Goths are dressed to kill

Every outsider gets called a fag

The goths are arming!

To read media coverage of the high school massacre in Littleton, Colorado, you’d think there are heavily armed cadres of bisexual Nazi goths all over North America. But the actual problem is journalists who panic about homosexuality, don’t understand teenagers and haven’t listened to an album made after 1965.

All media outlets immediately labeled the Trenchcoat Mafia – the black-clad group of Columbine High students the killers belonged to – as goths, without any actual evidence. But that lack of facts didn’t keep journalists from going after other groups, most notably gay teenagers.

As usual, leading the charge was Internet muckraker and scumbag Matt Drudge.

Immediately after the shootings, Drudge posted Internet mailings claiming the two shooters were gay. And even after denials from everybody who even vaguely knew them, Drudge continued desperately seeking a gay angle.

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that members of the Trenchcoat Mafia claimed to be bisexual, held hands and were called “fags” by school athletes. Well, duh! Either all these journalists have forgotten high school, or they were the bullies everybody else hated.

High school is hell. For many, it’s the worst time of their lives. Of course these kids were called fags. They were different. To be different in high school – for whatever reason – is to be the object of torment, and “fag” is still the teenage epithet of choice.

Columbine is dominated by jocks and preppies, and takes pride in students winning athletic scholarships. Apparently the killers spent a lot of time being beaten up, while teachers ignored it.

Calling yourself bisexual is a very effective means of shocking your tormentors.

The media promptly blamed various movies. The two favourites were Heathers and The Basketball Diaries, which both show students in black trenchcoats shooting schoolmates. But the reason these movies are so popular among teenagers is not the violence, but because they speak to the revenge fantasies of victimized outcasts. And in high school, a lot of people are victimized outcasts.

Nothing, of course, justifies the massacre. Yet even before they became killers, these kids were no sweethearts. They wore swastikas and adored Hitler.

But the media’s portrayal of high school as a paradise for all speaks to its distance from youth.

As does the attribution of a Nazi obsession to goth music. Reporters, unaware that Bauhaus is more than just a school of architecture, have condemned society’s black-clad, white-faced, dark-haired mopers to months of abuse and defamation. The media’s ignorance of goth has been stunning.

Stories have said the killers were goth-metal fans. Now, there are goth-metal bands, like Moonspell or My Dying Bride. But they’re not the kind of metal journalists are thinking of. Most goths would run screaming from Florida’s death-metal bands or Scandinavia’s black-metal bands (members of which can be genuine psychotics, who burn down churches and kill homosexuals and each other).


The most egregious offender was The Globe And Mail’s Michael Posner, who wrote that the killers listened to “gothic rock, a genre that includes many groups with overt neo-Nazi sympathies.”

Posner includes white supremacist bands like Skrewdriver and Nordic Thunder in his list. And while Posner is obviously proud of how hip he is for uncovering this information, he’s wrong.

These bands – especially Skrewdriver, the granddaddy of modern hate rock – are virulently racist outgrowths of Oi, itself an outgrowth of British punk. None of them are linked to goth.

Goth isn’t entirely free from flirtations with Nazism. Ian Curtis, the singer of Joy Division, one of goth’s founding groups, was obsessed with Nazi uniforms and his lyrics often reflect his Nietzschean leanings. The band’s name was taken from a Nazi term for female prisoners forced to prostitute themselves to German soldiers. It doesn’t help that after Curtis’ death, the band renamed itself New Order.

Christian Death’s 1989 album, All The Hate, features a swastika and sound clips of Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan. But the only bands reporters seem certain the killers listened to are Rammstein and KMFDM, both techno-metal bands. Loud German-language bands are inherently disquieting, but their lyrics actually focus mainly on SM and on the same non-specific, non-Hitlerian – albeit violent – nihilism as bands like Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson.

These bands have a limited appeal to some goths, though goth does tend to have an equally nihilistic, if less violent, outlook.

Goth may be about sadness and misery, but it’s usually turned inward. Rather than kill others, goths are more likely to follow Curtis’ example and kill themselves.

Krishna Rau

Krishna Rau is a Toronto-based freelance writer with extensive experience covering queer issues.

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Power, Culture, Toronto

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