Terence Sin (
Thu, 22 Apr 1999 18:44:14 -0400

Washington's Most Unofficial Source

The coverage of the Colorado school massacre rarely gave a good sense of
the culture in which such violence could arise. Deep conflicts of class,
ethnicity, religion, politics and social values were typically glossed
over or trivialized. One exception was the British Guardian which

"Far from being a united, happy bunch, Columbine students operated a
fiercely regimented social hierarchy. 'The school was cliquish and
extremely divided,' said one former student. 'There was a lot of
tension between the groups. It was almost continuous conflict between
each one.' There were the jocks, principally the football team,
regarded by the rest as being allowed to operate as a law unto
themselves by the school authorities. There were the preppies, the rich
kids, despised by their peers because of a perception that they could
buy their way through life. There were the skateboard punks, the cool
kids envied for their street style. And, right at the bottom of the
food chain, there were the students who could not fit into any of the
other groups, the quiet, brooding, intelligent ones.

"According to pupils who spoke to the Guardian last night, these pupils
were invariably shunned by the other tribes, and frequently bullied,
verbally and physically. As a reaction, they formed a clique two years
ago and called themselves the Anachronists. But it was the derogatory
label given to them by the jocks because of their habit of wearing long
black trench coats whatever the weather, indoors and out, which stuck:
the Trenchcoat Mafia. Although members of the clique are generally the
brighter students, they hold bizarre beliefs to signify their rejection
of mainstream society. In their yearbook entry, 13 students described
themselves as members beside the message: 'Who says insanity is crazy?
Insanity is healthy.'"

Sara Rimer in the New York Times also broke out of the media timidity
concerning class conflict with some powerful images:

"The 'individuals' shun the Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, the labels
favored by the jocks and preps. 'We vowed we would never wear
Abercrombie,' Jessica said, adding that she would not be able to afford
the $30 shirts and $25 hats even if she liked them.

"While Columbine is not as affluent as some other schools in the fast
growing prairie suburbs of Denver, there are plenty of students who can
afford the labels, and who drive expensive cars.

"'One jock has a Hummer,' Jessica said. 'He totaled one Hummer, and his
dad bought him another.'

And then:

"Jason and Justin Baer, 16-year-old twins, and their brother Jarrett,
15, are not jocks. It can be hard not being one of them at a
sports-minded school like Columbine, they said. 'At the beginning of the
semester, they made me clear their table in the cafeteria,' said
Jarette, who had his blond hair in short gelled spikes at the front. 'I
was like, 'no.' They were like, 'Do it now.' I just live with it.'"