April 28th 1999 | Over the last five days, Goth has grown up. In what began as a very negative light, our little sub-culture of Alternative Music was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. Fortunately, Goths across the country have been quick to say "wait a minute, that is NOT what we are about." Although we all know it to be true, it bears repeating: Goths are not racist killers. We are not a gang of deviants who pray to a dark lord and fantasize about killing others. This media scapegoating based on misinformation and hysteria has been robustly struck down by members of the Goth community, as it should be.
On Friday, April 24th the New York Post wrote: "Actual members of the Goth subculture - a diverse and brainy group of mostly college-age people that celebrates 19th-century Romantic literature, a 'dark aesthetic' and their status as social outsiders - condemned the media's portrayal of the gunmen as Goths simply because they wore black."
(If your parents are giving you a hard time about your interest in goth, print out the New York Post article and ask them to read it).
You have to admit that the media was quick to portray a false stereotype of 'Goths'. That knee-jerk reaction was followed by Goths working to reject that stereotype and present themselves in a truthful light. Members of our community have been interviewed (by national media as well as local radio, press and TV), written letters, sent emails and used their voice to insure that a 'correct' image is created. Goths aren't anti-semitic killers, but rather we are pretty literate, with college educations, computer savvy, sympathy, and awareness of our world.
Goth grew up this week. 'Goth' has been thrown in the faces of the general public. People who never heard of this music and lifestyle are seeing it on the news and seeing it in the paper. People in our genre have talked for years about Goth being buried in the underground; we have wondered if it would ever 'break'. As a subject, Goth is now reality. It's unfortunate that a tragedy has brought it out into the open, and I don't think that anybody relishes the way that this has unfolded . . . however we cannot hide from the subject, or suggest that it is not worthy of discussion, now that it has happened. The media moves at lightning speed in this last year of the century, and we cannot let them define us.
Because Media DOES define issues. Media creates public perception. It is the responsibility of the people who are part of a culture to be sure that the media gets the story right. All this media interest in goth has become an opportunity to redirect the discussion to a truthful context.
I think we all feel sympathy for the victims and the families who were effected by the shooting at Columbine High. I don't think anyone has said "Screw the dead, if you want to really understand Goth buy my cd." I don't think anyone has used this event to add to their own sales. Regardless of each of our feelings for the victims and their families, we also have to deal with the issues that affect our personal lives. We have to mourn the dead, while keeping a watchful eye on the actions of the LIVING.
I think that people have to speak up about what they believe in. This is NOT manipulating a tragedy for our own ends. The media discussion has fanned out from the original event to a multitude of additional subjects. When the media misrepresented "Goth" -- it brought it into the context of public discussion, and it is the 'duty' of the people who are in the genre to present an accurate perspective on their subgroup; in the same way that 'gays' or 'blacks' or 'jews' chose to be the ones to define their group, when they are unfairly represented in the media
So let's get right to the heart of it: Marilyn Manson deals with ugly issues. So did Alfred Jarry in Ubu Roy, Artaud in the Theatre of Cruelty and Andy Warhol in the Death & Destruction series. Were they evil influences on the children of their time, who deserved to be stereotyped, demonized and blacklisted? Should the Basketball Diaries be recalled? Or is this hysteria? Should art be banished because a few deranged members of the public react 'inappropriately' to it? Should Catcher in the Rye have been banned after John Lennon's assassination? Or are all of these people just fearful of having to raise their children properly, and teach them right from wrong?
We all realize now that the boys at Columbine probably weren't even goths at all, but it has become a media topic . . . and we have to deal with the issues that were raised by this event. And there is one that really irks me. The media has suggested that fans of Goth music are a gang who are into Hitler, Anti-semitism or Anti-minorities. This stereo-types is false. Founders of the major goth record labels are from ethnic minority groups (Jews, Latinos, off-the-boat-Europeans). Even though a majority of the audience might be caucasian, I think all ethnic groups are represented when you look at the audience for Goth music. It is just WRONG to say Goths don't welcome diversity.
I don't think any of us have tried to present this in a crass way. However, when the media comes calling, pointing it's finger, and creating incorrect perceptions in the public's mind . . . voices from the group need to be strong, and discuss the matter calmly and honestly to get the true story to the public.
Thank you for reading my venting. As a former journalism student, I am pretty disgusted by the way the media over-reacted, but I am quite proud of the way Goths nationwide have come to our genre's defense
Sam Rosenthal Email me with your thoughts.
Read Lisa Feuer's comments from the CNN talkback Live show.
Positive articles in the media:
Chicago Tribune perspective piece. Chicago Tribune online article, concerning the bands.
MSNBC "Don't be afraid of kids in black" by Katherine Murray.
Time Magazine "We're Goths, Not Monsters"
A positive piece from The Miami Herald
National Review piece by Jonah Goldberg.
The Atlanta Journal-Constituion piece on the subject.
New York Post a positive piece clarifying that the shooters weren't goth.
Internet sites dealing with this topic:
Dallas Goths vs. 20/20
Gothic.Net keeping track of all the press stories.
Matt Drudge's DrudgeReport some info on this subject.
Other Mainstream pieces:
KNEE JERK MEDIA: Internet's Salon Magazine picks up the story. The internet and goths.
Transcript of the inflammatory ABC 20/20 report - it sounds like a joke / it's scary it is real!
There are way too many for me to keep track of. Sorry.
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