In the wake of the killing spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a great deal of ink was spilled by pundits, by anti-pundits, and by people with various axes to grind, and very little of it said much beyond "It's not our fault." Nothing unusual about that: the culture of the United States, and by extension, much of its policy, is constantly being informed by the shared illusion of innocence — which explains much about how ostensible leaders go into periodic snits which they pass off as moral crusades, and which makes for considerable mirth when those who make the loudest noises about "personal responsibility" get called on the carpet for their own ghastly lapses.

Bestriding this sea of self-serving twaddle (walking on water always draws a crowd, I understand), we find the long, lean and leery figure of America's most popular Antichrist, Marilyn Manson, whose name and reputation have been invoked by some of the instant analysts in search of answers. The fact that neither Dylan Klebold nor Eric Harris had been a Marilyn Manson fan apparently was lost on the pundits. And Manson himself, who isn't the type to exonerate people even if they are fans, weighs in with his own commentary in the June 24th issue of Rolling Stone. I am pleased to report that The Artist Formerly Known As Brian Warner minces no words: "Did we look for James Huberty's inspiration when he gunned down people at McDonald's? What did Timothy McVeigh like to watch?"

While Manson's not above a little self-promotion himself — and who isn't, these days? — most of what he has to say cuts through the layers of crapola. Violence and death are at the very heart of our culture, and all you have to do to see its foundation is to read the Bible. "It is sad to think," Manson observes, "that the first few people on earth needed no books, movies, games or music to inspire cold-blooded murder." Adolescence, artificially-created state that it is, has many different manifestations, but they all have one thing in common — if you're a teenager, it's very likely that at some point you're going to think your life sort of sucks. Thinking so doesn't make you weird, but acting on it in violent ways makes you a criminal. And the media, by its incessant harping, turns mere criminals into folk heroes: "Don't be surprised," warns Manson, "if every kid who gets pushed around has two new idols."

As Americans, we love our scapegoats. We were furious when Mick Jagger, in his guise as sympathetic spokesperson for the devil, had the audacity to suggest "Who killed the Kennedys? Well, after all, it was you and me." Marilyn Manson, thirty years later, is just as unwilling to let us pass the buck, and that resolve insures that in some circles he will be vilified — in case you were wondering what that proverb about a "prophet without honor" was all about.

The Vent

14 June 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill