Today I finished reading Columbine by Dave Cullen (amazon | indigo), one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Cullen breaks down everything you think you know about the shooting at Columbine high school ten years ago and starts the story over again. Telling in equal parts the buildup to the shooting and the aftermath of it, he manages to turn a decade-old news story into something you can’t put down.

As I’ve said before, it’s important to understand why people do things like what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did, without resorting to the easy (and dangerous) label of “monster”. They weren’t crazed loners, they weren’t bullied, they weren’t part of a black-clad gang, and they didn’t “snap” and suddenly start shooting. It was a long, complicated plan executed by a full-fledged psycopath and his depressive sidekick.

While Cullen maintains professional distance throughout the book, he can’t hide his disgust with the media, for manufacturing so much incorrect information. He singles out the Washington Post and Rocky Mountain News for doing good work, but his criticism for how the incident was reported among most of the media is clear. There’s also a marked difference in the portrayal of some of the churches. Some of the area religious leaders come across as opportunistic, trying to profit and recruit from the tragedy, while others were criticized for preaching forgiveness.

Columbine should be required reading for those who think they know what happened at Columbine ten years ago, or for anyone who wants to understand better the dangers of media furor.

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