Shooters and shootings

School shootings are on the agenda again.


Bath, Columbine, Erfurt and the Amish School are just a few shootings on the horrid list of school massacres, now extended by another shoot-out in Germany.

Sebastian B., an 18-year-old school student, ran amok in his school in the Northwestern town of Emsdetten on Monday, November 20 and injured 37 people before killing himself. With three guns, 12 pipe bombs, several smoke bombs and a knife he seemed rather fully equipped for what could have easily become another shooting spree.

A fanatic player of Counter-Strike.

According to claims by some of his former schoolmates, the young man was a fanatical player of “Counter-Strike.” According to Wikipedia, with more than 200.000 users the game currently is the most widely played tactical first person shooter in the world.

Absurdly, German politics and media are wildly debating a presumed relation between users of violent computer games and individuals resorting to violence. The Christian Democrats in particular insist on violent computer games being banned – yes, not regulated: banned.

Killer games?!

In an interview with the German media, Brandenburg Interior Minister Jörg Schönbohm (CDU) scapegoated computer gaming by saying that “killer games” do encourage violent behaviour and are contributing to an escalating rate of brutality among young people.

Counter-Strike is violent alright, no question about that. On the other hand, the vast majority of counter strike players do not go out to shoot their fellow school students. That common-sensical truth seemingly does not irritate German politicians in their moronic crusade:


“If it really is true that the perpetrator played such killer games over a long period, then lawmakers finally have to do something,” said the deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats, Wolfgang Bosbach.

Isn’t this argument so daft that it qualifies for ‘one beer short of a sixpack’? Let me brush it aside with Sociology Professor Klaus Hurrelmann of Bielefeld University, who leaves no doubt in a recent interview that “a causal relationship between video games and violence does not exist.”

Thank you.

But where from here?

Apparently Sebastian left a message on the internet suggesting the mayhem was retaliation for being mocked at school according to the English edition of “Spiegel Online.” One of his letters is quoted to say: “The only thing I learned intensively at school was that I’m a loser.”

Is society to blame?


Nothing justifies a revenge rampages, whether in Emsdetten, Erfurt or any place else. Yet, Sebastian’s manifest frustration with his school does suggest that something with our education system is fundamentally wrong.

Can education be blamed for all?

I admit:

I have no idea how to open up the box of societal responsibility for this tragedy. I really don’t.

The education system can clearly not be blamed for everything. And yet:

As long as

  • our school and university system considers young people like modelling material which can be formed arbitrarily into any shape as is considered best at a given moment in time,
  • young people remain the playdoh of a system with distorted power relations in which physical and mential violence is normal and abuse is regular,
  • ten percent of school students are thrown out of school with no degree, doomed to never get anywhere in this society,

Emsdetten will not be the last entry on the most disgusting list I had to look at in a long time.

What we need is not a ban of computer games, we need a fundamental change in the way in which we allow ourselves to be treated – in school and outside.





6 responses to “Shooters and shootings”

  1. Bastian Avatar

    I agree with Andreas that a ban of anything will not solve the problem. It’s a show-fight against symptoms. This is more about structures; it’s about how we care about vulnerable in our societies. What leads a person to commit such a horrible killing – I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s much more than a playing a computer game. Another thing that occurs to me is – how did that boy get such an amazingly (and scarily) big amount of weapons?

  2. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them.

    They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success.

    The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.

    Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. (…)

    The institutionalization of values leads inevitably to physical pollution, social polarization, and psychological impotence: three dimensions in a process of global degradation and modernized misery.

    Ivan Illich in Deschooling Society
    See the very book online as an e-version

  3. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    Oh the kid legally ordered the weapons online at eGun, a portal based in Darmstadt, Germany. (Source)

    Btw, he wrote in his farewell letter:

    “Much of my revenge will be directed at the teachers, because they are people who intervened in my life against my will and helped put me where I am now: On the battlefield!”


  4. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    Today in an interview on, crime psychologist and professor for psychology and sociology Adolf Gallwitz said:

    School can be hell. One can make this important part of life responsible for everything: failure and of course also success. School is a place in an important time, during which one has to face daily aggression, mortification, praise, blame and even mobbing. One has to take unearthly much – which could also be called human rights violations.


  5. Andreas Karsten Avatar

    Chris Lehmann picks up the topic of violence in schools over at Serendipity in his article Thoughts on Springfield High and School Violence.

  6. EHDK Avatar

    if those humans would have just learned to respect others then it would not have happend
    no vidio games or whatever
    it was at columbine like this and with him
    they didnt get respect so they took revange
    everybody has the right to be happy with there own believes so why cant humans respect those of us
    if humans leave us alone nothing will happen
    ( dont think that all school shooters are of us tho only eric dylan and sebastiaan)
    further you all have an nice day ya hear me lol