Media Insanity

Remember right after Columbine, when reports suggested that the killer students may have taken their marching orders from Marilyn Manson? These claims were subsequently debunked -- as it turns out, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren't Manson fans. But even if they'd spent their every waking hour earholing Antichrist Superstar, Manson would have been no more responsible for the deaths at the high school than Hootie & the Blowfish. Such pop-cultural scapegoating is almost always a blind alley -- one that local journos seem ready to head down again in relation to accused teen murderers who apparently dig the Insane Clown Posse.

"Music May Ignite Mayhem," from the March 9 Rocky Mountain News, goes a long way toward indicting the Posse in the February slaying of Linda Damm, 52. Damm's daughter Tess, 15, who's been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, is described in the piece as a "Juggalette," and her boyfriend, Bryan Grove, 18, facing a first-degree murder rap in the case, is said to have listened to the group "constantly."

Reporter Felix Doligosa Jr. also notes that Brodie Clayton, accused in another February killing, has the letters "ICP" tattooed on his left hand. And as an Internet bonus, the online version of the Rocky's article concludes with lyrics to the Clown ditties "I Stab People," "Another Love Song" and "My Axe." The latter sports the line "Me and my axe will leave your head outlined in chalk."

What's this prove? Absolutely nothing. Still, Insane Clown Posse makes a convenient target for people looking to cast blame on someone other than kids who did evil deeds. Hell, one of the main clowns goes by the name Violent J -- so he must be guilty, right?

Since the beginning, of course, ICP has used the ol' offend-the-parents schtick to create fan loyalty. In a 1997 Westword interview, Violent J described the game this way in reference to a tune called "Boogie Woogie Wu":

"They said the song was about killin' kids... Now, I have to admit, it may sound like that. But as God is my witness, that is not how I intended it, not how I see it, not how I feel it. To me, it's just like a horror movie -- a scary movie, you know what I mean? And I don't know why the fuck it is that there's a problem when something like that's on a disc instead of a movie. I mean, in a fuckin' movie, you can fuckin' see guys gettin' their heads blown off, but in music, you just hear about it. So you'd think people should be protestin' movies way more than they do music, you know what I mean? But instead, they're protestin' me, even though most of what we do is just entertainment. I don't want people to work all week and then come to a show to get preached at, like fuckin' Rage Against the Machine. I want them to have fun. So when I say, 'Yo, I fucked that bitch and blah, blah, blah,' I'm not doin' it to piss somebody off. I'm doin' it because it's funny. We make funny songs, you know what I mean? A lot of it's tongue-in-cheek, but these dumb motherfuckers can't figure that out...

"That ain't stoppin' me, though. There could be fifty million protesters outside my concert, but I don't give a fuck, you know what I mean? Nobody is ever gonna stop me from doin' what I'm doin'. I don't care if I have to drive around with a bullhorn and yell it from the top of my car. I'm always gonna say what I say, and I don't give a fuck who I offend. Besides, all the times where we talk about killin' somebody, it's always a bigot or a greedy rich guy or a racist drunk or somethin'. So for you to be bothered by that, you got to be a bigot or a racist. I don't know why people don't understand that."

This quote doesn't make Violent J come across as an honor scout; it's full of calculation, rationalization and cynicism. Then again, his approach is no different from the one employed by Manson, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne -- all of whom have taken heat over the years whenever their boosters did something bad. But when authorities and the press focus more on, for instance, the AC/DC cap once favored by serial killer Richard Ramirez than on the crime itself, they're wasting everyone's time.

Violent J's music may kill the occasional brain cell, but it didn't kill Linda Damm. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts