Violence, Hate and Youth
What's happening to our children?
In the aftermath of the mass murder by two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Americans have agonized over that painful question as they sought to make sense of the senseless. As details about the killers emerged, it seemed clear that one part of the puzzle was the influence of white supremacy.
The attack occurred on the 110th birthday of Adolf Hitler. Students reported that one of the killers called 18-year-old Isaiah Shoels a "nigger" just before shooting him, and others said that members of the so-called "Trench Coat Mafia" idolized Hitler, spoke German to one another and listened to German music.
There were even reports that members of the group wore red shoelaces — a symbol of neo-Nazi Skinheads.
Many have pointed accusing fingers at the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the youths who apparently committed suicide after their attack. But others, closer to the families, have described the parents as utterly normal, attentive people.
It's not clear how important a role racist beliefs may have played in igniting the attack. But there is evidence that the presumed killers were deeply involved in the Internet and in the "extreme music" subculture — both worlds that have seen a rapidly increasing incursion of white supremacist and neo-Nazi influences.
Music and the Net
Since the first hate site went up on the Web just four years ago, racist propaganda on the Net has exploded. In addition, there are scores of sites glorifying violence and detailing how to build bombs like those used at Columbine High.
Hate groups have used the Net to target people like Harris and Klebold — bright, college-bound youths seen as capable of building a radical right political movement. Many hate groups have put up Web pages explicitly aimed at young students.
Harris and Klebold were also said to be deeply interested in extreme music, including Gothic, Black Metal and Death Metal. Typically, this music has been characterized by anti-authoritarian, violent, occult and even pornographic themes. But now, neo-Nazism has become very much a part of the scene.
Evidence of this change can be seen in magazines like Pit that cover extreme music. According to the Coalition for Human Dignity, a Seattle-based human rights group, Pit has run uncritical interviews with musicians like "Kapricornus," who refers to his national socialist beliefs and "the plague of negroidial [sic] creatures."
Another musician predicts: "Auschwitz and Birkenau will be reopened under new management — US!"
The Littleton massacre is not the only horror story that has caused parents and others to examine the roots of hatred among the young. Peggy Greenbaum has wrestled with a similar situation since it was revealed early this year that her 20-year-old son, a youth with Jewish ancestry, leads a neo-Nazi group.
"I don't know how you don't know these things, but you just don't," a weeping Greenbaum told the Intelligence Report. "I just don't know where it came from."
Part of the answer may lie in the ways that normal teenage rebelliousness and problems at school can become poisoned by white supremacist organizers, who are capitalizing on the new technology of the Net to reach teens.
While parents are at work or simply too busy to pay close attention, their kids are often squirreled away in their bedrooms sitting at the keyboard — and absorbing the message of Net hate sites.
In Littleton, the killers apparently had been ostracized as oddballs by many of their classmates. Greenbaum says her son, who has changed his name from Andrew Greenbaum to Davis Wolfgang Hawke, was ridiculed in school and taunted by children who called him a "kike." These problems apparently metastasized when Hawke, Harris and Klebold came into contact with the increasingly powerful neo-Nazi movement.
Hawke, his mother says, "is beyond the point of reasoning." But that is not true of millions of other American children, kids who live in a society suffering from endemic racism. If we are to stop the upward spiral of hate, parents now more than ever must speak to their children openly about this plague, explaining why it is wrong.
Ultimately, that may be our best hope.