On the evolution of Internet bullying, underdogs’ resilience of underdogs, and the promise of today’s teens. —Katherine Dykstra interviews Emily Bazelon for Guernica
Kids can be cruel. For generations, this was seen as an unfortunate fact of life. Adults advised the targets of adolescent nastiness to try not to dwell on it, to let it roll off their backs.
As Emily Bazelon writes in her new book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, this all changed in 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine High School wielding a couple of semiautomatic weapons. Klebold and Harris’ rampage resulted in thirteen dead, two dozen more injured, and a country left struggling to understand what exactly had gone wrong.
Bazelon, a Slate senior editor and contributor to the New York Times Magazine, as well as a trained lawyer, writes in her prologue, “Harris and Klebold weren’t themselves targets of bullying (or known bullies). But,” she continues, “when a subsequent nationwide investigation revealed that most kids who turn into school shooters have previously felt persecuted, bullied, or threatened, the lesson was driven home: to brush off bullying was to court disaster… ”