and Dylan disdained sports and that this "set them apart". Except they didn't disdain sports, one of them at least followed one of the local sports teams avidly and went to games with his dad (I don't remember if this was Eric or Dylan). No, they weren't identified as jocks within the school, but this is still a gross overstatement.

I think that the voiceover means that Eric and Dylan disdained sports at school - meaning P.E. and participating in games at school because of other participants who bullied them, etc. It does not have to have much to do with their athletic abilities - it's more of a sociological problem. In American schools sports are a very serious issue, and athletes are often given leeway which is unavailable to other students purely on the basis that they serve on the school's sports team. I think it's fair to say that Eric and Dylan despised the fact that the jocks, who were their tormentors, could "get away" with things that they wouldn't be allowed to only because they were not athletes. And the jocks did bully them - notice in the video how Eric and his friend immediately fall silent when they see a group of jocks approaching them, and how their walk turns from relaxed to strained. When a passing jock hits Eric in the back or the neck with his elbow, he does nothing - absolutely nothing, doesn't even stop. Just walks forward to be away from them. It was not the only time that must have happened. This is the behavior of people who experienced that many times.

Kirk wrote: "Then you have the interview with their classmate as saying they were, in the social hierarchy of the school, "the lowest of the low." Except clearly that isn't true. Eric and Dylan had quite a few friends, a rather large group of both genders that they often went out and hung around with.

I agree - they did have several friends of both genders, who hung around with them. But it does not mean that Eric and Dylan weren't at the bottom of the school's pecking order: their friends describe how they witnessed them being bullied and treated like trash. It is possible that at least some of the friends they hung around with were also treated like "the lowest of the low", and only stayed together because of that. A group of outcasts and unpopular kids. In his journal Eric complained about being an outcast, and not being considered a person to have fun with.

"I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don't fucking say, "well thats your fault" because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh fucking nooo."

Kirk wrote: "And Eric at least (not so much Dylan) had some favorable attention from girls. Talk to anyone who went to a public high school in the U.S., they'll tell you there are kids who have ZERO friends, none, who go to school, eat lunch alone, sit alone, go home alone. This clearly wasn't Dylan and Eric. They had dates to the prom, fer crissakes! After which they went out with a large group of friends.

Actually, Eric didn't have a prom date (which greatly frustrated him), and he was actually turned down by at least one Columbine girl, and it can also be believed that he tried several times. Eric invited Susan DeWitt, a friend from Blackjack's Pizza at which he worked at the time, to spend the evening at his place - and they watched Event Horizon, as Eric was into sci-fi. Eric invited her to the prom after-party at Columbine, but she had to go home. Eric went there alone to see Dylan and his other friends. Eric mentions her in the Basement Tapes, apologizing. Suzan was devastated after the shooting as she had no idea that Eric planned anything.

Curiously, it was the shy Dylan who got a date for the prom - his friend Robyn Anderson, who was having a bit of a crush on him. Robyn remembered Dylan being a gentleman and talking about staying with touch after he would go to college. In his journal, Dylan revealed that he felt unloved and despaired that the girl he loved did not notice him - as opposed to Eric, who wanted to "get laid".

Mr. Cullen writes that Eric "got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks.
On the ultimate high school scorecard, Eric outscored much of the football team", and that "He had made it to the homecoming dance as a freshman, and had scored with a twenty-three-year-old at seventeen. He was damn proud of that one."

This seems to stand in contraditions with Eric's confessions to his private journal, and the testimonies of his friends and those who knew him. Eric's journal suggests that he never had sex - something which probably contributed to his lack of self-esteem, as he probably thought of not having sex as being denigrating to his manhood - and complained that he couldn't "get any".

"why the fuck cant I get any? I mean, I'm nice and considerate and all that shit, but nooooo. I think I try to hard."

Eric seemed desperate for status - desperate to feel like a man, and not being able to find a sexual partner was a great frustration to him. He complained about a lack of confidence with girls, even thinking that things might be different if he had "gotten laid".

"you know what maybe I just need to get laid. maybe that'll just change some shit around."


message 30: by Maciek (last edited Mar 08, 2013 08:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maciek The 23 year old whom Eric is described to have "scored" with is not mentioned by name, but Mr. Cullen writes that Eric was "damn proud of that one". Curiously, there is zero mention of her in Eric's journal - where he wrote in detail about many other things - and none of his friends remember her. Cullen identifies the woman as Brenda Parker, and writes that Eric "made it with a real woman". He quotes her in the book as a legitimate person.

The problem is - she's not! Brenda admitted to making her whole relationship with Harris up, including that she supposedly knew about the attack in advance but refused to participate in it. In The Columbine Report, a 11,000 page report compiled by the police of Jefferson County and released to the public she is interviewed she claims to have had intimate relations with Eric twice - in the dark - which is not corroborated by any entry in Eric's diary. When interviewed by the Police, Parker comes off as a creepy fangirl of Harris, going so far to write false messages about the shooting on her web site.

"After a lengthy conversation she admitted that she wrote the above, but that it was not true. She just made it up to get attention. She stated she has no life and spends way too much time on the internet."

Brenda Parker is a questionable witness at best - and there is no reason to believe her claims of intimacy with Eric Harris, especially as there is no confirmation of her story by him or any other source - outside this book. Brenda's confession to the police is also not included.

Kirk wrote: "Also, why would Eric's writings go on about a contempt for humans in general? If he was being bullied by specific kids every day, wouldn't he focus on them? (Cullen points out that none of the specific kids mentioned in the "basement tapes" were amoung the victims; not one.)

As you said just before that, I think that a large part of Eric and Dylan's contempt for humans has its roots in the reflexive teenage exaggeration. And Eric and Dylan did target specific people - after entering the library they sought out jocks and people who played sports, as they associated them with those who bullied them, and telling these people that they are doing that as retaliation for what they did to them.
Bree Pasquale, who was in the library at the time, was with Harris face to face in the library - she identifies him as the one "who started bleeding everywhere, which must have been Eric as he had an accident with the bottom of his gun hitting his nose and breaking it, making him bleed quite heavily - and said that she begged him not to kill her - which he did not - and that he said that "it all was because people were mean to him last year". Of course Eric could lie - but what for?
The fact that they did not manage to target people whom they named in the basement tapes does not mean that they didn't sought them out - perhaps they didn't find them in the chaos they made.

Notice that Eric's journal contains vivid descriptions of his violent fantasies about raping girls he knew, and massacring them - he had plenty of time and opportunity to do that when he was on that day in Columbine, but did not rape any girl, or slice anyone with a knife, which he could easily have done.

Kirk wrote: "As far as his lip service about his parents being great and feeling bad for what he was about to put them through, well, I'm with Cullen in not being swayed. There's no evidence that such misgivings caused him to hesitate in his plans even a tiny bit--and remember, this attack was planned more than a year in advance. Eric didn't snap. He didn't reach a point of I-can't-take-this-anymore and suddenly bring his guns to school one day. No, he carefully planned Columbine for over a year. To me, that just doesn't sound like a desperate reaction to bullying.

I would disagree - I think it's entirely possible that Eric and Dylan were pushed so far that they "snapped", and then carefully planned their revenge on a date in advance - each day taking the bullying which only strenghtened their resolve. It is notable how easily their plan could have been discovered - the journal entries, the stories they wrote for school, the tapes their recorded in their parents' homes, the bombs Eric made in his bedroom...all of this might even be seen as a sign of wanting to be caught and stopped.

Kirk wrote: "In my admittedly non-expert layman's take, Eric comes off like someone who could have grown up to be Ted Bundy. Cullen also mentions that even Eric's parents have apparently, in the ensuing years, come to accept he was a psychopath.

My position does not mean to completely invalidate Mr. Cullen's thesis - that Eric Harris was a psychopath - I was concerned with the certainity this book displayed that he was. Mr. Cullen analyzed a dead person through his journal and video records and ended up with a firm diagnosis of a condition which is not even recognized by mainstream psychology and psychiatry. I felt that the question of bullying and its influence on both boys was extremely simplified, if not outrightly ignored - the material I quoted here is not included in the book. Also, the question of Luvox, the drug that Eric Harris was taking and which was found in his body during the autopsy was largely ignored, with no discussion of possible side effects.
When speaking warmly of his friends and realizing that he will soon be dead, Eric broke up and cried and turned off the camera. He also wanted the blame on himself, explicitly stating that he planned everything and that his parents are not to blame. Most psychopaths have shallow feelings and for them crying is just an act, which I do not think was the case with Eric; he also admitted in his journal that he cried after his dog died. He was no cruel to animals. Also, psychopaths deny their wrongdoings, and want to shift the blame onto somebody else - which is not what Eric did. Branding him a psychopath seems to me to be taking the easy way out, and not wanting to acknowledge the outside influences that Eric was exposed to when he frequently moves as a young boy and had to start at the bottom in new schools over and over again - about which he complained in his journal. The fact that both Eric and Dylan were victims of bullying at Columbine is proven with many sources, yet the whole issue of bullying is shrugged off in this book - which seems to me to shows bias to the author's own alreadu made conclusion. Eric and Dylan were complex human beings, and this book is far from being a definitive study of their characters and of what made them commit the murders at Columbine High.

Kirk wrote: "All that said, I did appreciate reading your thoughtful take on this. Sometimes people just have entirely different takes on a book.

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I hope my answers provided some new information on this interesting, if grim, subject. If you are interested in the topic several more books have been written about Columbine. Here are those that I am aware of.

Comprehending Columbine by Ralph W. Larkin - which focuses on the psychological aspects of bullying that the boys were exposed to.
No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine by Brooks Brown - Brooks knew both Eric and Dylan and is the man interviewed in the videos in my review. He describes his experience with both boys at school from an insider's perspective. You can read it here on Goodreads.

Other books have been written, but these are two that I am aware of and hopefully would provide a good counterpart to this book. I have not read them yet, but intend to.


message 31: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Well, thank you for a long and well considered reply. First I should say that the information on the woman Brenda is entirely new to me; I was unaware of this, and it may be that Cullen simply is wrong on this point. On the larger question of bullying, maybe we'll never know for sure. But I would point out that Cullen takes pains to say that he initially made all the same mistaken assumptions about Columbine that most of the media did. Meaning, he was prepared to accept the narrative of loners who were bulllied until he started investigating and found that that narrative didn't jibe with what he began to discover about the boys. So I disagree that he simply confirmed what he thought from the beginning. And while this is admittedly just a feeling, I can't shake the idea that Eric simply doesn't fit the profile of a bullied kid. From numerous testimonies, we get that he had charm, confidence, an ability to mislead authority figures to get himself out of jams. Cullen may have left things out, but he includes a wealth of detail about both boys and the way Eric seemed to carry himself just doesn't fit with the 'beaten dog' aspect that many bullied kids take on.

I would also note that we should be cautious in taking testimonies of other kids at face value. Though it had nothing to do with the bullying issue, remember how the Cassie Bernal "she said yes" narrative formed. It wasn't from deliberate lies, but one kid's testimony about what he witnessed; he was completely genuine, but he mistook another girl for Cassie, and soon an entirely fictitious story was all over the media, which some insist on believing to this day though it's been proven to be entirely false. There's a reason police and prosecutors always say that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable--not because everyone is a liar, but because memory is so often faulty.

Another thing that raises suspicions for me is the lack of specificity in Eric's complaints about being mistreated. He'll say "everyone is always picking on me and making fun of me" instead of citing a specific instance of something that happened and who was responsible. Why be reticent, when they have no hesitation elsewhere in naming specific kids they don't like? Why not say, I'm going to get _____ (name of person) for that time he _____ (specific incident of bullying)? I realize this doesn't prove anything, but it makes me skeptical.

ended up with a firm diagnosis of a condition which is not even recognized by mainstream psychology and psychiatry.

Whoa, are you sure about that? While sometimes the terms 'psychopath' and 'sociopath' are used interchangeably, I don't agree that this isn't a recognized phenomenon.

I think it's entirely possible that Eric and Dylan were pushed so far that they "snapped", and then carefully planned their revenge on a date in advance - each day taking the bullying which only strenghtened their resolve.

On this we'll just have to agree to disagree. To me, one of the key facts that backs up Cullen's thesis is the fact that this was calmly, meticulously planned over a year in advance. That to me contradicts the idea of a rage attack from someone who snapped. Especially given these were teenagers! A year to us feels like three years to a typical teenager. And anger dissipates. It is very unusual for someone to plan a revenge attack this far in advance and actually stick to it (even more rare if the attackers are teenagers). To me, this almost negates revenge as a factor at all. Eric in particular was well read and had developed a philosophy of why life was pointless and most humans worthless; I see this more as his ultimate expression of what he thought of people and of the world. I know you disagree, and that's fine, people will inevitably interpret events differently.

I should wrap this up, or I'll go on endlessly. One question:

When speaking warmly of his friends and realizing that he will soon be dead, Eric broke up and cried and turned off the camera.

Was this in the book, or from another source? I don't remember it, and my understanding is the basement tapes have never been made available to the public. Just curious, thanks.

And thanks again for taking the time to thoughtfully reply.


Maciek Kirk wrote: "Well, thank you for a long and well considered reply. First I should say that the information on the woman Brenda is entirely new to me; I was unaware of this, and it may be that Cullen simply is wrong on this point."

You're welcome, Kirk! I also learned about Brenda after I started looking for information about her on the web. Her testimony is available at The Columbine Report, which you can access at A Columbine Site:

http://acolumbinesite.com/reports/rep... - see pages 10801-10900.

Notice that Brenda is presented as a credible witness, despite admitting to the Littleton police that she made up things to post on the internet because she "had no life". She said that she was intimate with Eric two times, but was unable to provide any details about his physical bodt - she said that "it was dark". Eric never mentions Brenda in his journal, and complains several times about being unable to find a girl willing to have sex with him - right to the very end. In the book Brenda's account is taken as proof that Eric was a ladiesman who outscored a football team. That's a bold statement to make, and in light of available sources seems to plainly not be true.


Kirk wrote: "On the larger question of bullying, maybe we'll never know for sure."

I think that in light of what the boys wrote and from the testimonies of their friends and those who knew them we can be reasonably sure that thy were bullied at their school - we can never know the true extent of bullying, but I think that at this point it's a fact that the two boys were bullied. Mr. Cullen writes:

"Despite the press's obsession with bullying and misfits, that's not how the boys presented themselves. Dylan laughed about picking on new freshmen and "fags". Neither one complained about bullies picking on them - they boasted about doing it themselves".

From what we could read from Eric and Dylan, it seems that they did indeed complain about being picked on - Eric complained about it numerous times in his journal, as quoted above. Dylan also complained about being bullied in his journal, openly stating that if he was not bullied he might not have gone on the rampage, and considered his act as a revenge for what he experienced at Columbine.

"If people would give me more compliments all of this might still be avoidable... but probably not. Whatever I do people make fun of me, and sometimes directly to my face. I'll get revenge soon enough. fuckers shouldn't have ripped on me so much huh! HA!"

On the Basement Tapes Eric also complains about being bullied - he and his family moved often because his dad was in the military, and he felt that because of it he often became a victim of bullying at the new schools he had to enroll in. Here's the relevant transcript:

ERIC HARRIS: I'm sorry I have so much rage, but you put it on me.
Eric then complains about his father and how his family had to move five times. He says he always had to be the new kid in school, and was always at the bottom of the "food chain", and had no chance to earn any respect from his peers as he always had to "start out at the bottom of the ladder". He hated the way people made fun of him: "my face, my hair, my shirts."

Dylan Klebold also complained about being bullied on the tapes.

KLEBOLD: You made me what I am. You added to the rage.
Dylan says that as far back as the Foothills Day Care center he hated the "stuck-up" kids who he felt hated him.
KLEBOLD: Being shy didn't help. I'm going to kill you all. You've been giving us shit for years.

Both boys filmed short films, where they wore trench coats and "saved" innocent students from being bullied. At the day of the shooting, they targeted people with white hats - which was the symbol of athletes at Columbine, whom they despised because of the bullying they received from them. Numerous testimonies exist of bullying at Columbine, and those who knew Eric and Dylan also confirm that the boys were bullied - from having ketchup squeezed at them in the cafeteria and having to walk around with it all day to having a cup of feces thrown at them. I shown the video of Eric being bullied by the jocks - from his reaction it is clear that it's a regular process. Dylan's friend said that he was regularly pushed against lockers and called names, such as "pussy" and "fag". Bree, the survivor from the library said that Eric told her that he is doing it because people were mean to him last year.

It is not unheard of those being bullied turning on those weaker than them and becoming bullies themselves. Eric admits in his journal that he picked on those who looked like him, giving in to his self-hatred. But to say that both boys never complained about being bullied when their own journals and video recordings are full of these complains and other Columbine students and their friends confirm that they were indeed bullied is simply not true - again.

Kirk wrote: "I would point out that Cullen takes pains to say that he initially made all the same mistaken assumptions about Columbine that most of the media did. Meaning, he was prepared to accept the narrative of loners who were bulllied until he started investigating and found that that narrative didn't jibe with what he began to discover about the boys. So I disagree that he simply confirmed what he thought from the beginning.

It seems to me that the book is written in a way to push back the bullying aspect as it did not exist. I agree that it does have a merit of exposing the myth that Eric and Dylan were two loners - they did indeed have several friends at the school. But at the same time the book creates another myth - that Columbine was an angelic place, and that both boys were not only not bullied but engaged in bulying themselves, with Eric the psychopath leading and depressive Dylan following. If I can find information from multiple sources which does confirm the fact that both boys had friends - but were also bullied, singled out and unpopular with ease, it begs a question why is it not included in the book? Did the boys lie in their journals or tapes? Did other students also lied about them being bullied at Columbine? They would have to lie unkowingly, and by pure chance corroborate Eric's and Dylan's accounts. That's extremely unlikely by itself, bu even more so when you think why would they do such a thing. To suggest that they lied knowingly suggests a conspiracy theory, which simply does not make sense.

Kirk wrote: "And while this is admittedly just a feeling, I can't shake the idea that Eric simply doesn't fit the profile of a bullied kid. From numerous testimonies, we get that he had charm, confidence, an ability to mislead authority figures to get himself out of jams. Cullen may have left things out, but he includes a wealth of detail about both boys and the way Eric seemed to carry himself just doesn't fit with the 'beaten dog' aspect that many bullied kids take on.

But isn't that how it always begins, when someone commits a heinous crime? The testimonies you hear on TV are usually like this: "he seemed so normal", "he was just a regular guy", "he was so nice", etc.
At the outside Eric might have put on a show to fool others - as I wrote above he prided himself on being a good liar and manipulator - but in the privacy of his journal he confided that he was insecure about himself, and had practically no self-esteem. He wanted to be accepted and felt left out. He was very anxious about his masculinity, and felt that the fact that he did not have sex was very demeaning to him - and wanted to get it desperately. He didn't, and wrote about it in his journal. On the tapes he also complains how people always made fun of him, how he looked and even how he dressed.
NONE of this is in Mr. Cullen's book. If I can find it, I'm sure that everybody else can - so why isn't such essential information in the book?
Brenda Parker is at best a questionable witness, and she is taken as proof that Eric had sex with an older girl - despite the fact that up to the very end of his journal Eric complained precisely that he couldn't find a girl to have sex with, which seems to indicate that he died a virgin.

Kirk wrote: "I would also note that we should be cautious in taking testimonies of other kids at face value. Though it had nothing to do with the bullying issue, remember how the Cassie Bernal "she said yes" narrative formed. It wasn't from deliberate lies, but one kid's testimony about what he witnessed; he was completely genuine, but he mistook another girl for Cassie, and soon an entirely fictitious story was all over the media, which some insist on believing to this day though it's been proven to be entirely false. There's a reason police and prosecutors always say that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable--not because everyone is a liar, but because memory is so often faulty.

That's of course true - but there are certain factors you need to take. Cassie Bernall's story started as a rumor, which created a martyr out of her - embraced by the Christian community...and her mother, who promptly released a memoir of her daughter. But Cassie's story was exposed by other witnesses who were there that day as being false: she was not asked anything, and was just shot - like any other victim.
In Eric and Dylan's case, we have a journal written by Eric himself, where he complains about being bullied; we have tapes of both Eric and Dylan complaining about being bullied. There are reports of bullying at Columbine, not only of Eric and Dylan - and there are testimonies of those who knew Eric and Dylan and seen them being bullied, often viciously. There is a video of Eric being intimidated and bullied by the jock, with physical assault. A video is said to exist of Dylan being slammed into a locker. Witnesses from the day of the shooting agree that both Eric and Dylan seeked out jocks and confirm that they said that they were retaliating for all the bullying that they had undergone at Columbine high. Also, remember that many students of any school are extremely reluctant to share their experiences of being bullied or witnessing others being bullied to any authority - because of the "snitches get stitches" mentality which perpetrates schools all over the world, and their fear of becoming the victims if they are found out - or being bullied even worse if they already are.
None of this is in Mr. Cullen's book, and that's just an amazing amount of evidence to miss. It seems as if the book was bent to almost completely ignore the bullying of Eric and Dylan and its possible influence on their actions.

Kirk wrote: "Another thing that raises suspicions for me is the lack of specificity in Eric's complaints about being mistreated. He'll say "everyone is always picking on me and making fun of me" instead of citing a specific instance of something that happened and who was responsible. Why be reticent, when they have no hesitation elsewhere in naming specific kids they don't like? Why not say, I'm going to get _____ (name of person) for that time he _____ (specific incident of bullying)? I realize this doesn't prove anything, but it makes me skeptical.

That's true, but as you said the boys did mention specific kids in the basement tapes. Eric does mention specific individuals in his journal - the names have been censored by the local police department to protect their safety, but they are there. Eric discusses specific people in his journal and vows to kill them.

"and i fyou pissed me off in the past, you will die if I see you. because you might be able to piss off others and have it eventually all blow over, but not me. I dont forget people who wronged me. like [Censored by J.C. Sheriff Office] he will never get a chance to read this because he will be dead by me before this is discovered."


message 33: by Maciek (last edited Mar 08, 2013 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maciek "It has been confirmed, after getting my yearboook and watching people like [censored] and [censored] the human race isn't worth fighting for, only worth killing."

"I am very racist towards white trash p.o.s.s like [censored] and [censored] they deserve the hatred, otherwise I probly wouldnt hate them."

Eric also writes about girls he knew, and writes detailed descriptions of violent sexual encounters.

".someone like [censored] were I just pick her up, take her to my room, tear off her shirt and pants(...)and others like [censored] in my gym class, [censored] or whatever in my gym class, and others who I just want to overpower and engulf myself in them."

Kirk wrote: "Whoa, are you sure about that? While sometimes the terms 'psychopath' and 'sociopath' are used interchangeably, I don't agree that this isn't a recognized phenomenon.

Sorry! What I meant was that "psychopathy" is not recognized as a medical condition or disease - at least I'm not aware of it. I agree that it is certainly a recognized phenomenon, but not in the context as presented here - I felt that it was a label which was convenient to put on Eric Harris, while I thought that his character was too complex to fully agree with it. I felt that the aspect of outside influence - especially bullying - was largely ignored, propably to focus on proving that he was a born psychopath. That's not saying that Harris was not a psychopath - I just felt that too much evidence was left out to make that judgment.

Kirk wrote: "On this we'll just have to agree to disagree. To me, one of the key facts that backs up Cullen's thesis is the fact that this was calmly, meticulously planned over a year in advance. That to me contradicts the idea of a rage attack from someone who snapped. Especially given these were teenagers! A year to us feels like three years to a typical teenager. And anger dissipates. It is very unusual for someone to plan a revenge attack this far in advance and actually stick to it (even more rare if the attackers are teenagers). To me, this almost negates revenge as a factor at all. Eric in particular was well read and had developed a philosophy of why life was pointless and most humans worthless; I see this more as his ultimate expression of what he thought of people and of the world. I know you disagree, and that's fine, people will inevitably interpret events differently.

I wouldn't say that it was partcularly meliticulously planned - I think preparations took so long because the boys couldn't obtain the weapons they wanted and had to arrange a straw purchase, and the materials they needed to create pipe bombs and explosives. In his journal Eric writes how several times they were almost exposed - he seems to take particular delight in being able to lie his way out of the situation, but also enjoys the thrill of being almost caught. And it's really a miracle that they were not - they recorded their tapes in their parents' houses, and Eric assembled bombs in his bedroom. Notice that these bombs did not explode because they were wrongly assembled - if the preparations were so meticulous, I think that the death count would have been in the hundreds. I think that Eric's anger at humanity was well fed every day at school, by the people he despised and who made him their victim. His hatred of the shoool grew extreme - he wanted to blow it all up. Which is curious, considering the students he had the chance to kill but did not; nor did he rape any of the girls whom he had at gunpoint.

What it seems to me is that both boys got caught up in a delusion of grandeur - they were talking about starting a revolution, hoping of becoming voices of rebelion. Eric talked about wanting to hijack a plane and crashing it into New York City - of course it's pure fantasy, but it's ominous when you think that just two years later 9/11 happened.

Kirk wrote: "I should wrap this up, or I'll go on endlessly. One question:

When speaking warmly of his friends and realizing that he will soon be dead, Eric broke up and cried and turned off the camera.

Was this in the book, or from another source? I don't remember it, and my understanding is the basement tapes have never been made available to the public. Just curious, thanks.


The basement tapes have not been available to the public - I remember reading that the judge decided to not release them to the public until 2027 or so. The police has provided transcripts of the tapes - they're not the real thing, but it's the closest anyone has concerning this material. They are on Wikipedia and other sites. I took it from the transcript, where Eric is talking about his old friends and realizes that he will never see them again.

The tape stops again and when it starts, Eric Harris is alone in a moving car. The camera seems to be mounted on the car's dashboard. It's dark out and there are raindrops on the window. At one point he passes a street sign that reads "Federal". There's music playing loudly, making it hard at times to understand what Eric is saying. At one point he mentions "The Black Jack Crew" [Eric and Dylan worked at Blackjack Pizza], specifically mentioning "Jason" and "Chris".
HARRIS: You guys are very cool. Sorry, dudes. I had to do what I had to do.
Eric also makes mention of "Angel", "Phil", and "Bob".
HARRIS: Bob is one of the coolest guys I've ever met in my life, except for being an alcoholic. Eric says he's going to miss Bob. It's a weird feeling knowing you're going to be dead in two and a half weeks.
Eric says he can't decide "if we should do it before or after prom". At the end of this section of the tape Harris says he wishes he could have re-visited Michigan and "old friends". He falls silent then and appears to start crying, wiping a tear from the left side of his face. He shuts the camera off.

Kirk wrote: "And thanks again for taking the time to thoughtfully reply.

You're welcome, Kirk!! I hope that this sheds some more light on the whole case and why I felt compelled to write this review.


message 34: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 11, 2013 08:55PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennifer Sorry for interjecting - just wanted to say for the record, there's some correspondence online between Cullen and someone who wrote to him where he admits that the Brenda Parker claim was false (which he very well should know, since it's in the LE documents). Why doesn't Cullen admit he made a mistake and omit it from future printings of the book if he knows that it's untrue? My theory is that it's because it forms a large part of his characterization of Eric as someone who was charismatic enough to charm anyone. Cullen knows his narrative suffers if he cannot provide any evidence that Eric had a sexual relationship, but he's not willing to own up to the truth.

There's a pretty lengthy video floating around online called 'Eric In Columbine' which was recorded by one of Eric's classmates for their video productions class. I challenge anyone who believes Cullen's claim that Eric was charismatic to watch it. Eric spends half the time following around a girl who plainly ignores him, and at one point asks him point blank to get out of her face. When he tries to call out to the girl to have her come over and is promptly ignored, one of the guys around him starts making fun of him, saying, "Eric just got jacked up the ass!" (which I would argue is a minor instance of the type of verbal bullying that was commonplace at CHS). Eric is obviously embarrassed by this - he musters up a weak reply, looks down, picks at a scab on his hand, and makes faces at the camera to cover up his embarrassment. This isn't a guy who was beating the ladies off, no matter what Cullen will insist.

As for psychopathy, Maciek, you're absolutely correct. It's not recognized by mainstream psychiatry/psychology, and does not appear in the DSM. Maybe if Cullen had studied these fields at any length, he would know this. He would also know that no-one in these fields with a shred of integrity would diagnose someone posthumously, particularly when they had never met them. Cullen is also not a criminologist, so, frankly, he has no business presenting himself as someone with any specialized knowledge in this area. The reason why psychopathy is not recognized is because it is purely theoretical at this point. There's no way at all to ascertain that someone lacks the ability to empathize versus learning to ignore or override their inclination towards empathy (as is often the case when someone has been subjected to prolonged social exclusion and/or bullying). And yet Cullen and his publisher have marketed his theory as the definitive account. This is all the more egregious when you take into account the fact that he did not interview anyone who knew Eric and Dylan, didn't bother to do simple fact-checking, and didn't call to confirm his account with anyone who was in the shooting. One of the students shot in the massacre, Anne Marie Hochhalter, has gone on record saying that he got her story wrong completely wrong. The story's here, and I very much recommend reading it. Another student in the library, Amanda Stair, said that she also disagreed with Cullen's account of what happened in the library, and signed the petition against him in that link as soon as she heard.

I have to disagree with you, Kirk, when you say that you believe Cullen wrote his book without knowing his position from the beginning. The origin of the psychopath narrative in this case came from the FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier (Cullen mentions him at length in his book), who had a son, Scott, at Columbine High School at the same time as Eric and Dylan. Scott had previously gotten in trouble for making threats of a school shooting at CHS. The Denver Rocky Mountain News reported the following at the time: "Dwayne Fuselier's son graduated from Columbine in 1997 and was one of the students who produced a videotape more than two years ago that shows trenchcoat-wearing students armed with weapons moving through the school's halls. The film ends with four students walking away from the school as it explodes in flames." Dwayne Fuselier has a vested interest in pushing forth an alternative narrative to the one in mainstream media at the time, because his son was someone who was exactly the type of person they were describing. Cullen worked with Fuselier from the beginning, so I don't believe at all that he was intending to write a very different book. By Cullen's own admission, law enforcement conspired to cover up much of the information in the aftermath of the massacre for their own self-interest, so that he relies so heavily on a theory espoused by a member of LE bothers me somewhat.

Lastly, there's a book that was recently released, 'Far From The Tree' by Andrew Soloman. If you're interested in Columbine, it's worth a look. It includes around 10 pages on the Klebolds, who the author interviewed. It's a very small section in an almost-thousand page text, but it was of much interest to me. Sue Klebold mentioned the ketchup incident that you wrote about, Maciek, and they said that Dylan came home with his clothes covered in the stuff (according to some other students, they were hit with tampons covered in ketchup, which in my mind would make it worse, since there's the intent of gendered humiliation there). Sue Klebold said that Dylan told her it was the worst day of his life, and went into his room and dug out a box of his old stuffed toys. He then buried himself in the toys and cried. This is a pretty clear instance of bullying even without the Klebold account of how Dylan reacted to it. The fact that Cullen fails to mention it is an example of where he picks his evidence to suit his narrative where it suits him.


Maciek Thank you, Jennifer, for your long and detailed comment! These are new information to me.

Jennifer wrote: "Sorry for interjecting - just wanted to say for the record, there's some correspondence online between Cullen and someone who wrote to him where he admits that the Brenda Parker claim was false (which he very well should know, since it's in the LE documents). Why doesn't Cullen admit he made a mistake and omit it from future printings of the book if he knows that it's untrue? My theory is that it's because it forms a large part of his characterization of Eric as someone who was charismatic enough to charm anyone. Cullen knows his narrative suffers if he cannot provide any evidence that Eric had a sexual relationship, but he's not willing to own up to the truth.

I agree - the fact that such an unreliable witness was not only included in the book but her account was presented without any remark at why her account should be treaten with suspicion. If we were able to find this information with such ease, why is it not in the book? That greatly undermines the authority of both the book and the author.

Jennifer wrote: "There's a pretty lengthy video floating around online called 'Eric In Columbine' which was recorded by one of Eric's classmates for their video productions class. I challenge anyone who believes Cullen's claim that Eric was charismatic to watch it.

I saw the video and agree with you, though I have one remark - boys often throw insults at one another even when they're friends. It's a thin line between making fun of the other person and being friendly - that's very subjective to the group involved. Still, there is no way to negate that Eric was indeed bullied at school - in the same video you can see him being assaulted by a group of jocks. It's the scene which I desribed in my comments above. A video of Dylan being pushed into a locker is supposed to exist, but I've never seen it so I can't confirm that. As you said, the video also doesn't prove that Eric was a ladies man - he regularly complained in his journal about not being able to get a girl to have sex with him, and his raging hormones explain why he wrote graphic descriptions of his sexual fantasies.

Jennifer wrote: "As for psychopathy, Maciek, you're absolutely correct. It's not recognized by mainstream psychiatry/psychology, and does not appear in the DSM. Maybe if Cullen had studied these fields at any length, he would know this. He would also know that no-one in these fields with a shred of integrity would diagnose someone posthumously, particularly when they had never met them. Cullen is also not a criminologist, so, frankly, he has no business presenting himself as someone with any specialized knowledge in this area.

Jennifer, you made a great point about no respectable specialist diagnosing a person posthumously - such diagnosis is limited by so many factors (not the least the diagnosed person being dead), that it's reduced to a hypothetical speculation at best. Still, it's presented as the ultimate diagnosis which is supposed to be convincing and ultimate. And there are many factors which put such a hypothesis in doubt - but they are left out or negated.

Jennifer wrote: "This is all the more egregious when you take into account the fact that he did not interview anyone who knew Eric and Dylan, didn't bother to do simple fact-checking, and didn't call to confirm his account with anyone who was in the shooting. One of the students shot in the massacre, Anne Marie Hochhalter, has gone on record saying that he got her story wrong completely wrong. The story's here, and I very much recommend reading it. Another student in the library, Amanda Stair, said that she also disagreed with Cullen's account of what happened in the library, and signed the petition against him in that link as soon as she heard.

I agree - Brooks Brown, who wrote his own book on the shooting is not interviewed in the book, despite being a friend of Eric and Dylan; the testimonies of survivors who witnessed Eric and Dylan saying that the shooting was a revenge for bullying and saw them targeting athletes are also left out. I read the interview with Anne Marie Hochhalter and it's a real surprise - the scene in a book is written like a scene from an action film, serving to dramatize the experience as much as possible. I can understand her feelings - it's as if her suffering was dramatized with no regard to the truth and the goal to satisfy the audience.

Jennifer wrote: "I have to disagree with you, Kirk, when you say that you believe Cullen wrote his book without knowing his position from the beginning. The origin of the psychopath narrative in this case came from the FBI agent Dwayne Fuselier (Cullen mentions him at length in his book), who had a son, Scott, at Columbine High School at the same time as Eric and Dylan. Scott had previously gotten in trouble for making threats of a school shooting at CHS. The Denver Rocky Mountain News reported the following at the time: "Dwayne Fuselier's son graduated from Columbine in 1997 and was one of the students who produced a videotape more than two years ago that shows trenchcoat-wearing students armed with weapons moving through the school's halls. The film ends with four students walking away from the school as it explodes in flames." Dwayne Fuselier has a vested interest in pushing forth an alternative narrative to the one in mainstream media at the time, because his son was someone who was exactly the type of person they were describing. Cullen worked with Fuselier from the beginning, so I don't believe at all that he was intending to write a very different book. By Cullen's own admission, law enforcement conspired to cover up much of the information in the aftermath of the massacre for their own self-interest, so that he relies so heavily on a theory espoused by a member of LE bothers me somewhat.

Now, that's good information! It looks like someone has had a personal interest in this book - which would explain the heavy bias for the hypothesis that Eric Harris was a psychopath, and that he and Dylan Klebold were not bullied at Columbine High.

Jennifer wrote: "Sue Klebold mentioned the ketchup incident that you wrote about, Maciek, and they said that Dylan came home with his clothes covered in the stuff (according to some other students, they were hit with tampons covered in ketchup, which in my mind would make it worse, since there's the intent of gendered humiliation there). Sue Klebold said that Dylan told her it was the worst day of his life, and went into his room and dug out a box of his old stuffed toys. He then buried himself in the toys and cried. This is a pretty clear instance of bullying even without the Klebold account of how Dylan reacted to it.

In videos I linked Eric and Dylan's friends also mention how both boys were bullied at school - Brooks Brown mentions that a cup of fecal matter was thrown at them. The ketchup incident is now confirmed by two independent sources - Brooks Brown said that both Eric and Dylan had ketchup thrown at them, and had to walk with it on their clothes all day till the time they finally went home. Sue Klebold also confirms that with her testimony. Why is it not in the book?

Jennifer wrote: "The fact that Cullen fails to mention it is an example of where he picks his evidence to suit his narrative where it suits him.

I have to agree, unfortunately. There are so many glaring omissions and exclusions in the book that they can't be all coincidental, especially considering that they're not hard to spot. You know, when I read the article which has the interview with Anne Marie Hochhalter and is about the book being adapted into a miniseries, and which links to the author's page on Facebook - which is not even really his page, but a page on "Columbine by Dave Cullen", and then I read that the book is to be adapted as a stage play - I realized that this book is a pretty profitable venture. As it's the author's only book, it's also a way to make a name for himself - it's a shame that the book omits crucial details and serves to advance one theory, which stands in opposition to the facts.


message 36: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Jennifer, I'd be happy with future editions of the book correcting the mistake about Brenda Parker, but there are so many examples in the book of Eric smoothly talking his way out of trouble that I disagree such a correction would harm Cullen's overall thesis. The example I cited earlier about Eric's therapy sessions is particularly germane in showing how people were fooled by Eric. Cullen's thesis about Eric is far more to do with being able to talk his way out of trouble than it is about how many dates he ever had.

Dwayne Fuselier has a vested interest in pushing forth an alternative narrative to the one in mainstream media at the time, because his son was someone who was exactly the type of person they were describing.

I'm not sure what this is meant to imply, but it doesn't make sense to me. There was no "trench coat mafia", at this point no one argues that point. What "type of person" do you mean? To my knowledge there was never a question of Fuselier's son being implicated in the shootings. Or by "type of person" do you mean a bully? That's certainly possible, but I'd need to see evidence that the younger Fuselier bullied Eric or Dylan. As far as making a student film with violent themes, even depicting a school blowing up--so what? That's a creative pursuit, by itself it is zero evidence of someone planning a school attack for real. This seems a big reach as a reason to criticize Dwayne Fuselier's work.

By Cullen's own admission, law enforcement conspired to cover up much of the information in the aftermath of the massacre for their own self-interest, so that he relies so heavily on a theory espoused by a member of LE bothers me somewhat.

Two points. 1) Cullen doesn't just "admit" law enforcement conspired to cover up information (phrasing it that way makes it sound like a reluctant admission), he spends a large chunk of the book documenting this cover-up in damning detail. 2) This cover-up was perpetrated entirely by the local Colorado law enforcement community, a national body such as the FBI (Fuselier's employer) had nothing to do with it. This distinction should not be blurred, to do so would be dishonest.

Reading the information in the link you provided, it does appear Cullen may have relied on previous news stories that were erroneous re: Anne Marie Hochhalter, but this account does not speak to the overriding themes in the book. Again, it's an error I would be happy to see corrected in future editions, but it's not an error with an agenda behind it.

Repeating myself, the real crux of the matter that prevents me from seeing bullying as a primary reason for the shooting (not a denial that bullying happened, I should add) is that the attack was conceived and planned a year before it was carried out. That simply is not an action that resulted from the boys' "snapping" and indicates to me a genuine sociopathy. (And Maciek, the fact that the boys were bad at building bombs does not contradict meticulous planning. You can be meticulous and still make mistakes. Eric and Dylan very much thought the bombs would work as planned.)

Anyway, I hope to stop posting in this thread. At some point it just becomes people repeating their positions. But Jennifer, thank you for the additional information.


message 37: by Maciek (last edited Mar 12, 2013 05:18PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Maciek Kirk wrote: "Repeating myself, the real crux of the matter that prevents me from seeing bullying as a primary reason for the shooting (not a denial that bullying happened, I should add) is that the attack was conceived and planned a year before it was carried out. That simply is not an action that resulted from the boys' "snapping" and indicates to me a genuine sociopathy. (And Maciek, the fact that the boys were bad at building bombs does not contradict meticulous planning. You can be meticulous and still make mistakes. Eric and Dylan very much thought the bombs would work as planned.)"

Fair enough - my real problem with the book is not as much the thesis itself, as how it is concluded. There are glaring omissions and inaccuracies which I pointed out, and Jennifer contributed to. The book seems to be bent to downplay the bullying angle as much as possible - despite much evidence to the contrary, from multiple sources - and focus on providing evidence for the theory that one of the perpetrators was a psychopath - which I can't agree with, as like Jennifer said "no-one in these fields with a shred of integrity would diagnose someone posthumously, particularly when they had never met them". All that is available on Eric and Dylan are their journals and video recordings, and testimonies of those who knew them. Much of this information is disregarded and cherrypicked, certain witnesses are ignored in favor of giving voice to a girl who later confessed to being a liar, other inaccuracies (like the description of the first shoot). That's my main problem with the book - it seems to be bent on one hypothesis and simply ignores evidence which wouldn't support it. The case is complex enough to warrant multiple books on the subject, but this one seems to have the ambition of being a "definitive" one - with all the promotion, adaptations and press it received.

Re: meticulous planning: I still have problems with describing it like that. I agree that both boys definitely put time and energy into planning the whole thing - but to think that the bombs failed because of elementary mistakes in constructing them. As you pointed out, the boys didn't kill any of the people they named as targets in the basement tapes - it seems that they just went on with the rampage, instead of acting with cool and precision. Besides, they did it basically in the open - Eric's parents could easily have searched his room and found his journals or pipe bombs. They were doing this right under the eyes of their parents - on the basement tapes they boast about "concocting their plan under the noses of unsuspecting parents and friends". Eric Harris also had a web site where he wrote about trying these bombs out. On the basement tapes they boast about doing everything in plain sight.

Dylan recalls a time when his parents walked into his bedroom while he was trying on his trenchcoat to see if it would hide his sawed-off shotgun.
KLEBOLD: They didn't even know it was there.
Eric tells about a day he was going to go shooting in the mountains. He had his shotgun in a gym bag: it was in his "terrorist bag, sticking out". When he walked by his mother, she saw the butt of the gun but she assumed it was nothing more sinister than his BB gun. Fooling people was a point of pride for both boys, one they gloat about during the video-taping.

Here are more quotes I found on the web about the tapes (the story about the clips is repeated in the book - I think the one about the bombs is there, too.)

"The two brag about hiding their tools of death — and about the close calls along the way. Eric shows off a black tackle box with his bomb-making equipment inside. They talk openly about concocting their plan under the noses of unsuspecting parents and friends. They talk about the day Eric’s parents found the tackle box — and took only the pipe bombs out of it. They mention the time a clerk from Green Mountain Guns called his home. Wayne Harris answered the phone. “Your clips are in,” the clerk said. Wayne Harris told the clerk he hadn’t ordered any clips for a gun. But Eric said his father never asked whether the caller had the right phone number. Had someone asked questions, April 20 might have been just another day, they say."

They did not seem to even be trying too much to accomplish any sort of secrecy. How come no one has ever noticed anything?


message 38: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 13, 2013 08:31PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennifer Kirk, I'd be happy to respond to your comment at length when I have a bit more time, but I just wanted to mention that it was Dylan who very likely came up with the idea of shooting up the school - not Eric. He and Eric put the date of origin of the planning stage a year before they executed it. Dylan mentioned it in his diary a year before that, early 1997. Most tellingly, he mentions shooting up the school with another friend of theirs. The name of that friend was redacted in the LE documents, but from crossreferencing the documents is widely accepted to be Zack Heckler (LE were inconsistent with their redaction, so the name appears elsewhere). By all accounts, Dylan and Zack were much closer than Dylan and Eric were at that time. Zack began dating a friend of theirs, Devon, at which point he and Dylan began to drift apart (Dylan also references killing Devon in his diary - something along the lines of 'who I wouldn't mind killing'. I don't think that was a serious indication that he actually intended to murder Devon, by any means, but it is noteworthy, given that he did actually go on to murder other people). On the contrary, Eric didn't start writing about his plans until 1998. Why is it believed that Eric came up with the idea, when there's no evidence he did (and, indeed, evidence to the contrary)?

You also wrote here: "There was no "trench coat mafia", at this point no one argues that point."

If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying that the Trenchcoat Mafia did not exist at all? That's definitely not the case. Eric and Dylan were not members (Cullen is absolutely right on about that, and I have never disagreed), but Chris Morris, who was very close to them, was. I'm not sure at all why you would believe this group never existed; there are hundreds of pages in the 11k documents that prove otherwise. Here's a photo from the 1998 CHS yearbook in dedication to the group; you can make out that it says 'Trenchcoat Mafia - We are Josh, Joe, Chris...' and so on. The majority of its members were a year older than Dylan and Eric, and graduated in 1998.

I'll come back to the rest of what you've written when I have some time, even though you feel you're repeating yourself. I'm sorry that's the case. If it helps, I wasn't addressing my entire comment solely to you - I'm sorry if I reiterated something you've already heard.

Maciek, thank you very much for your comments (which I will also reply to later). Just to elaborate on that last thing you wrote... Wayne was definitely aware that Eric was making pipe bombs at least a year before the attack. He confiscated one whilst he tried to figure out what to do with it (apparently he didn't hide it too well; one of their friends said that Eric showed him the bomb in his father's closet). He ended up taking Eric up into the mountains and detonating it with him. I'm not sure how that, in any sense, constitutes a punishment - or, for that matter, a remotely appropriate way to react to your child making explosives. The neighbors on Reed Street also heard Eric in the garage making loud noises the weekend prior to the shooting. He was, of course, constructing those bombs - not sure why his parents didn't check up on him when they knew that he had previously made bombs. In the descriptions of the Basement Tapes it's clear his guns and bomb materials were not well hidden at all; his parents were clearly not searching his room as you say. To be honest, far from being incredibly manipulative and secretive, I think Eric was crying out for help. I think this is absolutely apparent in the things he wrote for that diversion program, which his parents saw. He was very explicit that he was experiencing suicidal and homicidal thoughts. He also uploaded his journal to the school server the day before they carried out the shooting, which was extraordinarily risky. I can't help but wonder if that wasn't his last attempt to get someone's attention. Eric was definitely in good company, if that's the case (so to speak), as many school shooters do make similar thinly-veiled cries for help before they act.

As usual, this was much longer than I intended - apologies!


Maciek Jennifer, I just wanted to thank you for your comment - they are never too long and bring forth a lot of information which I was not aware of. Please take your time - I appreciate each contribution that you made to the threat and my understanding of the book. So many elements have been omitted that it cannot be an accident - the hypothesis it stands on is indeed getting weaker and weaker with every new reveal.


Jennifer Maciek, thank you for your kind comments; they are very much appreciated. I took Cullen's version of the events at face value when I first began reading about the massacre, as I had previously read some of his articles. By the time I read his book, though, I had gone through some of the documents released by LE, and I began to write down where my understanding of events differed from his. I think Cullen did a wonderful job of dispelling some of the more prevalent myths around Columbine (in particular things like the Cassie said yes myth, and that the two were members of the Trench Coat Mafia), and he certainly created a fluid account of the shooting. When I say that I disagree with Cullen, I don't intend to dismiss his work entirely. But I do think that he's capitalized on the fact that a lot of the evidence is somewhat obscure and difficult to parse in order to push forth his theory, which, in my opinion, doesn't have a whole lot of evidence going for it at all. That bothers me from a criminological perspective, because Columbine was - and remains - a very significant crime, and how it is understood has ramifications for how all school shootings are understood.

Just as a quick aside, I found another source for the ketchup incident, from one of Dylan and Eric's classmates, Chad Laughlin: "I caught the tail end of one really horrible incident, and I know Dylan told his mother that it was the worst day of his life." That incident, according to Laughlin, involved seniors pelting Klebold with "ketchup-covered tampons" in the commons. The whole article is definitely worth a read, if you have the time. Laughlin explicitly dismisses Cullen's characterization of Eric as a 'chick magnet', amongst other things.

I was intending to reply to Kirk's comments, but I'm not sure if he's still reading this, so I don't know if there's much point.


message 41: by Greg (last edited Mar 17, 2013 07:37AM) (new)

Greg Jennifer wrote: "I was intending to reply to Kirk's comments, but I'm not sure if he's still reading this, so I don't know if there's much point. "

I posted earlier in the thread and am continuing to follow the discussion with interest so please do reply to Kirk's comments. :) And while Kirk still might not agree with you, he might still read them.


Maciek Jennifer, thank you all your comments! I really appreciate them and all the new information you brought to the discussion. I agree with your stance on the book - I think it does help get rid of the more popular rumors concerning the shooting, but at the same time ignores evidence that comes in contradiction with the point it tries to make. There exist many, many sources of evidence concerning bullying at Columbine which I provided and you contributed to - the latest one being the interview with Chad Laughlin - but none of it is included in the book.

Jennifer wrote: "When I say that I disagree with Cullen, I don't intend to dismiss his work entirely. But I do think that he's capitalized on the fact that a lot of the evidence is somewhat obscure and difficult to parse in order to push forth his theory, which, in my opinion, doesn't have a whole lot of evidence going for it at all. That bothers me from a criminological perspective, because Columbine was - and remains - a very significant crime, and how it is understood has ramifications for how all school shootings are understood.

I absolutely second that - it bothers me that the book is proven to not be an objective and definitive study of the case (which is what most people who read it take it for), but instead picks and chooses from available evidence to suit its hypothesis - going so far as to flat out deny the bullying aspect and ignore the available evidence, and focusing on unreliable testimonies and dubious methods at arriving at the conclusion.

Jennifer wrote: "I was intending to reply to Kirk's comments, but I'm not sure if he's still reading this, so I don't know if there's much point.

Greg wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "I was intending to reply to Kirk's comments, but I'm not sure if he's still reading this, so I don't know if there's much point. "

I posted earlier in the thread and am continuing to follow the discussion with interest so please do reply to Kirk's comments. :) And while Kirk still might not agree with you, he might still read them. "


I agree with Greg - even if Kirk is not interested in participating in the discussion I'm sure ther are many people who will read the review and thread and find it of interest. I am finding the new information you brought fascinating. Thank you!


message 43: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 17, 2013 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennifer Alright, you two have convinced me! I'd be happy to write out my thoughts insofar as they're welcome. I'll have to do it in a little, because it's 3am around these parts, I have school tomorrow, and as you can see I am not even a little bit concise. Maciek, absolutely no need at all to thank me (although I do appreciate it) - this particular topic is one that intrigues me immensely, as I'm sure is evident :)


Maciek Thank you, Jennifer! I am looking forward to your comments! :) I really appreciate them as they introduced me to new facts which I didn't know before, and which sadly were not included in the book. The topic is indeed very intriguing, and I can see that your interest in it is great - and I'm very glad you chose to share it with us! :)


Jennifer Alright, here goes! Fair warning: it's a long one.

Kirk wrote: "Jennifer, I'd be happy with future editions of the book correcting the mistake about Brenda Parker, but there are so many examples in the book of Eric smoothly talking his way out of trouble that I disagree such a correction would harm Cullen's overall thesis. The example I cited earlier about Eric's therapy sessions is particularly germane in showing how people were fooled by Eric. Cullen's thesis about Eric is far more to do with being able to talk his way out of trouble than it is about how many dates he ever had."

You're right that there are other instances of Eric lying, but I disagree that the inclusion of the supposed Brenda Parker relationship is only minimally problematic. Cullen states on numerous occasions that Eric was extraordinarily charming and good with the opposite sex; he emphasizes it so much because it's an integral part of his thesis. A couple of pages in, he says, "On the ultimate high school scorecard, Eric outscored much of the football team." On pg. 6: "[Eric] got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks." Cullen doesn't give much evidence for this other than Brenda Parker, though. The significance of the relationship, I believe, was to demonstrate that Eric was so charismatic and proficient at lying that he could fool a college-aged girl into 1) believing that he was older than he actually was, and therefore into 2) having a sexual relationship with him. This is noteworthy because there's a significant demarcation between college and high school kids in the US; the two groups usually don't interact with each other socially on an everyday basis. In a place like CHS, being able to say that he was able to have sex with a girl who went to college would provide Eric with significant social currency. In actuality, that's not the case at all.

Eric was desperate for interaction with the opposite sex, and he was desperate for sex. For Cullen to claim that Eric 'outscored much of the football team' (who, by all accounts, are on the top of the social hierarchy at CHS) is blatantly absurd when you look at the testimonies of those who knew him - and, IMO, if you watch his behaviour in the 'Eric In Columbine' video. As Maciek has quoted, Eric wrote about his unfulfilled desire for sex on more than a few occasions. A few weeks before the massacre he stated that one of his foremost goals was to 'get laid'. He wouldn't have written this if Cullen was correct that he was sexually active. Maciek and I have briefly outlined upthread why Brenda's claims are absurd, and not a single person who knew Eric mentions her. For Cullen to include her unvalidated and retracted claims as factual is completely out of line, especially when he's admitted that he knows it's incorrect and yet makes no move to take it out of future pressings. Just to further establish how unhinged Brenda was: in addition to claiming she was going to be the third shooter (and subsequently getting into trouble with LE), she claimed to have broken into the library post-massacre to be with Eric in the spot where he died. Brenda Parker is the antithesis of a reliable source. You mention that you'd be happy with a retraction in future books, but that's my point. Cullen isn't retracting anything; he refuses to. That he deems it so important that he won't retract it even though it's completely false is a pretty big indication of how much he values it for his overall premise.

As for Eric's therapist, I would also point out that despite your point that Dylan didn't do nearly as well, he, like Eric, impressed his therapist and probation officer enough to be let out of the diversion program early. If you read the records, Dylan is sporadic at best - he's late, misses appointments, doesn't keep his grades up, and so on. The final report states that early dismissal occurs in only ~5% of juvenile diversion cases, and yet Dylan, who we think did poorly in the program, was permitted to leave early. I'm not certain that Eric impressed his therapist really meant that much - after all, Dylan must have also done so. To be honest, it's not difficult for a teenager of Eric's age and intelligence to be able to ascertain what the desired result is in that kind of situation. Eric was explicitly told what he needed to do - demonstrate he knew he had screwed up and promise not to do it again, keep up his school results, refrain from getting into legal trouble, and so on. This is the letter he wrote as a mandatory part of the diversion program. I don't believe that producing that work necessitated an exceptional ability to manipulate. Eric literally parrots almost verbatim the stuff he's heard in the class, and says he's learnt from it. That's it. That's all there was to it; that's the stuff he had to say to pass with flying colours and demonstrate his 'progress'. The other diversion stuff he had to do was much of the same - for example, here's the letter he wrote to the man whose van he broke into. It's quite perfunctory and by-the-numbers. Eric wasn't stupid. He knew very well that all he had to do was to give off the impression that he had learnt from his mistakes and wouldn't repeat them. This isn't particularly special, or out of the ordinary - almost all kids lie to authority figures to get themselves out of trouble at some point. It also isn't hard for a kid who's planning to kill their schoolmates to figure out that they don't want to draw undue attention to themselves (here it's worth noting that in January of 1998, before the planning of the massacre, he was very honest on his admission forms about his suicidal and homicidal ideation and other issues he was having. Conversely, during the program, after he and Dylan began planning, he started lying about his feelings).

I'm also not surprised that Eric's therapist proclaimed that he was shocked that Eric committed the massacre - to commit a school shooting, despite their prevalence and frequency, is vastly out of the norm for a teenager. The vast majority of people who have seen a therapist will never commit an act of violence remotely close to that scale. Could Eric be charming or even, at times, deceitful when he wanted something? Sure. But that's certainly not an indication of psychopathy in and of itself - or, frankly, a great many of us would be psychopathic. Myself included.


message 46: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 19, 2013 05:56AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennifer Kirk wrote: "I'm not sure what this is meant to imply, but it doesn't make sense to me. There was no "trench coat mafia", at this point no one argues that point. What "type of person" do you mean? To my knowledge there was never a question of Fuselier's son being implicated in the shootings. Or by "type of person" do you mean a bully? That's certainly possible, but I'd need to see evidence that the younger Fuselier bullied Eric or Dylan. As far as making a student film with violent themes, even depicting a school blowing up--so what? That's a creative pursuit, by itself it is zero evidence of someone planning a school attack for real. This seems a big reach as a reason to criticize Dwayne Fuselier's work."

I replied to the bit about the Trenchcoat Mafia upthread; I'm unsure if you were saying that the TCM didn't exist , but that's what I read it as. According to Chris Morris' testimony, Eric and Dylan began wearing their trenchcoats after the group had dissolved. CHS students were interviewed by the media during and immediately after the shooting; this is where the myth that the TCM were involved in the massacre originates. Some of them saw Eric and Dylan's trenchcoats on the day, and believed erroneously they were members.

I apologize if I did not make my point with clarity. I'll try to restate it.. Dwayne Fuselier's son, Scott, had previously gotten in trouble with both the school and LE for making threats to shoot up the school. According to some news reports at the time, he was at least on friendly terms with Dylan. He and his brother, Brian Fuselier (who was in the cafeteria during the shooting) were definitely friends with Brooks Brown, as confirmed by Brooks himself - so we could reasonably extrapolate that Scott was hanging in some of the same social circles as Eric and Dylan. For these reasons alone, I believe Dwayne Fuselier had a pretty massive conflict of interest, and should not have been investigating Eric and Dylan's motives in the first case. There was some media attention on this at the time, but the FBI essentially stated that they did not believe it to be important, and so Fuselier was permitted to continue.

Immediately after the shooting, there was much attention on the 'Hitmen For Hire' film Eric and Dylan produced with their friends. The description of Scott's film sounds very similar to Eric and Dylan's film. There was a lot of confusion before the official reports were released, and there was a lot of public suspicion concerning the role others may have played in the massacre (not helped by JeffCo, as you know). This was particularly the case in regards to friends of Eric and Dylan, and members of the TCM: Brooks Brown, Chris Morris, Nate Dykeman, Zack Heckler, Robert Perry, and Joseph Stair were just a few of the people in Eric and Dylan's social circles that were publicly named as potential shooters or accomplices, and who were treated with extreme suspicion and outright hatred in the Littleton community after 4/20. Scott Fuselier not only knew these people, he was friends with some of them. I definitely don't believe Scott had any involvement in the massacre, and I agree with you - the film was a creative endeavour, the type of which is very common around that age (only a couple of years ago I wrote a screenplay for one of my high school media classes featuring a protagonist who shot up her school. I can definitely assure you I had no desire or intention to do so in reality, but wrote it simply because it was an easy way of expressing my overblown teenage angst). The point is that Scott was precisely the type of person who was being publicly named and shamed for their supposed involvement in the wake of the massacre - all the more so because he was socially connected to the shooters, created a film that depicted trenchcoat-clad killers carrying out a school shooting and bombing the school at that very school, and had previously gotten into trouble for threatening to carry out those acts of violence.

Consequently, his father had very good reason to search for an alternative narrative to the one that was put forth by the media at the time. I'm not claiming that Dwayne Fuselier covered up his son's involvement, or anything of the sort. There's no evidence for that. I'm saying that he had a vested interest in providing another reason for what Eric and Dylan did, because his son was the perfect fit for the narrative that was immensely popular at the time. His son didn't just fit the stereotype of the trenchcoat-wearing, hyper-violent socially alienated outcast at CHS. He also had very specific connections to the killers, and had made threats that were very similar what eventually took place. Keeping in mind that anyone who was connected with Eric and Dylan anyway was essentially cast as a co-conspirator and/or murderer by the local community and the national media at the time. Nate Dykeman left Colorado for Florida to escape the accusations, Brooks Brown was not permitted to go back to CHS and was called a murderer at Rachel Scott's funeral and forced to leave, Chris Morris was fired from his job and kicked out of his house by his parents, and so on - this was how these kids were treated in their hometown, to say nothing of how they were viewed across the US due to the media attention. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Dwayne Fuselier had good reason to find that alternative narrative, especially as a member of law enforcement investigating the incident. And he did.

ETA: Just found a pertinent source in the documents, an interview with CHS student Michelle Boudreau:
Boudreau stated that she had seen a news segment on Channel 7 about a video made at the school which ended with a scene where the school was blown up. Boudreau stated that she was involved in the production of that video, which she described as being a parody of the movie "Independence Day." Boudreau advised that others inovlved with the producation were Scott Fuselier, John Weirs, Karl Broman, and Sean LNU. Boudreau stated that the video included scenes involving armed individuals wearing trench coats, carrying guns similar to those described as being subsequently used in the shootings at Columbine High School. One scene in the video involved a shootout in the parking lot of the school.


message 47: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 18, 2013 11:51PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jennifer Kirk wrote: Two points. 1) Cullen doesn't just "admit" law enforcement conspired to cover up information (phrasing it that way makes it sound like a reluctant admission), he spends a large chunk of the book documenting this cover-up in damning detail. 2) This cover-up was perpetrated entirely by the local Colorado law enforcement community, a national body such as the FBI (Fuselier's employer) had nothing to do with it. This distinction should not be blurred, to do so would be dishonest.

To be fair, I didn't say Cullen 'admit[ted]' it. I said 'by his own admission', which is a common phrase, and somewhat distinct when taken in context. This is what I wrote: "By Cullen's own admission, law enforcement conspired to cover up much of the information in the aftermath of the massacre for their own self-interest, so that he relies so heavily on a theory espoused by a member of LE bothers me somewhat." It was a throwaway sentence concerning my own personal opinion - certainly not the crux of my argument and therefore not what I necessarily wanted to focus on, but I stick by my point nonetheless. Of course, you're correct that the two legal bodies are separate, but their role in investigating the massacre was essentially the same - the two collaborated on the same task. There wasn't a great deal of transparency involving the investigation, to say the least. What we do know about JeffCo has been gleaned from documents released in civil court cases.The lawsuits that resulted in the release of those documents were only addressed to JeffCo, so we don't really know what the FBI did. We do know that the two agencies worked closely together in the investigation in the following months, though, and so I would be honestly shocked if FBI had absolutely no idea that JeffCo was preventing the release of that information (and if they didn't know, that reflects pretty poorly on their investigative abilities, no?). Mostly we just have Cullen's account, and since he got his psychopath/depressive theory from an FBI member and only interviewed law enforcement (and not people who actually, you know, knew Eric and Dylan), it doesn't surprise me at all that his account came out very pro-FBI. That was all I meant.

Kirk wrote: Reading the information in the link you provided, it does appear Cullen may have relied on previous news stories that were erroneous re: Anne Marie Hochhalter, but this account does not speak to the overriding themes in the book. Again, it's an error I would be happy to see corrected in future editions, but it's not an error with an agenda behind it.

I believe it's actually quite a salient point. Anne Marie Hochhalter isn't the only one who has come on the record to say she didn't receive so much as a cursory phone call from Cullen to check that what he wrote was correct. Off the top of my head, Brooks Brown, Richard Castaldo, Amanda Stair (who was in the library, and whose brother, Joe Stair, was the TCM founder and fielded a lot of condemnation before he committed suicide in 2007), Daniel Mauser's parents, and Daniel Rorhbough's parents have all stated that they were never contacted, and disagreed at least partially with Cullen's account.

My point wasn't that Cullen had made a simple mistake. I could list many, many minor errors in the text if that were the point I was trying to make - say, that Rachel Scott was a senior when she was a junior, or that Eric missed a psychology test that morning rather than a philosophy test, or that Cassie Bernall had her mother's curly hair when it was actually straight - but I'm not particularly concerned with those things, because I don't think they're all that egregious. The way that these kids were grievously injured and killed, though? That's pretty damn important. In fact, that's kind of the point. For Cullen to write a book like this and not contact those who he was writing about is appalling to me. He was writing about what is very likely the worst moments of these people's lives - for some of them, their very last moments. If he was dead set on writing about these people, he had a responsibility to do their ordeal justice, especially given the audience he was reaching. He didn't. For starters, I would like to think someone who was writing a book like this based on an actual event would take enough pride in their work to bother to do some basic fact-checking when writing about such a sensitive issue. I'll give you an example of what I mean: Cullen stated all of the bodies in the library were under tables except for Eric and Dylan. As you can see in this diagram, both Kelly Fleming and John Tomlin were not under tables when they died. Kelly was not because there were so many kids packed under those tables that there wasn't room for everyone, and John was not because he was attempting to protect another student, Nicole Nowlen, from harm and give her comfort by ensuring she was under his table and out of sight. These are extremely important details, and they had been well established a year after the event. By my calculations, Cullen had a further nine years to figure this out before his book was published. Furthermore, I would be inclined to think someone who was supposedly so intent on dismantling falsehoods around such a subject would be meticulous in ensuring that they were not further perpetuating other untruths. More than that, though, it's just out and out disrespectful. If you're writing about someone who suffered an overwhelmingly traumatic experience like this one and suffers from lifelong injuries from said experience, couldn't you at least check with that person before you published it for the world to see? If you write about the life and death of child who is brutally murdered, don't you think the least you could do is contact their parents to see if you've got it right?

Kirk wrote: Repeating myself, the real crux of the matter that prevents me from seeing bullying as a primary reason for the shooting (not a denial that bullying happened, I should add) is that the attack was conceived and planned a year before it was carried out. That simply is not an action that resulted from the boys' "snapping" and indicates to me a genuine sociopathy. (And Maciek, the fact that the boys were bad at building bombs does not contradict meticulous planning. You can be meticulous and still make mistakes. Eric and Dylan very much thought the bombs would work as planned.)

As I mentioned upthread, the fact that Dylan wrote about committing a school shooting a year before Eric did, and with another friend, no less, strongly suggests to me that he was the one who came up with the idea (since you believe that the planning well in advance is indicative of 'genuine sociopathy', do you also believe Dylan was a sociopath?). I won't dwell too much on this, both because I've already mentioned it, and because I've gone on for quite some time now. I will say that I've barely touched the reasons that I disagree that Eric was a psychopath and Dylan was a depressed follower. There are many other behavioural indications from both boys that suggest to me that this was not the case; I would be happy to expand upon them if you are interested. I want to just state for the record that I don't know if Eric was a psychopath. I definitely don't believe he was, and I think Cullen's case as it stands is fairly weak overall when you factor in a lot of the stuff he minimized or excluded entirely. However, I don't mean to suggest that I believe I know exactly what their motives were. I absolutely don't. I have my suspicions, and I believe personally that those suspicions are at least reasonably substantiated... but that's as much as I can lay claim to, personally.

Kirk wrote:Anyway, I hope to stop posting in this thread. At some point it just becomes people repeating their positions.

Again, I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm not sure if I'm one of the people you were addressing, but I do hope if you read this that, even though you disagree with me, you have more of an understanding of where I'm coming from.


message 48: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Wow. I think I'm going to put this comment thread on my 'to-read' shelf.

Those are some novels ya'll have penned.


message 49: by Stephen M (new) - added it

Stephen M Oh no worries haha. It's just a heck of a lot to read!

But yeah, I feel you. I just turned in an essay about an hour ago that was twice as long as it was supposed to be. Ha, we'll see how the professor takes it.


Jennifer In my defense, I was encouraged somewhat.

Ahh, you understand me, then. What was your essay on? I always laugh inside a little when people in my classes ask how many words they can go under the word limit. I've never once had that problem. I don't think I've ever been succinct in my life.


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