COLUMN INCHES

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The Independent Online
Two teenagers turned their high school in Littleton, Colorado, into a scene of carnage, then killed themselves. Here is how some press commentators responded.

THE INTERNET was supposed to be the supreme invention of our age .... But the massacre in Littleton, Colorado, has graphically exposed the darker side of this technology. Far from being of universal benefit to humanity, it has, in reality, served as a haven for a growing army of fanatics, perverts and crooks who use its facilities for their own degraded ends .... Liberal critics might argue that youth culture has always been subversive. But the huge difference is that all such rebelliousness had a physical existence, which could be confronted by the forces of authority. The adolescent cyberspace generation is operating on a different plane, fuelling its fantasies in its own virtual universe unbalanced by normalising forces.

Leo McKinstry, Daily Mail

YES, IT WAS a gun thing, no doubt of that at all. Yet it wasn't only a gun thing - it looks very much like it was a guy thing, too. As yet we don't know very much about the lives, times and states of mind of the late Eric Harris and the late Dylan Klebold. But my very strong suspicion is that we'll never know enough unless we approach the task with matters of masculinity very much in mind. The evidence so far is that Harris and Klebold exhibited extreme examples of the distinctive characteristics of emotionally messed-up adolescent males.

Dave Hill, Guardian

WHILE US students rank near the bottom in international attainment tests, their self-esteem is the highest in the world. They're dumb but they believe they're wonderful. This belief comes from the American culture, which continually claims children are "special".... If society is forever telling adolescents that their feelings are important then it is hardly surprising when they start acting on them. Nor is it surprising that adolescent males excluded from the Baywatch world of beautiful jailbait sometimes run amok.

Bernard Cornwell Express

YESTERDAY, America started to look deeper. It has actually started coming round to the long-excoriated view of the National Rifle Association, which says to anyone who will listen that people, not guns, kill people .... It is not the Second Amendment but the First which America needs to examine to understand why another classroom has been turned into a charnel house .... "Artists" have used the free speech guarantee to bulldoze not just traditional mores, but the whole concept of good and bad taste. The destruction is so complete that peaceable, even church-going, middle classes relax to the rhythm of satanism, and chortle at celluloid heroes who carve up their enemies for fun. Then they express astonishment that their community is suddenly and brutally soaked in blood.

Hugo Gurdon Daily Telegraph

RANDOM they may be, but tragedies like these are far from isolated. The ease with which the gang secured its murderous weapons, the vulnerability of the school, and the fact that the attackers seem deliberately to have copied similar acts of horror, suggest that there will be more to come. However much we learn about those who cross the border from reality to murderous fantasy, we will never find a foolproof way of identifying them in advance. In the end, we will still be confronted by the unimaginable, the darkness of man's heart, for which there is no rational explanation.

Magnus Linklater, Times

WHY THESE kids, and why these schools? There hasn't been carnage in downtown LA. Schools in the Bronx may employ metal detectors and security guards, but not for fear of industrial-scale, random murder. The pictures of the parents arriving, chalk-white and staring, at Columbine High, also caught the great white limousines, and the imagination supplied where they had been driven from: the large houses, with lawns running down to wide avenues. School massacres are a suburban phenomenon; a white phenomenon; an illness of the rich.... Here, with there being no material hardship, no money to fight over, the emphasis is placed on difference. There isn't, therefore, the solidarity that one might find among the students in an inner-city school. Instead of glaring defiantly at the institutions that fail to represent them or that repress them, the suburban school rebel's target for hatred is the fellow student.

David Aaronovitch Independent

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