From Hitler to Columbine: William Jennings Bryan was right

It’s ten years since the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado. Yet we’re just finding out now that the killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were not just into “Goth,” and were not just alienated and angry at their schoolmates; they had an ideology which they saw themselves as putting into effect through mass murder. The ideology was Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. Indeed, writes Dennis Sewell in the Times of London, Harris “was a worshipper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles.” The same was true of 18-year-old Finnish student Pekka-Eric Auvine who in 2007 murdered eight people at his high school.

“Wm. Jennings Bryan was right” is the title of Carol Iannone’s 2001 article (discussed here) in which she argued that Bryan, unlike his supposed intellectual superiors, correctly understood that belief in Darwinism destroys any basis for belief in morality.

Here is an excerpt from Sewell’s article:

In America, where Darwin’s writings on morality and race have come under particularly intense critical scrutiny because of the enduring creationist debate, he has been accused of fostering moral nihilism and scientific racism, and even of promoting an ethic that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. Most startling of all, a connection has now been drawn between Darwin’s theories and a rash of school shootings. In April, 1,000 people gathered at sunset in Littleton, Colorado, to commemorate the victims of the Columbine high school massacre, 10 years on. Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first of the 13 children to be murdered, and whose son Craig narrowly escaped being shot, cannot understand why so little attention has been paid to the motivation of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their interest in Charles Darwin’s ideas. “Harris wore a ‘Natural Selection’ T-shirt on the day of the killings. They made remarks on video about helping out the process of natural selection by eliminating the weak. They also professed that they had evolved to a higher level than their classmates. I was amazed at the frequent references to evolution, and that the press completely ignored that aspect of the tapes.”

Much of the evidence remains sealed under a court order issued to minimise the risk of copycat killings, but from those documents that are in the public domain, it is clear that Eric Harris fantasised about putting everyone into a violent computer game that only the fittest could survive. And, like Darwin himself, he noted how vaccination might be interfering with nature’s weeding process. In his rantings Harris said he wished there were no vaccines, or even warning labels on dangerous goods, “and let natural selection take its course. All the fat, ugly, retarded, crippled dumbass, stupid f***heads in the world would die … Maybe then the human race can actually be proud of itself”.

As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, the Denver lawyer Barry Arrington has come across more in a similar vein. “I read through every single page of Eric Harris’s journals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes … It became evident to me that Harris consciously saw his actions as logically arising from what he had learnt about evolution. Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshipper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles.”

In 2007, detectives following up a tip-off about a planned school shooting in Pennsylvania discovered that their suspect often logged on to a social networking site called Natural Selection’s Army and a number of related chatrooms that were later tagged by the media as the “cyber school for killers”. These sites were quickly shut down by their service providers, but today “Natural Selection” is the name of a popular computer game in which competing teams attempt to annihilate one another—a sign that Darwin’s term is still associated by many teenagers with sudden and extreme violence.

“Natural Selection” T-shirts have proved a popular line through web-based outlets, and it seems that the Columbine killers have spawned a gruesome personality cult—there is even a computer game in which players adopt the roles of Harris and Klebold, which features original CCTV footage of the killings.

Among those reported to have frequented the original Natural Selection’s Army website was an 18-year-old Finnish student, Pekka-Eric Auvinen. On November 7, 2007, in Tuusula, Finland, Auvinen forced his head teacher to kneel down in front of him before he shot her with his pistol. He slaughtered a further seven victims before turning the gun on himself. Some of the Jokela high school students afterwards described the way Auvinen prowled through the building pointing his gun at people’s heads. Sometimes he would squeeze the trigger and kill them; sometimes, after looking long and hard through the sights, he would suddenly turn away and let his terrified target go free. One witness said he seemed to be choosing his victims at random, but in fact he was making a very deliberate selection. He was trying to weed out the “unfit”.

Before he embarked on his shooting spree, Auvinen posted a lengthy apologia on the internet. Styling himself a “social Darwinist”, he said that natural selection appeared not to be working any more—had maybe even gone into reverse. He had noticed that “stupid, weak-minded people reproduce faster than intelligent, strong-minded ones”. The gene pool was sure to deteriorate if society continued to guarantee the survival of the second-rate. He had pondered what to do about this problem. He understood that life was just a meaningless coincidence, the outcome of a long series of random mutations, so there might not be much point in doing anything at all. But eventually he had decided he would do his bit by becoming a natural selector, aping the pitiless indifference of nature.

Auvinen left a special plea for his motivation to be taken seriously and for the world not merely to write him off as a psychopath, or to blame cult movies, computer games, television or heavy metal music, before concluding: “No mercy for the scum of the Earth! Humanity is overrated. It’s time to put natural selection and survival of the fittest back on track.” [cont.]

- end of initial entry -

Roland D. writes:

They weren’t goth, they didn’t listen to goth music, they didn’t dress to the goth aesthetic—nor were they really industralites, either (i.e., fans of hardcore industrial music). They were obsessed with one particular band called KMFDM, who were much more mainstream than most industrial bands; they were morons with no sense of fashion nor musical taste.

LA replies:

No sense of fashion! No musical taste! Oh!

Philip M. writes:

The kids from Columbine were killing the ‘jocks’—the sporty kids. Presumably good, healthy genes. What would be Darwinian about killing them? In fact, what would be ‘natural’ or Darwinian, about randomly going around killing your own people? Animals would not survive if they killed all their own species, surely there is a need to protect and get mutual protection from a wider genetically-related group?

The fact that they were killing the football players and suchlike seems far more indicative of jealousy than Darwinism to me.

LA replies:

No one is saying that their thinking was coherent or made sense from the point of view of survival of the fittest. After all, they killed themselves. The point is that they had found a belief system that told them they could kill whom they wanted.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2009 02:17 PM | Send

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