The massacre at Columbine High School was the worst of a growing list of mass murders or attempted murders in American schools. Here’s a list for the last three years:
Feb. 2, 1996 – Moses Lake, Washington, two junior high students and a teacher killed
Feb. 19, 1997- Bethel, Alaska, a principal and a student killed, two wounded
Oct. 1, 1997- Pearl, Mississippi, two students killed, seven wounded
Dec. 1, 1997- Paducah, Kentucky, three killed, five wounded
March 24, 1998- Jonesboro, Arkansas, four students and a teacher killed, 11 wounded
April 24, 1998- Edinboro, Pennsylvania, teacher killed, two students wounded
May 21, 1998- Springfield, Oregon, 2 high school students killed, 22 wounded.
April 20, 1999- Littleton, Colorado, one teacher and 12 students killed, 23 wounded
The Littleton tragedy has generated a lot of soul-searching and public discussion of causes and ways of preventing these tragedies, but so did the earlier attacks. Despite all the talk, the problem has grown worse, not better. This is not because we have not been able to figure out what the cause is. There are many scientific studies that show a link between media violence to real-life violence. Our kids see 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on TV before they ever reach high school. Fifty million children under the age of 16 watch television.
Of course, violence has always been a popular subject for drama, but there has been a radical change in recent decades. Audiences used to identify with the victims, but now many movies are being shot in ways that make the viewer identify with the killer. Mark Yerkes, a former Hollywood stuntman, was involved in helping make a series of videos called “Faces of Death” fifteen years ago. It was extremely violent, depicting one kind of death after another.
The producer told him it would never be shown in the U.S. because people here couldn’t take that kind of gore. It was being made for the Japanese market, but in 1986 a 14-year-old boy was beaten to death by another teenager who said he formed the idea of killing someone after watching “Faces of Death.” Yerkes said it was being rented to young kids in the U.S. and that at least one youngster had died as a result.
If only one in a million children is persuaded that killing is cool, each year fifty potential mass murderers enter our high schools, thanks to our irresponsible mass media. We can perhaps consider ourselves lucky that no more than ten have carried out their bloody fantasies in the last four years. But who is prepared to say that is a small price to pay for the huge profits generated by the TV shows and movies that destroyed the consciences of those ten children?
The entertainment industry is polluting the minds of our youth, contributing to the death of conscience in the young people of America and causing the murder of others. This can be changed by returning to the pollution-control in the entertainment industry that was effective and deemed constitutional for most of this century—self-control that was adopted when legislation was threatened.