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Loughner and the 'Maggots'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Jared Loughner, who killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, did not listen to political talks shows, but he did listen to a rock group that calls its fans "maggots."

Roxanne and George Osler IV, parents of one of Loughner's friends, told The Associated Press that their son and Loughner listened to Slipknot.

"Loughner, now 22, would come over several times a week from 2007 to 2008, the Oslers said," The Associated Press reported. "The boys listened to the heavy metal band Slipknot and progressive rockers The Mars Volta, studied the form of meditative movement called tai chi, and watched and discussed movies."

Slipknot is known for referring to its band members by numbers instead of names and for wearing what The New York Times has described as "gruesome masks."

In a Feb. 6, 2000, feature article in its Sunday Arts section, The Washington Post said: "Slipknot's lyrics articulate isolation and frustration. Mostly, though, they articulate rage. '(Expletive) it all! (Expletive) the world! (Expletive) everything that you stand for!' chants vocalist Number 8 in 'Surfacing,' while 'Eyeless' asks, 'How many times have you wanted to kill/ Everything and everyone -- say you'll do it but never will.'"

"But there's no question," the Post reported, "that Slipknot is tapping into something very dark in the mixed-up, muddled minds of thousands of angst-ridden young people, fans the band members refer to affectionately as 'maggots.'"

On May 23, 2003, two Slipknot listeners -- 20-year-old Jason Harris and 16-year-old Amber Riley -- led another young person, Terry Taylor, 22, on a late-night walk up a hill in a park in San Bernadino, Calif.

"They carried butcher knives and sang a song by the death metal band Slipknot as they lured their friend to his death, police say," the San Bernadino Sun reported on June 26, 2003.

"Police detectives testified that Riley and Harris told them they were listening to a Slipknot CD before and after they killed Taylor," the Sun reported.

"San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Doug Poston said Riley and Harris listened to the music of the heavy-metal band Slipknot, particularly a song titled 'Disasterpiece,' whose lyrics talk about slitting a victim's throat," the Riverside Press Enterprise reported on Aug. 31, 2004.

One of the first lines in Slipknot's "Disasterpiece" says: "I want to slit your throat and f--- the wound." Later, the song says: "Take a look inside my soul is missing/All I have is dead, so I will take you with me ..."

Harris and Riley were both convicted of murder.

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?

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