The Media and Vampirism: Echoes of a Witch Hunt

First, a disclaimer. I mention Gothic and Vampire culture in the same sentences not as an attempt to lump them together by any means. Yes, the two groups overlap to a SMALL extent and tend to hang out in the same club, but not all goths are vamps,and not all vamps are goths. I mention the two at the same time because we face similar problems and public misconceptions. I mean no insult to either group or it’s members.

Any vampire or Goth you ask nowadays about the relationship between our cultures and the media will probably start swearing at you. This is because of the media’s general tendency to distort a story to attract attention and not do their research if it involves any group outside the cultural norm. No story exemplifies this more than the Columbine shooting.

In this incident, you had a pair of students who brought guns to school and opened fire on members of the student body. They dressed goth and called themselves the Trench coat Mafia. They were crazy and lonely and their being Goths and listening to death metal was a big part of why they murdered their schoolmates This is the version of the story that I was told first by a person on Metro. All of the media coverage I saw was about the “Goth” aspect of this shooting and how “damaging” it is to our children. I saw pleas by parents to make dressing Goth at school a breech of the dress code. I saw reporters go into Gothic and Industrial clubs with what seemed to be the specific intent to make them look foolish, dangerous and generally unappealing to viewers. I heard Christian ministers railing against the corruption Gothic culture represented. Most insulting to me, I heard survivors of Columbine make teary promises to each other to try and “reach out” to such “troubled youths” in the future to prevent a repeat of the incident. It strikes me that teenagers are not psychiatrists, and for most Gothic people I know, the opposite effect is going to occur. If some preppie football player started talking down to me and obviously trying to be friendly to me because he felt sorry for me, or some cheerleader invited me to a party out of pity where everyone stared at me and whispered behind my back, it would really piss me off, a lot worse than being ignored. Then again, that’s just me.

Nowhere in the media until much later did I hear investigations into other possible reasons for the perpetrators’ behavior. Inquiries into their family backgrounds and possible drug use were downplayed, while headlines screamed about “DEVIL WORSHIPPING GOTHIC FREAK MURDERERS”.

Many similar things have happened in other places. In another article I read, a teenager murdered an elderly woman, cut her heart out and drank her blood thinking it would make him immortal. Media coverage did not mention the elderly woman’s family, how this murder could take place without creating a racket that attracted the neighbors’ attention, or even whether the neighbors heard anything. No mention was made of the murderer’s background, whether he was psychologically disturbed, came from an abusive family or had been under stress. All you heard in the articles I found were the sensationalistic details of the “Vampire Murders”, or the fact that the perpetrator is now the youngest person on Death Row.

True crime books on “Vampire Cults” all seem to focus only on the most negative and horrific details of the crimes. No mention is made about the rest of the Vampire Culture or about the fact that we do not accept underage members into our Havens. No mention is made of the fact that almost all activities take place in private between consenting adults. We are being lumped together into a category with some disturbed teenagers who are not even members of our culture. Even in the one “vampire cult” incident that I read about that did involve an adult, the focus of the articles was on how the adult “seduced” the teenagers involved. There was little mention in how an adult’s influence otherwise affected the cult, or of whether her reasons for the seduction involved past pedophilic tendencies. The phrase “Media Witch Hunt” has occurred to me many a time to describe their treatment both of Goths and Vampires. Yes, we do have different beliefs and lifestyles than most of the mainstream. Yes our activities are seen as “different from the norm” and might be frightening to some people. But if we are going to ever win free of the labels the media has branded on us, we need to be capable of presenting a sensible and informed counter. I would recommend that the larger vampiric organizations keep a press release on hand, preferably one checked over by a lawyer. When these incidents do happen, we need to deluge the newspapers about their biased and one-sided presentations of our lifestyle. If we do not act to help ourselves, these misconceptions and labels will continue to fester and gradually get worse over time.

I have personally been harassed and threatened by both the police and average citizens over simply wearing black or wearing an ankh on a piece of jewelry. I have heard of others being physically attacked, and there have been rumors of people being murdered because they were thought to be or were in fact vampires. We have the same rights and freedoms as any other members of society. We pay our taxes and vote in elections. Why is it we allow ourselves to be discriminated against? Is it hidden guilt that says we are undeserving of equal representation by the media? Or is it our urge to keep the darker side of our lives hidden for fear of retribution from friends, family and co-workers? There is most likely much more to it than that, but it is a beginning. If we truly want respect and the freedom to be ourselves in public or in private, we need more support for organizations such as EGAD (Ethical Goths Against Discrimination) and DACA (Darkness Against Child Abuse). We also need to point these groups out and mention them in letters to the media, which we should be writing when we are misrepresented. In all honesty, (with a few exceptions) we did not choose to be labeled as subversive and dangerous. So why do we tolerate it? You would think that in a culture like those of Goth and Vampirism which emphasizes freedom of thought and acceptance of unusual beliefs, we would be proud of our differences.

To close, I will mention a book I read recently, “The New Satanists”, by Linda Blood. In this book, she attempts to expose what she sees as a national conspiracy by satanists to abuse children. At one point in the book she mentions a group she calls The Hollywood Vampires, who she says are disturbed teens who file their incisors to points, drink each other’s blood and practice other bizarre forms of self mutilation. In another she refers to Goths in Germany as the Gruftis or Gothic-Punks, who she accuses of sacrificing their pets, drinking blood and sleeping in coffins, as well as being lawbreakers. Why do we stand for this? Are we the subversive and deviant members of society that others have accused us of being, and too afraid to enforce our Constitutional freedoms? Or are we free thinkers who can defend ourselves in public forums and complain about media misrepresentation? This is a choice and a responsibility we should all think on carefully. I heard a quote once that seems most fitting in this instance. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

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