James Holmes rumor mill after Aurora shootings: More viral than Columbine

eric harris.jpg
Eric Harris.
In the aftershocks of the shootings at an Aurora theater that left twelve dead and dozens wounded, it's inevitable that the tragedy would evoke comparisons to the 1999 attack on Columbine High School. Certainly, the instant online speculation about the shooter and his motives is eerily reminiscent of all the (mostly bogus) chatter about the Trench Coat Mafia that emerged after Columbine. But these days, the rumor mill touched off by a horror like this is a much more accelerated -- and treacherous -- phenomenon.

Back in 1999, people still turned to something called "television" for much of their information. And Columbine was a made-for-TV event, a crisis that quickly turned into a siege thanks to slow-moving (and since abandoned) police response tactics, and unfolded over a period of hours leading into prime time. In addition, the well-stocked staffs of two -- yes, two -- daily newspapers descended on the school, as well as reporters from around the world.

The story that emerged over the next few weeks about what happened at Columbine was, for the most part, subject to the traditional gatekeeping and we-know-what's-best-for-you filtering of the mainstream media. That doesn't mean they got it right. In fact, much of the lurid reporting about Goths and the supposed influence of Marilyn Manson was shoddy and goofy. Some reporters didn't know how to access shooter Eric Harris's AOL profile, or how to distinguish authentic online work by Harris and co-killer Dylan Klebold from imitations and forgeries, including a bogus suicide note that is still cited by duped Columbine researchers to this day.

dylan klebold eric harris surveillance image.jpg
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as seen in surveillance footage from the 1999 Columbine High School attack.
A true picture of the shooters and the why and how of the Columbine massacre unfolded over months and years, as more witnesses came forward and key documents in the official investigation were made public. That may also be the case in the Aurora shootings. But we're an impatient bunch, far more accustomed to instant answers than we were even a decade ago -- and far more willing, in the absence of hard information, to settle for gibberish.

A shooting at a midnight movie plays hell with the news cycle -- too late for the print edition of our surviving daily, too early for the local blogosphere. A police press conference scheduled for later this morning could shed some more light, but in the meantime what's trending online are the bare details of what's known, notably the arrest of suspect James Holmes, and a great deal of what is not known and could be quite wrong.

The answers to anything, as everybody knows by now, are to be found on Facebook. Pity every James Holmes in the vicinity of Aurora (or Tennessee, since Holmes's car had Tennessee plates) with a Facebook page; they're now being "outed" as possibly "the guy" by amateur sleuths everywhere. "Were I guessing, I'd say this IS NOT the page, but nothing else on Facebook that seems to fit well," reports one ace detective on Right Wing News. "All the guy is going to have to do to show it isn't him is update."

Elsewhere, the rumor mill is being rapidly stoked with vaguely sourced data concerning Holmes's background and motives. On the aptly named site Hot Air, a commenter posts something he says comes from YouTube but references something that allegedly first appeared on the inane social media site 9gag:

A few weeks ago, a man by the username of 'JamesHolmes154′ posted a thread on 9gag saying he was going to 'shoot up' a theater. He was clearly distressed and admitted he was suffering from PTSD. He said he was going to walk in and try to take as much lifes as possible. The whole 9gag community egged him on and give him tips on what to wear, etc. They give him tips on sharp-shooting and sent him messages on how to take as much lifes as possible. 9gag is a sick site and needs to be destroyed.

A gratuitous blast at 9gag, or the real deal? Set your search engines for JamesHolmes154, and get ready for the coming of the apocrypha.

Update: Here are photos of the shooter, James Holmes, 24:

Source: University of Colorado Denver

Source: Westview High School yearbook (San Diego, California)

More from our Education archive: "Zero tolerance policies enacted after Columbine massacre need to go away, panelist says."

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James was a brilliant scientist who studied the inner workings of the human brain. His studies had led him to a remarkable discovery. He discovered that every person lives in a bubble of their own truth. Every person has a different version of what is true. Truths only truly exist in the truth bubbles of people, for without people to observe happenings and create their own truths about those happenings, nothing could ever be defined as true. The result is that If you believe something is true, it is in fact true. James needed to be able to prove this discovery, so he embarked on a simple experiment. He would try to make something impossible be true, simply by believing it. For two weeks, he would believe that he was something impossible, something straight out of a comic book, and then report on the results of the experiment. But something went horribly wrong. The effects of the experiment were much more powerful than James had expected. The impossible became true. The Joker was born. James left behind a reminder and instructions on how to bring him back after the experiment. In order for James to return, the Joker would have to repeat the experiment in reverse. The Joker was insulted by James' demands, he wouldn't even consider bringing James back. The Joker was much more interested in mayhem. He decided to design a "grand joke" to introduce himself to the world. The "punchline" of the Joker's twisted "joke" was meant to be an usher entering a theater to find the audience dead in their seats, with smiles on their faces. The Joker's joke didn't go exactly as he had intended, but it had introduced him to the world. Luckily, the Joker was captured by the police, and will remain behind bars where he belongs.


What happend in Aurora Century 16 Theater is such a Tragedy. What the F&%# was going through his mind? He must have build up his anger throughout those months of planning. He must have not been thinking straight when he was shooting up the theater with kids, teenagers, and adults in there. I mean come on he wasn't even saying anything as he walked up the isles shooting people and shooting the ones that were going towards the exit as well. I wonder what was going thru his mind when he saw infants being held in parents arms. He obviously didn't give a S%&#. Come on dude your were only 24 years old with your whole life ahead of you. You must have been so F%&$#@-up in the head that you even got caught several minutes later. What kind of S%&# is that?? SNAP VATO, DON'T MAKE THE COPS JOB EASIER BY PRACTICALLY TURNING YOURSELF INTO THEM, IT AINT GOING TO DO YOU NO GOOD. You would think someone with months of planning something like this would have MORE SENSE. Whats the deal with the bomb situation? You obviously didn't get to use that. What were you trying to point out? To me your just a DUMB-ASS PUNK who is going to get a REALITY CHECK IN PRISON so GOOD-LUCK VATO. YOU WONT BE ABLE TO HIDE OUT IN PUNK CITY (PROTECTIVE CUSTODY) FOR LONG. EVENTUALLY THEY WILL GET TO YOU SOMEONE ALWAYS DOES SO WATCH YOUR BACK. LATERZ!!!!!!

BackOffImStarving topcommenter

Saying that this is more viral than Columbine is like saying that there are more iPhones around today than there were in 1999.  The proliferation of social media outlets and digital images/video is such that even "Two Girls, One Cup," could be perceived as being more viral than Columbine.  This is not a stimulating topic to discuss.


Any kind of comparison aside form it occurring in Colorado, is completely absurd.

Alan, you hit it right on the head w/ the media making the 'inevitable'' comparison.

I crutch my dog every morn around 3-4 am. I always catch the 1st edition though I pay hardly if any attention aside from the weather.

This morning, of course was different and I heard the 1st Columbine reference before 5 am.



 @DonkeyHotay That's completely backwards. What the US gov does does not reflect the people. The majority of us hate the gun laws, this story is a resemblance of  why we hate it. Not every citizen are "Insane gun worshiping idiots". Get your facts straight, 14 people died and NO ONE needs you slandering the American people right now.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The U$A celebrates and glorifies Violent Gun Culture ... all its heroes in media, television, movies and literature are violent gun-packing individuals who extra-judicially shoot and kill their way to glory and fame.


Is there a single DAY in the U$A when there isn't a violent GUN TOTING "hero" in the Movies, on Television? ... are there ANY popular Video Games that do NOT involve GUNS GUNS GUNS and KILL KILL KILLING ??


Guns and Violence ... it's the American Way !!


200,000,000 Guns in the U$A is NOT ENOUGH! ... Americans Need MORE GUNS!


REAP What Ye SOW, you insane gun worshiping idiots!


 @DonkeyHotay Jealous Much?  We Americans like our greed, guns and hamburgers Because we can! We have a few setbacks here and there, however we are a strong and free country. not sure where you are from but i bet we protected your country once or twice. Our Second Amendment is an awesome law that protects our gun rights. That law was wrote soon after farmers took up their hunting rifles to protect themselves from the invading Red Coats who ass we kicked :) America the Free! (minus a few wackos)


 @DonkeyHotay You're being so ignorant in a time of mourning. No one needs your snide remarks. Keep them to your self, it's just not cool...

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @eriksc79 "free country" ??




More Laws, Statutes, Codes, Ordinances, and Prohibitions on the books than any other Nation on Earth!


More Citizens IN PRISON than ANY other Nation on Earth!


Keep Drinking the Kool-Aid !!

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