From this week’s magazine: an essay about the sudden ascent of the zombie in popular culture. And this is before I’d even heard about Blackest Night, DC’s zombie thing (which I do not yet have the pleasure of understanding, but it looks like it has zombies in it, too). This one started life as a blog post, so now the circle of life is complete. My conclusion: it all comes back to the recession.
(I tried to interview Diablo Cody for this. She never called back. Probably I shouldn’t have been snarky about Juno.)
Also from the mag: an essay about a book about Columbine. The 10th anniversary of the massacre is April 20th. It’s of interest to this blog only really because the book talks about the origins, and afterlife, of the extraordinarily tenacious “killer nerd” meme.
It had no basis in reality. There were nerds at Columbine, but Harris and Klebold weren’t among them. That idea came out of a case of mistaken identity — Harris and Klebold wore trench coats, there was a nerdy clique that also wore trench coats. That idea got caught in a weird feedback loop that amplified it beyond all recognition.
See, as Cullen points out, Columbine was the first major hostage standoff where everybody involved had a cell phone. As it happened, there were also TVs in the rooms where the kids were hiding. The kids called 911 on their cell phones. When 911 got overloaded, they started calling the local TV news stations. The newscasters sensationalized what they heard, thus distorting it. Those distortions were then fed back through the TVs to the students, who were watching their own tragedy in real-time even as it was still happening, which in turn distorted how they perceived it. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Fortunately, post-Columbine, the FBI and the Secret Service provided high schools with guidelines identifying potential threats in the student body. “They said identifying outcasts as threats is not healthy,” Cullen writes. “It demonizes kids who are already struggling.”
Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention to the guidelines.