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Gallam-conference Submission 2009

Gallam-conference Submission 2009

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Published by Claire Gallam

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Published by: Claire Gallam on Feb 09, 2011
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Who’s to Blame 1Running head: WHO’S TO BLAMEWho’s to Blame for the Columbine Shootings?: The Rhetorical Function of theCollectivism/Individualism Tension in Response to a TragedyAbstractThe 1999 high school shootings in Littleton, Colorado that took the lives of 14 people rattled thenation. The shootings brought with them speculation on whom was to blame, focusing on shock rock music and Marilyn Manson as well as gun owners and members of the National RifleAssociation. In this analysis, I evaluated an interview with Marilyn Manson by Michael Moore,as featured in the documentary
 Bowling for Columbine
, and a speech made by former NRA president Charlton Heston in 1999. By applying the narrative paradigm, McGee’s concept of anideograph (1989), and the ideologies of collectivism and individualism, I argue that in Manson’sinterview, the persons’ who represent individualism are marginalized by the values and beliefs of the collective whole, however in Heston’s speech, both individualism and collectivism functioncollaboratively in the promotion of the hegemonic social order.
 
Who’s to Blame 2Who’s to Blame for the Columbine Shootings?: The Rhetorical Function of theCollectivism/Individualism Tension in Response to a TragedyOn April 20, 1999, two Columbine high school seniors by the names of Dylan Klebodand Eric Harris took an arsenal of guns and explosive devices to school and killed 12 of their  peers, a teacher, wounded 29 others, and then took their own lives shortly after on site inLittleton, Colorado. (Strauss, 2007). The Columbine school tragedy, which until the recentshootings at Virginia Tech, was the worst school shooting in the United States (Chyi &McCombs, 2004). The shooting resulted in a media frenzy, which ranked the tragedy as thenumber two news story in the nation for the year of 1999. (Plaisance & Deppa, 2006). What alsoset the Columbine shootings apart from the other high school shootings that took place aroundthe same time [1998-1999] in Pearle, Mississippi, West Puducah, Kentucky and Jonesboro,Arkansas was the extended time frame of the Columbine crisis, the live media coverage of theevent as it unfolded, as well as the carnage and visually violent aftermath of the images of thevictims being carried out of the school or being questioned. (Seeger et al., 2001). As the tragedywas still unfolding, the people in America and the media had already begun their finger pointingto place blame for the actions of Klebold and Harris because they were white, middle class, anddid not conform to the standardized representation of what a killer is today’s society, and theimpoverished, people of color blame did not apply. (Strauss, 2007). The main points of blameincluded the influence of the National Rifle Association [NRA], the parents of Harris andKlebold, and the nation’s gun control policy.In the following weeks after the tragedy, people quickly averted to blaming the media,and singer/songwriter Marilyn Manson especially, whose lyrics and performances oftensupplement violence and disorder. Manson has been placed into the stereotypical subculture of a
 
Who’s to Blame 3goth, characterizing the way he dresses and how he wears make-up as “[someone whom revels]in all things dark and deathly.” (Gunn, 1999, p. 409). Manson’s songs and lyrics had been under scrutiny, and were a main focal point of protests given by the victims of Columbine. The fear of goths is a response common to many groups, but especially religious communities, who are bound tightly by an idealized, historical moral ethic. (Gunn, 1999). In an interview with MichaelMoore, which was featured in the documentary
 Bowling for Columbine
, Manson refutes that heis to blame for the shootings or for the violent thoughts of Klebold and Harris, and that the nationonly feared him because he is so different from the collective whole.However, after the shooting, many Americans also pointed their blame towards thenation’s policy on gun control, and the accessibility many people have to firearms in gun shows.Many victims of Columbine and other advocates to stricter gun control began protesting thecoming of NRA to Denver for their annual convention in May of 1999, just a month after theColumbine shootings. The main group which protested Heston’s arrival and fought to correctfaults in the laws of gun control, including the gun show loop holes was sane alternatives to thefirearm epidemic [SAFE], with head lobbyist Tom Mauser, who is the father of slain Columbinestudent Daniel Mauser (Soraghan, 2000). Former NRA president Charlton Heston gave akeynote speech introducing the annual NRA national meeting, which stated NRA members werenot to blame and were just as shocked and horrified with what happened at Columbine and werealso mourning for the people of Littleton.The Columbine shootings reignited the differences between two main dueling ideologiesin the study of culture, which are individualism and collectivism. These ideologies, whichrepresent one’s self-reliance and independence and one’s place in a larger whole, dominate thestructure of a culture’s norms, values, and beliefs (Zhao, 2006). However, in the United States,

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