[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Monday, Nov. 9.]
School authorities in Texas are so threatened by shock-rocker Marilyn Manson that they're now offering staffers "Marilyn Manson awareness" seminars. The nonprofit group conducting the training sessions also recommends that schools classify fans of Manson and other goth-rock acts as gang members.
"A majority of them are taking drugs," said Ramon Jacquez, director of programs for the Fort Worth, Texas-based Crime Prevention Resource Center, which has conducted at least four trainings since last summer and has another planned for December.
"A majority of them do graffiti either on the [school] premises, or in their neighborhood, or on their books," Jacquez added. Such criminal activity, he said, puts goth-rock fans in a league with such notorious gangs as the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings.
Jacquez said that while he had no data to substantiate his claims of criminal behavior by goth fans, police in nearby Arlington, Texas, had obtained such information from anecdotal evidence in interviews with fans of Marilyn Manson and his namesake band. Arlington Officer Buddy Evans, who conducted the interviews and facilitates the seminars, did not return calls for comment Monday (Nov. 9).
Jacquez also said that he believes a majority of goth-rock fans engage in ritual sacrifice. "If you allow these kinds of students in your classroom, it's disruptive to the educational process," he said.
Last month, police in Fort Worth arrested 17-year-old Manson-fan Jay Fieldon Howell on suspicion of stabbing a 14-year-old girl in the neck at a satanic altar he built in a backyard shed. Howell and his alleged victim -- who met through their shared interest in the artist -- were said to be watching a Manson video before the alleged attack.
Fort Worth police spokesperson Lt. Mark Krey said that while authorities are not drawing a causal line between the attack and Manson's music, Manson's work could be invoked at an upcoming grand-jury trial to establish a picture of Howell's interests and obsessions.
Gang-researcher Jim Moore, a senior research associate at the Tallahassee, Fla.-based National Youth Gang Center, said that while adults may frown on the music of Manson (born Brian Warner), efforts to brand goth fans as gang members are misguided.
While Moore acknowledged that there are numerous definitions for what constitutes gang behavior, he doubted that the activities of goth-rock and Manson fans fell into that category. "What separates gangs out from cultish-type groups is the emphasis on criminal activity," he said.
During the trainings, which carry such titles as "Marilyn Manson And Other Cults: The Impact On Education," facilitators discuss Manson's autobiography, "The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell" (1997), as well as songs such as "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" (RealAudio excerpt) and "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt). They also watch his "Dead To The World" home video, which documents last year's Antichrist Superstar tour.
That tour spawned protests throughout the United States from groups offended by Manson's stage behavior, which included tearing up Bibles and wiping himself with the American flag.
During the trainings, police officers assigned to field work in local schools are given a 100-page handout of lyrics, book excerpts and printouts of official and unofficial websites devoted to Manson.
Robin McClure, a spokeswoman for Texas' Birdville Independent School District, which took part in training earlier this fall, downplayed the significance of the event as merely a voluntary information-session for counselors and administrators in the 21,000-student district.
She said that while the district does not consider goth-rock fans to be gang members, an interest in Manson, who played Dallas' Bronco Bowl on Thursday, could be taken as a warning for authorities to be on the alert for practices such as self-mutilation, since Manson himself has in the past engaged in such behavior as cutting himself.
"But at the same time," McClure said, "just because someone listens to Marilyn Manson doesn't mean that they're not a well-balanced child."
Some local fans of the shock rocker said portrayals of Manson as a threat simply make him more attractive to students. A 21-year-old self-described member of the goth community who asked to be identified only as Stacy said that labeling Manson fans as gang members is unfair.
"None of the people I know, or know of, in the gothic community are involved in any sort of graffiti writing or sacrifices," she said. "And there are less people using drugs in the gothic community, proportionally, than in most other groups of young people."
Jacquez stressed repeatedly that his organization has no interest in censoring Manson or other goth groups but emphasized that he does make a correlation between the music a person listens to and that person's behavior. "If we have a mind that is already fragmented and he's listening to violent, kill-your-mother, anti-authority music, what is that going to do to his mind?" he asked. "Hopefully nothing. Hopefully he can go on and just take it as just music. But we don't know."
Anti-censorship activist Nina Crowley, executive director of the Massachusetts Music Industry Coalition, counters that numerous studies have found no correlation between violence and music.
"And," she said, "there's certainly no correlation between what kids wear and how they behave in terms of violence and drugs and the kinds of issues schools are really concerned about."