On Aug. 18, 2008, Morne Harmse, an 18-year-old high school student in Krugersdorp, South Africa, brought a mask and sword to school and used the sword to kill a student he did not know while wounding a second student and two school groundskeepers. Harmse later confessed his crime in a South African court.
"As the school bell rang, Harmse began preparing," the Pretoria News reported on April 15, 2009. "'I smeared my face black, put on one of the masks, namely the mask of the lead singer of (heavy metal band) Slipknot, stuck two of the swords in my belt and held the other. I also put on gloves and buckled on elbow and knee guards that I had brought with me. Shortly thereafter, Max (Brechlin), Marco and a group of pupils approached me and laughed.' It was at that moment that Harmse swung his sword, hitting Jacques Pretorius, 16, on his neck and wounding him fatally. Harmse said he hadn't known Pretorius before the incident."
A few days after this killing, Slipknot singer Corey Taylor emphatically rejected the notion that there was any link between the band's music and Harmse's actions.
"Obviously, I'm disturbed by the fact that people were hurt and someone died. As far as my responsibility for that goes, it stops there. You have something like this happen, it could have been Marilyn Manson, it could have been any number of people who make art that is startling visually, on the darker side," Taylor told Blender magazine. "It could've been Pat Boone, for Christ's sake.
"At the end of the day, there are always going to be mental disorders and people who cause violence for no other reason than the fact that they're f----- up and lost. And all we can do is try to learn from it," said Taylor.
But what should one learn from Slipknot?
In "I Am Hated," the band declares: "Let me tell you how it's going to be/I am going to kill anyone who steps up in front of me."
In "People = Sh--," the band intones a chorus that repeats the title phrase over and over.
Liberals, even if by accident, have acknowledged a legitimate premise in the days since the Tucson attack: Political figures can have an impact for good or ill on people's hearts and minds with the values and ideas they promote and the language they use to promote them.
So, too, can cultural figures.
Will liberals now then agree that it is a horrible thing for political and cultural figures to encourage disrespect for the sanctity of life?