Marilyn Manson–Columbine High School massacre controversy
After the massacre at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, one common view was that the violent actions perpetrated by the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were due to violent influences in entertainment, specifically those in the music of Marilyn Manson.
Arguments and action against Marilyn Manson
The earliest reports about the Columbine High School shooting linked Manson to the tragedy after students reported that Klebold and Harris were fans of Manson, though that was later proven to be false. Many also pointed out that the boys were dressed in trenchcoats, which they believed to be similar to Manson's typical attire. Some early headlines read, "Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson" and "Devil-Worshipping Maniac Told Kids To Kill."
Those taking a stance against Manson claimed that his rock group was perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company. Michael Moore stated in his documentary, Bowling for Columbine, that after the attack, it seemed that the entire focus was that the two killers were motivated to commit this act because they listened to Marilyn Manson.
Interviewers and reporters such as Bill O'Reilly of Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor challenged Manson's messages in his songs. O'Reilly pointed out Manson's controversial behavior, such as committing a sexual act with another male live on stage. In response, Manson claimed that this was not planned and was entertaining at the time. O'Reilly also challenged Manson by stating that never before in the United States had there been more corrupting influences on the nation's youth at one time, and that while Manson claims that his messages are not meant to be taken a certain way, young people can misinterpret his lyrics.
Two years after Columbine, Manson was expected to perform in Denver, Colorado at the Ozzfest at Mile High Stadium. As a result, protesters gathered to prevent Manson from performing. One speaker said that Marilyn Manson's music promoted what he called Columbine-like behavior, such as hate, violence, death, suicide, and drug use. The protesters were largely made up of the Citizens for Peace and Respect, an organization that consisted of locals, churches, and Columbine families.
The blame that was placed on Marilyn Manson quickly circulated. The controversy was cited in news outlets around the world.
Marilyn Manson's defense
While many protested Manson's appearance in Denver, others supported Manson. One spokesman for a Columbine victim's family told reporters that Manson shouldn't be expected to instill values in children and that he should be welcomed to Ozzfest.
Though Manson initially refused to appear on news stations and talk shows, and he cancelled several shows out of respect for the victims of Columbine, he later spoke out in many different interviews. Upon being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly, Manson said that he initially declined interviews because he didn't want to contribute to giving the shooters the infamy that he believed they desired by committing such a terrible act. He cited the fact that the shooters were on the cover of Time Magazine and that the media gave them exactly what they wanted.
During his appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," Manson also said that his lyrics do not promote suicidal thoughts but that they encourage getting through feelings like that.
Two months after the Columbine shooting, Rolling Stone published an article by Marilyn Manson entitled, "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?" In the article, he wrote that his lyrics are often misinterpreted, and that people believe that he is promoting things that he is actually trying to decry.
In the Rolling Stones article, Manson also wrote that society's in-depth coverage of the Columbine tragedy was more gruesome than typical entertainment. In Bowling for Columbine, Manson and Moore discussed that on the day of the Columbine tragedy, the United States dropped more bombs on Kosovo than any other time during the Kosovo War. Manson argued that the US president has more influence than himself, yet no one questioned whether the president was to blame.
In interviews, Manson claimed that he does not promote violence, hate, suicide, and the other atrocities of which he has been accused. Rather, he promotes not being afraid to be different and to challenge societal views and norms. He repeatedly asserts that there is a difference between art and real life.
Effects on Marilyn Manson's career
In an interview, Manson said that being blamed for Columbine nearly ruined his career. He claimed that he had to pursue legal action against those who were so avidly associating his name with the Columbine shooting. He says that he has been blamed for more deaths than any musical artist in history.
Shortly after the Columbine incident, Manson released a new video for "The Fight Song" off the band's album Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). Many assumed that it referenced the Columbine massacre by depicting a clash between jocks and goths. Manson denied that there was a connection.
In a 2012 interview, Manson revealed that the album Born Villain, which would be released that year, was named partially due to his blame for the Columbine shooting. He said that the title is perfect because he became vilified by society.
- Bell, Crystal. "Marilyn Manson Thinks He's The Most Blamed Person 'In The History of Music'". TheHuffingtonPost.com. The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
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- Moore, Michael. "Bowling for Columbine". Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- "Marilyn Manson". August 20, 2001. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Walsh, Steve; Mazza, Edward (June 21, 2001). "Protests in Denver Over Manson Gig". ABC News. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Manson, Marilyn (June 24, 1999). "Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Matheson, Whitney (June 5, 2013). "Video: Marilyn Manson Talks to Larry King". USA Today. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
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- D'angelo, Joe (March 22, 2001). "Marilyn Manson Bows Out Of Denver Ozzfest Date". MTV News. Retrieved November 12, 2014.