Ohio shooting: What’s “goth” got to do with it?


One Chardon High School student told reporters Thomas “TJ” Lane “got into a gothic phase” before Monday’s shootings.

It’s not often that we get two stories like this back to back, but just days after I blogged about goth culture erroneously linked to a UK stabbing, it’s also now being connected with a school shooting in Ohio yesterday that killed three students.

Reporters began combing the Internet and interviewing classmates and neighbors as soon as the gunman’s identity, Thomas “TJ” Lane, was leaked. It wasn’t long before MSNBC rounded up one of Lane’s fellow students who said Lane “got into a gothic phase” before the shootings. Does he explain? Well, sort of:

“He kind of got into the gothic phase and kind of silenced himself from his friends,” Nate Mueller said. “But I mean, he still had friends. He was still a nice kid … I don’t think anybody really ever expected it to be him. We didn’t think he would hurt anybody.”

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Mueller says he was one of the shooting victims. A bullet grazed his ear. That’s not to say he’s lying about Lane, but people tend to distort or exaggerate facts when they’ve just been through a trauma.

2. What Mueller describes as “gothic” actually translates to “solitary.” These two concepts are not synonymous.

At this point, the term “goth” has become so distorted in mainstream culture — which is a product of the way it’s been linked to violent crimes, and the way outsiders view goths as depressed, lonely, alienated kids — that it no longer holds meaning when reporters use the term. It’s pretty much become a euphemism for a certain kind of outcast, violent-prone teen. But what does that mean for the millions of actual goths who are happily ensconced in their social scene — and who are decidedly peaceful, pacifistic people?

Of course, the link between “goths” and school shooters was popularized in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre, when a source claiming to be a Columbine student (he wasn’t) described Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s penchant for black trenchcoats and industrial music as “goth.” But those boys weren’t anything like almost all goths — teen or adult — you will meet. And, so far, I don’t see any evidence that Lane is, either.

That said, people who knew Lane differently are tending to describe him pretty differently. One of his friends told CNN:

Haley Kovacik said she’s in “complete shock” that Lane — whom she described as a “a very normal, just teenage boy” — could be behind the shooting. “He did have a sad look in his eyes a lot of the time, but he talked normally, he never said anything strange,” Kovacik told CNN. “It was a really big shock.”

And, as police revealed Lane’s identity, and a lawyer took up his case, they told reporters:

Thomas “T.J.” Lane … came from a violent family. His father was arrested numerous times for abusing women, including Lane’s mother, according to court records cited by The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Students say that Lane was shy and targeted by bullies. Although the shooting took place at 7:30 a.m. in the Chardon High cafeteria, Lane was enrolled at Lake Academy Alternative School, an institution for “at risk” youths.

It may be years before we get an accurate picture of this boy — as accurate a picture as we can get, filtered through the lenses of trauma, law enforcement, legal defense, and journalism. If we can learn something about Lane that will accurately help the right people identify the next school shooter, great — but so far, there doesn’t seem to be any one single “shooter trait” present in all these young men.

And certainly, “gothic” isn’t it.

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8 responses to “Ohio shooting: What’s “goth” got to do with it?

  1. I agree with you. I do not want to talk poorly about any kids in particular because it isn’t appropriate in my mind. However, what I will say is that some of the kids willing to speak with the media seem to have some disrespect issues. While that does not make it acceptable to pull a gun and shoot someone, it does tell you about the crowd of boys targeted (yes, I know it is said that the victims were random but I also have a hard time believing that). Pull up some of the comments of the kids speaking and see if you agree with me (those that still remain open for public viewing as many are now blocked).
    My continued prayers for the victims, the victims families, the Chardon community, and for TJ.

    Emmly Jane

  2. I’ve been gothic for over 20 years, starting in elementary, and I’ve never been involved in a violent crime, never been arrested an the worse “infraction” I’ve ever had was speeding. I have no problems holding down jobs and I’m social enough. My neighbors, who are jehovah’s witnesses even like me in spite of the fact that my house always has dark decor like skulls and gargoyles etc.

    Being Gothic, or Eccentric doesn’t make a person a psychopath.

    You’r more likely to be a violent detriment to society if you’re a Devout memeber of on of the Judea/Christian religions.

  3. Sorry for the loss and victims. What a terrible crime. It’s interesting that CNN and other media outlets focus on genre conspiracy when tragedy strikes. LABELS!! REALLY ?? GOTHIC ????? What about emo ? Perhaps Scene, hipster, metalhead, megalo, stoner, burnout, trash. WHATEVER!! This is NOT a time to wonder if Marilyn Manson, Diamanda Galas, Front 242, KMFDM, or Sister Machinegun might secretly be involved. THIS BOY OBVIOUSLY HAD PROBLEMS, and just because he went psychotic, DOES NOT MEAN HE IS A PSYCHOPATH/SOCIOPATH (Moral Insanity). He certainly might have had a Psychotic episode, which is a form of mental Insanity. CERTAINLY A TRAGIC SITUATION, and I pray for the families of the victims, as well as the shooter TJ who hopefully will truthfully repent of his actions, plead for forgiveness genuinely and in time receive the Love of Christ. I really Hope people will be supportive towards the families of the victims, not only praying for them, but BEING A LIVING PRAYER through example. And also Christians who think they have the answers to his problems, will truly pray for him. Hopefully they do not use this as an opportunity to play “my perfect chance to prove my Christianity card”, to a murderer who needs to have just as much repentance and sorrow, as he does, a plea for forgiveness and quest for hope through God’s salvation, without being controlled or shrugged off by Christians who want to use his situation as an example that will only push him and others away from the exploitation.

  4. Pingback: Iraqi youth stoned to death after leaders link emo culture to Satanism, homosexuality | Backward Messages

  5. airways1130@aol.com

    I agree but the kid had to been gay and lot of times father image puts em in a mix up world. It sucks way it ended and how things happen

  6. Pingback: Ohio goth | Jezsez

  7. Pingback: Top 10 backward messages of 2012 | Backward Messages

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