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To The Curious Browsing This Site Today...

Valerian's picture

...looking for material to add to their story on Mr. Gill.

People are social animals.  They are drawn to groups of other people who share similar musical tastes, hobbies, and leisure activities.  The internet makes it easy to connect with people who share those interests.  But even with similar interests, no two people are alike.  In any group, there will be variations in likes, dislikes, and motivations.    In every walk of life, in every religion, culture, race, age group and gender, there are those who are mentally unstable and potentially violent.  There are also those who are reliable, respectable, and benign.  The Gothic subculture is no different.  No culture is different in this respect. 

How do you know that the person working in the cubicle next to you is not going to snap one day and open fire on the entire office?  And I ask you, if he did, how would you react if the media suddenly made sweeping statements about office workers being potentially violent as a result of his actions?  And that due to these statements people passed judgement upon you, that because you shared employment with this person, you too might be potentially psychotic and dangerous?  What if you and your murderous co-worker both liked County & Western music, which frequently focuses on themes of suicide, betrayal, isolation and revenge?  Let's say you wore a plaid shirt and cowboy boots, as he did, and as many people do who enjoy a little C&W now and then do.  What if people then looked at you and assumed you were just as mentally unbalanced as your friend, painting you with the same brush, because you seemed so similar to him?  Do you think that would be justified?  Fair?

Just because we may wear similar clothes and like similar music does not mean that we are all gun-wielding maniacs.  We are not all suicidal, or dangerous, or miserable people with a grudge to bear against society.  Our music and dress may touch upon dark themes, but just like Country & Western and Blues, our music helps us recognize and deal with our shortcomings as humans, so that we don't have to act upon them.   But sometimes, people who have difficulty separating art from reality, do. 

What we are is annoyed.  Annoyed that people are so willing to point a finger and pass judgement on a culture, rather than focus on what was *really* wrong with the murderer - his inability to distinguish right from wrong, and inability to value human life.  What he wore on his back or ate for breakfast has very little to do with what made him make the massive leap from passive, responsible citizen to aggressive taker of lives.   It takes far more than Jimi Hendrix singing "Hey Joe/Where you going with that gun in your hand?" to make a killer.

People were wearing black and listening to strange music long before Goths were.   Fans of the Blues Brothers.  Fans of Johnny Cash.  Early rock 'n' rollers.  Beatniks.  Jazz babies.  The avant garde artists of La Belle Epoque (should I go on?). I'm sure few of the individuals involved in these subcultures were violent people, hungry for attention and acceptance yet socially inept, who committed unforgivable crimes.  It would be naive of me to assume that every walk of life is free of violence.  But clothing, no matter how dark or bright, cannot conceal a sick mind.  I can think of far more people throughout history that did not wear black, who have done even more  unspeakable things.

My Folks sent me this today on email.  NOt perfect, but arguably progress...

Item from the Gloge & Mail

THE MONTREAL SHOOTINGS: THE GOTHS

'The geeks at the back on computers'

Goths, guns and school slayings -- the stuff of headlines. But fans of the subculture say their chosen method of self-expression is all about music and fashion, not violence

MARGARET PHILP AND CAROLINE ALPHONSO

He seemed the picture of the typical disaffected Goth youth, clad in a black trench coat, head shaved in a Mohawk, thumbing his nose at authority on a vampire culture website.

But there the similarity ends.

Experts and those identifying themselves as Goth believe the murderous rampage carried out by 25-year-old Kimveer Gill at a downtown Montreal college this week had less to do with the culture of black clothes, edgy music and macabre poetry favoured by Goths than with the social alienation and craving to belong that have been hallmarks of previous youth shooting sprees.

"These people have very tragically and unfortunately made a correlation between Goth culture and mass murder, and I think between them have really managed to take the black trench coat and make it now a symbol that I think will be difficult to erase," said Michael Hoechsmann, a McGill University educational psychologist.

Mr. Gill pledged his allegiance to Goth culture on VampireFreaks.com, a website where he bragged about his fascination with weapons and violent death, and his loathing of authority figures, school jocks and all but a handful of people in his life.

He is at least the third young killer over the past few years in Canada to post messages on the U.S.-based website, which caters to a blood-lusty subculture of would-be vampires who are distinct from the more pacifist group calling themselves Goths.

In Medicine Hat, a 12-year-old girl and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, accused in the slayings of a local family, are believed to have met on the website where they confessed their mutual attraction to blood and her affinity for serial killers.

In Toronto, the trial in the murder of a 12-year-old boy named Johnathan was aborted in 2005 after the disclosure that a VampireFreaks.com profile of a key teenage witness appeared to contradict her sworn testimony about having no interest in the Goth scene.

Goth culture was again implicated in the 1999 shooting rampage at Columbine High School in the United States, where two trench coat-clad students with tenuous links to the Goth culture killed 12 fellow students and a teacher. The pair, social outcasts like Mr. Gill, had similarly declared their aversion for jocks.

But Goth aficionados insist that the Goth culture, however dark and macabre, is about outlandish fashion and sometimes outrageous music and has no connection to guns and violence. "Goth is just a different taste in music and fashion, no different than the rap subculture or heavy-metal subculture," said Rob Barker, 25, a fashion designer with a Goth store called PosePod on Toronto's trendy Queen Street West.

"I'm sure this guy [Mr. Gill] had a likeness to that kind of music and fashion and whatnot, but I personally think he just had something wrong in the head. Most of the Goths I know are the geeks at the back on computers. They're not the violent type at all."

Jordan Peterson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, agreed that what the shootings bear in common is not the Goth identification but rather an extreme social alienation, narcissism, resentment, sense of victimization and wounded entitlement on the part of the killers. The goal of their crimes is often publicity, and the killers would rather be dead and notorious than alive and insignificant.

Yesterday, Goth followers took pains to distance themselves from the Montreal shooting, both on the streets and on-line on the vampire website where Mr. Gill posted his violent fantasies. Some expressed resentment with being tarred with the same brush.

"Admittedly the [Goth] style of dress and look is a bit threatening, and it's easy to fear what you don't understand," said Toronto Goth clothing-store manager Tim Szantovitch, 25, who dresses in frilly silk shirts and brocade waistcoats.

"Myself, being a huge Victorian buff, for me it was always about Gothic literature and the Victorian approach to things, which is not an obsession with death but a celebration of life. I'm a lover not a fighter."

For his part, Jet, 27, the creator of Vampirefreaks.com, dismissed any suggestion that those subscribing to the Goth lifestyle are a violent breed. He said that like many other music-based subcultures, Goth has faced its share of public criticism and intolerance, especially because of its members' style of clothing.

"I think really the Goth culture is very non-violent compared to other cultures, such as maybe the hip-hop culture," he said in a telephone interview from Brooklyn, N.Y.

*****

The tribes of Goth

There are "countless sub-niches" to the Goth lifestyle, said Tim Szantovitch, 25, manager of Borderline Plus, a Goth clothing boutique in Toronto.

"There's Cybergoth, Fetish Goth, Victorian Goth, Punkie Goth, Metal Goth, Industrial Goth, yada, yada," said the self-avowed Victorian Goth, dressed in black brocade pants, rose-print silk poet shirt and red brocade waistcoat. "They all listen to different types of music and dress in different types of clothes. Goth is a splintered, fractious type of culture."

The three common Goth subcultures:

Cybergoth: Their music is more electronic in nature, including both alternative electronic genres, such as trance and techno, and other electronics genres, such as drum and bass. Their fashion resembles a combination of rave and dark Goth fashion. They will wear, for example, neon or UV-reactive colours and materials, combined with dark clothing.

Industrial Goth: They are more hard-core looking, wearing big boots and dark clothing with dark makeup. They tend to listen to more heavy, industrial-type music.

Traditional or Victorian Goth: This group is more likely to listen to more mellow-sounding music. They dress in Victorian-type clothing with a dark element.

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