Backward Messages

The straight story on influences that turn teens violent.

Beth Winegarner

Beth Winegarner
SAN FRANCISCO, California, United States
March 05
At Backward Messages, Beth Winegarner gives you the straight story on all the influences you’ve been told will turn your teen violent: the occult, violent video games, heavy-metal music, and more. Winegarner is a San Francisco author, journalist, and mom writing a book for parents on the most controversial teen influences and why they’re a healthy part of growing up.

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Do first-person shooters boost gamers’ pain tolerance? One study says yes.

In universities nationwide, researchers are still prodding the effects of video games on human players. Do games make us violent or agressive? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do they have positive effects? How do t… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 7:54PM

“West of Memphis” trailer

This is the trailer from West of Memphis, the upcoming documentary about the West Memphis Three, directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Damien Echols (one of the Three), and Lorri Davis (Echols’ wife). It comes out on Christmas Day, 2012.


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Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises”: not a goth.

A small article crossed my path this week about a violent break-in in Denver. Police say man forced his way into a woman’s condo, stabbed her, and left. They described him as “dressed in goth attire.”

Hmm… Read full post »

A band performs at the Heavy Tune Metal Festival at Nile Country Club in Cairo, Egypt, in July 2011. Photo by Flickr user lokha/Lorenz Khazaleh.

In January of 1997, roughly 100 Egyptian heavy-metal fans were rounded up, arrested, and accused of Satanism. Now, almost 16 years later, it looks like… Read full post »

I have a new piece up at SF Weekly’s All Shook Down blog today: Don’t Blame Heavy Metal For Alleged Baltimore Shooter Bobby Gladden.

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Anders Breivik: the Oslo shooter is “sane,” and going to jail.

On Friday, major news emerged from Norway: Oslo mass murderer Anders Breivik is going to jail, and has been declared legally sane.

From the beginning, attorneys have argued over Breivik’s metal state at the time of the… Read full post »

After a Tashkent graveyard was desecrated, Uzbek police arrested young goth men. But goths say they didn’t do it. Photo by Flickr user eastwords.

First it was goths in the UK, then goths and emos in Iraq. Now it’s goths in Uzbekistan who can’t seem to get a break.… Read full post »

As teachers look for ways to bring video games into the classroom, a law-enforcement leader says they’re making teens get stabby.

Many people look at the hours that kids spend playing video games and worry about them wasting their time. Others, such as seventh-grade teacher Joel Bonasera, look… Read full post »

Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor site now links to sponsor sites — where you can buy guns similar to the ones in the game.

Regular readers know that I don’t believe there is any relationship between people who play violent video games — even for hours a day — and… Read full post »

Polish Catholic extremists say Demon — and Darski — are promoting evil.

Polarizing singer Adam Darski, also known as Behemoth frontman Nergal, is back in the news. This time, it’s because he has elected to become the face of the Demon energy drink in Poland. As usual, his CatholicRead full post »

After a body was stolen from a mausoleum in a NJ cemetery, police and the press blamed Satanists and Palo Mayombe. Photo by Flickr user scottnj.

At first, it sounds like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a low-budget horror flick: in late July, thieves broke into the… Read full post »

There’s no need for this.

It’s rare, and very sad, to have three mass shootings in the news at the same time. Yesterday in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Wade Michael Page opened fire in a Sikh temple, killing six congregants and wounding others, including a police officer, before police shot and… Read full post »

A UK LARP gamer gets ready. Photo by Flickr user Bifford the Youngest.

Denmark: Land of Vikings, Beowulf, Niels Bohr, Mærsk ships, GSM phones, and … live-action role-playing?

In a land of 5.5 million people, roughly 100,000 LARP in some fashion, according to a recent article from TIME writer… Read full post »

Judy Byington’s book, Twenty-Two Faces, resurrects the disproven ideas of multiple personality disorder and Satanic ritual abuse.

Just when you thought we were safe from the “Satanic ritual abuse” moral panic, along comes retired therapist Judy Byington with a new book detailing th… Read full post »

Recently, there was a media uproar after a Taiwanese teen died while playing video games — Diablo III, to be precise.

Apparently, the 18-year-old booked a private game room at the Tainan cafe the afternoon of July 13. He played for 40 hours straight without stopping to eat. (No… Read full post »

Aurora, Colorado, shooting suspect James Holmes, in a recent mugshot courtesy the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

We’ve had the weekend to begin to digest the news of what happened in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater early Friday morning. While officials spent much of the weekend de-… Read full post »

James Holmes is the suspect in the Aurora, Colorado shootings that killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more.

As reporters work to reveal the identity, history, and character of James Holmes, the suspected shooter in this morning’s massacre in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, they m… Read full post »

Recently, someone calling themselves “April and Wayne Show” (it’s not clear whether that’s the name of a couple of the name of their show) began posting videos to YouTube purporting to expose metal bands as “Satanic Illuminati.” Although the dictionary says… Read full post »

Melody McDermott, right, and Stephen Stafford, outside the court where their attackers were sentenced this week.

Just how much jail time is enough to punish someone for pushing a stranger to the ground, kicking her, and stomping on her face?

Less than seven years, apparently.

That was the sentence f… Read full post »

The Vancouver Sun published a letter to the editor in response to the “Parent Trap” column I wrote about yesterday. The letter came from Sam Wagar, a priest with the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia. Here’s what he had to say:

I am appalled by the quality of

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What should you do if your teen is dabbling in the occult? The Vancouver Sun’s Parent Trap has some ideas. Photo by Flickr user penelopejonze.

Seeing your kids develop an interest in something you find scary is never fun. Especially if it’s something the movie world, television, and the… Read full post »

This isn’t the first time someone has backed Satan for public office. Photo by Flickr user

Rooting for Satan in the 2012 presidential election might be a long shot, but that’s no reason to take someone’s “VOTE SATAN” signs down.

A couple in Mountain Vi… Read full post »

In Botswana, a generation of people taking classic heavy metal and making it their own. Photo by Frank Marshall.

When people think of heavy metal music, I think many still think of the United States in the 1980s: Tipper Gore, the PMRC, kids throwing the horns, bulldozers driving over CDs,… Read full post »

Was Arlis Perry killed in 1974 by a Satanic cult in Stanford University’s Memorial Church? Some still think so. Photo by Flickr user daviduweb.

Rumors of murderous Satanic cults always make for a compelling scary story, even if they can’t be proven. Maybe that’s why the Great PlainRead full post »

Australia’s new R18+ rating will lift the ban on games like Left 4 Dead 2.

Soon, Aussies will be able to get their hands on video games as the designers intended them to be played. After years of debate, Australia has finally adopted a law that will allow video-game… Read full post »