Shock Star

Fort Worth teachers and police officers take a short course in Marilyn Manson.

ON A GIANT VIDEO SCREEN IN A FORT WORTH meeting room, a noisy, disjointed music video plays for about ninety police officers and educators. Their faces are etched with disgust as the ten-minute excerpt from Marilyn Manson’s Dead to the World reveals the shock-rocker and his minions committing indescribably crude acts. Concert scenes that at once evoke Nazi youth rallies and punk rock spitfests are interspersed with projectile vomiting, unruly sex acts, and mischief featuring feces on a fork. When it mercifully ends, a participant indignantly asks, “If they know where this man lives, why don’t they just arrest him?”

The video excerpt is part of a two-day seminar titled “Marilyn Manson and Other Cults: The Impact on Education and the Community.” Presented by Fort Worth’s nonprofit Crime Prevention Resource Center ( CPRC), it discusses ways to recognize and perhaps deflect the influence of cults on kids; participants learn about unfamiliar materials that range from the satanic bible to Manson’s more unsavory lyrics. In a lecture given by Officer Buddy Evans of the Arlington Police Department, Manson’s effect on youths can be summed up with this equation: satanism plus nihilism plus deviant sexuality multiplied by teen hormones and alienation can equal criminal behavior. But if the hoopla over Manson seems overblown, the session acquired new relevance last October after a seventeen-year-old Fort Worth boy who was fascinated with satanic symbols and rituals told police officers he had listened to Marilyn Manson and other shock-rockers before stabbing a fourteen-year-old girl.

Long before that incident, Evans, who is assigned to the School Resource Officers Unit, began to identify “kids who are grouping up like Bloods and Crips—the majority of these kids wearing Manson symbols and Manson shirts.” At the same time, school administrators expressed concern to him about escalating disciplinary problems with students who fit that profile. As a result of Evans’ research and the input of guest speakers, the CPRC added the Manson seminar to the one-hundred-plus community-education events it presents annually.

It is tempting to frame the class in terms of the age-old generation gap—grown-ups just don’t understand that crazy kids’ music. But it’s impossible to not empathize with these professionals, who have to deal with teens day in and day out. Their reactions, in fact, suggest that they would like to see Manson out of business. But Ramon Jacquez, the director of programs at the CPRC, clearly recognizes the civil liberties issues involved: “Mr. Manson has his right to put out whatever he wants. But it’s how a young person perceives Manson’s message that is a problem. And if that young person starts acting out, the responsibility falls on our society.”

And what is Marilyn Manson’s reaction to the seminar’s portrayal of him and his music? His camp has no comment, and that should come as no surprise—Manson is in the middle of a hugely successful world tour. He’s in the business of being very, very bad, and right now business is very, very good.

Gang busters? The CPRC lectures on Manson and his music.

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