Texas group presenting Marilyn Manson ‘awareness’ training
A Texas nonprofit group offering Marilyn Manson “awareness” training to educators and law enforcement officers encourages schools to treat fans of the shock-rock band as if they were gang members.
“When I started looking at these groups of kids, I noticed that they all dress the same and they all believe the same thing,” said Ramon Jacquez, program director for the Crime Prevention Resource Center in Fort Worth. “And when they start doing graffiti or self-mutilation or advocating the use of drugs or take drugs, that's a gang.
“And we're telling school officials to identify that as gang behavior, if that activity is disruptive to the educational process,” Jacquez said.
David Greene, program director for National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, said he worries the program will encourage educators to restrict student expression in the name of gang prevention.
“I fear that this program is going to be more about sensationalizing stereotypes,” Greene said. “It's going to be more of a hysteria-generating device rather than something that helps teachers understand the decisions their students are making.”
Since last summer, the center has conducted four training sessions for educators and local law enforcement officials concerning the effect Marilyn Manson has on children. Speakers, including youth leaders and police officers, urge participants to consider the connections between the attitudes, dress and actions of the fans and organized gang activity.
The center plans to conduct its next seminar for Fort Worth teachers on Dec. 4 and 5.
But John Moore, a researcher with the National Youth Gang Center in Tallahassee, Fla., said the similar look adopted by many Marilyn Manson fans — specifically, ghoulish makeup, black clothing and body piercing — probably doesn't signify gang identification.
“Their behavior may not be pleasing to all adults and most teachers, but whether it constitutes gang-related behavior depends on whether any criminal activity is involved,” Moore said. “If they're sitting there smoking dope, that's criminal behavior. If they're moshing, it's not.
“We don't want to put too fine a point on this, but we have to draw a line somewhere,” he said. “When we look at gangs as a social problem, we don't put Marilyn Manson fans in the same category as gangster disciples.”
Although presently a nonprofit group, the Crime Prevention Resource Center started in 1980 as an agency of the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Chamber of Commerce. In 1989, the group, then known as the Citizens Crime Commission, broke away to become independent. The group changed its name three months ago.
Jacquez said the center became interested in offering the Marilyn Manson seminars after attending one presented by Buddy Evans, a police officer in Arlington, Texas.
“We're seeing more and more of these kids in schools and hearing about some of the sacrifices with small animals and hearing about some of the kids that had started self-mutilation,” Jacquez said. “And that concerns me.
“I tried to figure out why they were still allowed to congregate in the schools and talk about their beliefs,” Jacquez said. “At the same time, the Crips and Bloods and the Latin Kings aren't, because once the school system identified them as gang members, they stopped them because of zero-tolerance policies.”
Jacquez said most Manson fans engage in criminal activity, ranging from graffiti to drug use to animal sacrifices. He cited the arrest last month in Fort Worth of 17-year-old Jay Fieldon Howell, a self-described Manson fan, for stabbing a 14-year-old girl in the neck at a satanic altar he had built in a backyard shed. Police said the two had been watching a Marilyn Manson video before the incident.
Jacquez stresses that the seminars — which he hopes will soon include parents — don't advocate censoring Marilyn Manson or any other musical group.
“We need to educate parents that the artists have a constitutional right to put out this type of music, but by the same token, it's our freedom to advise parents,” Jacquez said.
While free-speech advocates don't argue about the need to help teachers understand the children they educate, some say they worry about school systems buying into seminars that don't offer a true picture of fans of Marilyn Manson or similar musical acts.
“I fear that so much of the reaction is based on phantom facts,” Greene said. “Often these come from people who have never been to Marilyn Manson concerts or taken the time to analyze the music or even taken the time to talk to young people to understand what they see in the music.”
Greene said he hopes teachers won't accept the information blindly, particularly the assertion that music has such an overwhelming effect on youngsters' actions.
“I am offended at the notion that being a fan of a musical group equates to being part of a gang,” Greene said. “We resist the idea that you can link violent or antisocial behavior with a music group. We see examples all the time where there are Marilyn Manson fans who are exemplary citizens.”