The Reason Marilyn Manson Was Blamed For The Columbine High School Tragedy

Those of us born in the last century will never forget what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did on April 20, 1999. Little did we know then that the Columbine High School massacre was only the beginning of the new era in the United States of America, one in which mass shootings at schools, churches, stores, movie theaters, night clubs — yeesh, the list doesn't stop — would just become the new normal. Decades later, there is still heated debate over gun control in the United States.

Maybe that's because from the get-go, the religious right (which had more to do with the guns in those boys' hands than their scapegoat did) chose to deflect the blame on what they saw as an easy target: the goth rock superstar Marilyn Manson, who had recently skyrocketed to fame/notoriety with his breakout 1996 album Antichrist Superstar.

Manson himself admits that he asked for it. "You don't make a record called Antichrist Superstar and not expect people to hate you," he told The Guardian in 2017. Manson also said that the Columbine massacre "destroyed my career at the time," but he was being interviewed for a tour for his eighth studio album, so "destroyed" may have been a bit dramatic. Of course, he's only one of a number of musicians whose careers were destroyed by one critical moment.

But the Columbine shooters weren't even Manson fans

"Take your hatred out on me / Make your victim my head," growls Manson on the 1996 track Tourniquet, and the religious right took the bait without a second thought. He wears black makeup, cuts himself on stage, and yells like a demon into a microphone which may or may not have been inserted into a rectum at some point. They didn't understand it, so his music was blamed for the tragedy.

Funny thing was, though, Harris and Klebold weren't fans of Manson's music. Manson wrote in Rolling Stone in 1999 that they liked German industrial metal bands like Rammstein and KMFDM. Sunday school teachers may not be able to tell the difference, but discerning young listeners surely do. He said he remembered initial reports that they wore makeup and dressed like him. "These two idiots weren't wearing makeup, and they weren't dressed like me or like goths. Since Middle America has not heard of the music they did listen to (KMFDM and Rammstein, among others), the media picked something they thought was similar."

Manson's career may have survived the Columbine massacre, but unfortunately hundreds of victims of mass shootings over the decades did not. And those with the power to change it only continue to seek out scapegoats, rather than take responsibility and enact change that would save lives.