News & Reviews

Issue: "Columbine: Teenage martyr," May 8, 1999

MGM hopes to put the basketball diaries out of bounds
Double dribble
After the Littleton massacre, MGM tried to close the book on The Basketball Diaries and its classroom shoot-'em-up by pulling the movie from distribution. Hours later, studio executives discovered that legal red tape makes recall impossible until this summer. MGM did not make The Basketball Diaries, but inherited it as part of its purchase of PolyGram's library. Until the recent rash of schoolyard bloodbaths, the movie was known mostly as a pre-Titanic appearance of Leonardo DiCaprio. In one scene, the star's character is in a drug-induced haze, imagining he is roaming the halls of his high school, firing deadly shotgun blasts. The movie roared out of obscurity in late 1997 when freshman Michael Carneal shot up a prayer group at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky. The parents of three victims used the movie as the cornerstone of a tobacco-sized $130 million federal lawsuit against the entertainment industry. The lawsuit says the Jim Carroll book on which The Basketball Diaries was based had no shooting episode. It was included in the film "for the sole purpose of hyping the movie and increasing its appeal to young audiences. This had the effect of harmfully influencing impressionable minors such as Michael Carneal and causing the shootings," the suit says. Meanwhile, shock rocker Marilyn Manson, a favorite of the two boys who murdered 12 classmates and a teacher, has canceled the last five dates on his current tour. He'd already been bumped from his April 30 scheduled concert in Denver; the sponsoring radio station canceled the Manson appearance. Mr. Manson, who accepts no responsibility for contributing to the Columbine murders, placed the blame squarely on "ignorance, hatred, and an access to guns." Access to The Basketball Diaries survived until the Colorado incident, when MGM executives announced that they wanted the movie off video store shelves. "It's the responsible thing to do under the circumstances," a spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. Then MGM discovered that PolyGram, which is now part of Universal Studios, still owns the movie until June 30. So the studio was forced to back down and The Basketball Diaries will stay in circulation. Since the movie is four years old, however, only a few thousand copies are still available for purchase and could become scarce once MGM starts giving refunds for surviving copies. genetic determinism questioned
'Gay gene' theory disputed
Turns out the much-hyped "gay gene" theory of homosexuality may be a mutant itself. Canadian neurologist George Rice studied homosexual brothers from 48 families and raises doubts about homosexuality's resulting from pure biology. Right now, scientists can't explain what determines a person's sexual orientation. National Cancer Institute geneticist Dean Hamer, a homosexual, suggested in 1993 that a "gay gene" resides in a region of the X chromosome that men inherit from their mothers. Dr. Rice decided to repeat Dr. Hamer's study. In a report published in Science, he and a group of scientists found no link. Dr. Rice said his findings don't disprove genetic influence on homosexuality, but that scientists should look beyond the Hamer theory in the hunt for answers: "We are still looking." gutsy forbes
Tacking right
While the top two brand-name Republicans run for the door when the subject of abortion comes up, Steve Forbes seems to be lurching toward it. Republican presidential hopeful Forbes told California conservatives that he favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion: "And while there will be times of disappointment, if you're not out there working on it, how do you make it happen?" By comparison, Elizabeth Dole is personally opposed to abortion but won't rock the ship of state over it. Mr. Forbes's call for a "step-by-step" elimination of abortion is not enough for fellow contender Gary Bauer: "The next president doesn't have to talk about incrementalism; the next president is likely to be able to appoint ... two Supreme Court justices." Opponent of Milosevic fired
Flame-out
A flicker of vocal opposition to President Slobodan Milosevic was snuffed out when the government ousted Deputy Premier Vuk Draskovic. Mr. Draskovic made the news when he said his government "cannot defeat NATO" and suggested that Mr. Milosevic negotiate an end to air strikes. Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels cheered the admission as proof that opposition to Mr. Milosevic would indeed rise up as his grip on power was loosened by the NATO assault. But three days later, the government dismissed Mr. Draskovic and charged him with making "public statements which were contrary to the government stands and jeopardizing the respect of the federal government." In 1996 Mr. Draskovic founded a pro-democracy coalition. It won local elections in many cities by opposing the Milosevic regime. Those returns were nullified by Mr. Milosevic, leading to months of street protests that were the most serious challenge the president's rule has faced. Mr. Milosevic wooed Mr. Draskovic into a government office, making him deputy premier in January and persuading him to support government policy toward Kosovo. Congress votes on Kosovo
House (in)action
In Washington, the House of Representatives voted, 249-180, to require the President to seek congressional approval for ground forces in the Balkans. Forty-five Democrats and an independent joined 203 Republicans to support the measure. Sixteen Republicans and 164 Democrats opposed the bill. More surprising, the House then failed-in a tie vote-to pass a Democratic resolution meant to give symbolic support to Mr. Clinton's air campaign. In all, 31 Republicans broke with their party to back the air campaign (including House Speaker Dennis Hastert) and 26 Democrats voted against it, producing the 213-213 deadlock. "The House today voted no on going forward, no on going back and they tied on standing still," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. "We will continue to prosecute the air campaign and to stop the violence being perpetrated by Milosevic." World in brief
Civilians hit
With NATO warplanes targeting the city of Nis one out of every two nights since the air campaign began, churchgoers and many others have scattered to nearby rural villages or basement shelters. Even so, not everyone was protected from the largest barrage so far, when NATO rocketed 26 missiles on the city in one evening raid April 23. Martha McComb, a Youth With a Mission worker based in Nis since 1996 (see WORLD, April 24), told WORLD that one civilian was killed and 11 wounded when a missile destroyed 25 houses in a poor gypsy area. She did not believe that tally represented all casualties, as missiles struck many private homes, university buildings, the train station, airport, and military barracks, the presumed target in the attack. Nis is one of Yugoslavia's major air defense stations, as well as the main military base just north of Kosovo. U.S. strikes Iraq
U.S. warplanes struck Iraqi air defense sites in the northern "no-fly" zone after being threatened by Iraqi radar. Air Force F-16s dropped laser-guided bombs and launched an anti-radar missile at sites near Mosul, about 250 miles north of Baghdad. An Iraqi news agency said four civilians were killed and others were injured in the bombing. Iraqi air defense units have been challenging the zones on an almost daily basis since the United States and Britain launched airstrikes in mid-December after UN inspectors accused Baghdad of obstructing their search for weapons of mass destruction. UN shelves china measure
China held sway over the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. By a vote of 22-17, commission delegates voted to shelve a resolution critical of China's human-rights record without formal debate. Fourteen delegates abstained from voting. The resolution condemning China's human-rights record was sponsored by the United States and Poland. Commission members have moved away from direct confrontation over human rights, particularly large China trade partners like the European Union. ABC loose cannon fired for insulting Christian viewer
Strange Practice
When Arkansas TV viewer Jim Nuegent sent an e-mail to ABC-TV's Web site about the portrayal of lesbianism in an episode of The Practice, the result was a public-relations disaster for the network. He received back a nastygram from an unnamed ABC.com webmaster, whose comments included, "How about getting your nose out of the Bible," and "try thinking for yourself and stop using an archaic book of stories as your crutch for your existence." Mr. Nuegent passed the message to the American Family Association, which passed it along on its mailing list. A few days later, Mr. Nuegent received a strongly worded apology from the Disney-owned network, saying that the employee had been fired and that his views do not reflect those of the network or its Little Rock affiliate. "Unfortunately, as in any organization, there are bound to be a few individuals that step out of line," wrote ABC's Daren Benzi. All this passed around the Internet once more with such frequency that one might think the whole thing was an urban legend. ABC spokeswoman Michelle Bergman confirmed that the story is true. "There was an incident with the ABC.com webmaster and he's no longer with us," she told WORLD. APA wants it both ways
Damage control
The American Psychological Association has been demanding retractions by newspaper columnists, commentators, and radio pop psychologist Laura Schlessinger. They accused the APA of endorsing pedophilia. It all started when an APA journal published a report by some University of Michigan researchers who concluded that child sexual abuse was less damaging to many victims than generally believed. They went on to call for a less judgmental, more value-neutral approach by society toward sex between adults and "willing" minors. To Dr. Schlessinger, the article, absent any dissent by APA officials, was a sign the psychological community was moving toward normalization of pedophilia. "Dr. Laura," as she is known to her vast radio audience, provoked a barrage of protests against the APA. Other conservative culture watchers joined the melee, including WORLD's Gene Edward Veith ("Tossing the last taboo," April 10). The APA fired off a press release saying "publication of the findings of a research project [in an APA journal] is in no way an endorsement of a finding." It also reaffirmed the APA's agreement with the official American Psychiatric Association view: "An adult who engages in sexual activities with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior." Dr. Schlessinger and the others won't let APA officials have it both ways. Publication of the article and editorial silence about its conclusions, she told her audience, means implicit endorsement of content. The No-Comment Zone

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