By Kali Kushner | Culture Editor

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2018, our nation was struck by the horrific news of yet another school shooting. Prior to taking the lives of 17 students and staff members from his former high school, the perpetrator, 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz, publicized his malicious intentions of becoming a “professional school shooter” on YouTube. Since then, the FBI has come under scrutiny for potentially failing to properly investigate Cruz’s online presence.

In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, RT News published the article, “Cult of personality: FBI ignores online ‘Columbiner culture’ glorifying mass shooters.” In said article, the author works backwards from the foiled Halifax mass shooting (2015), to the Aurora Theatre shooting (2012), and finally, to the infamous Columbine High School Massacre (1999), as a means of examining the crucial relationship many mass shooters have had and continue to have with the internet.

The Halifax mass shooting plot was set to occur at the Halifax shopping center on Valentine’s Day 2015. Whether or not Cruz purposely chose the same day to attack his classmates has not been stated. However, Cruz does share similarities with those involved. Just as Cruz relied on the internet to serve as a stage and source of inspiration for his dark thoughts, two of the Halifax plotters, Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath and James Gamble, were actively involved with the online community that obsesses over mass shootings. Gamble, who later took his own life at his home, tried to replicate the Columbine shooters. This included sharing photos of himself holding weapons while dressed in similar attire as the shooters wore the day of the attack.

Three years earlier, James Holmes dressed in tactical armor and entered a showing of the Dark Knight, killing 12 innocent people. In response, the parents of one of the victims created the “No Notoriety” campaign, which asked for media coverage to limit the usage of Holmes’ name and image in the hopes of reducing the macabre fame so many murderers strive for. Unfortunately, the campaign didn’t prevent the idolization of Holmes from various online communities, including the self titled “Holmies”, a group consisting mostly of teenage girls who eagerly fawn over Holmes. Although such a community sounds outrageous, it’s not the only group that depends on the idolization and romanticization of mass shooters. Of the many that exist, the “Columbiners” are easily the largest and most recognized online community consisting mostly of young women who obsess over the Columbine gunmen.

Undergraduate students are too young to personally recall the Columbine High School massacre. But the events of April 20, 1999 have left permanent marks on American culture from media reenactments, changes in school policy, and, most perplexingly, the internet’s obsession with the killers. Unfortunately, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have become morbid cultural icons for copycat killers and teenage girls alike. True, there is a miniscule amount of male fans who try to replicate Harris and Klebold, but the Columbiner community is nearly completely female. These girls dedicate entire blogs to researching the lives of Harris and Klebold, often times dressing in attire worn by the shooters at the time of the massacre, pouring over the various videos filmed by the killers before the attack, purchasing yearbooks featuring the portraits of the shooters, and even writing erotic fiction in which these girls express their sexual attraction for Harris and Klebold.

While there has been a fair amount of reporting published on the subject of the various crime fanbases online, their masses only seem to grow as each new mass shooting inspires another murderer. How long can we withstand such an extreme system?

The FBI failed to have any impact on Cruz despite his substantial web presence and, frankly, I don’t know that the law can do anything to prevent this from the angle of web censorship. Of course, mental health and gun laws have been at the center of debate since the Florida shooting, but I wonder if there is not a deeper, cultural revision which must take place.

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