columbine and phoebe price

One of the best books I read last year was Columbine by journalist Dave Cullen. It eviscerates much of the conventional wisdom about the school shooting — that the killers were outcasts, that the massacre was a means of settling the score for a lifetime of bullying — and paints a much more nuanced picture of what motivated Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Most compelling is the argument that Harris was a psychopath, and the implication that as an adult he might have done worse.

I thought of this book a lot while reading a great piece posted on Slate yesterday: Emily Bazelon’s investigation into teenager Phoebe Price’s suicide, for which six of her classmates have been indicted. Bazelon, who has been reporting from the Massachusetts town for much of the year, raises a lot of questions about the rush to lay blame, and whether the bullying of Price was severe enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

It’s a delicate subject, and it’s disturbing that we seem to have less of a handle on bullying now than we did 11 years ago, thanks to technology. But we also haven’t seemed to learn that these meta-narratives we construct following a tragedy often obscure the real issues. ‘The untouchable Mean Girls’ sure makes a grabby headline, but does it really contribute to the dialogue — or just stand in its way?

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One response to “columbine and phoebe price

  1. Cullen , who first reported on the story for the online magazine Salon, acknowledges in the book’s source notes that thoughts he attributes to Klebold and Harris are conjecture gleaned from the record the pair left behind.

    Jeff Kass takes a more straightforward approach in “Columbine: A True Crime Story,” working backward from the events of the fateful day.
    The Denver Post

    Mr. Cullen insists that the killers enjoyed “far more friends than the average adolescent,” with Harris in particular being a regular Casanova who “on the ultimate high school scorecard . . . outscored much of the football team.” The author’s footnotes do not reveal how he knows this; when I asked him about it while preparing this review, Mr. Cullen said he did not necessarily mean to imply that Harris was sexually active. But what else would such words mean?

    “Eric and Dylan never had any girlfriends,” the more sober Mr. Kass writes, and were “probably virgins upon death.”
    Wall Street Journal

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