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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In 1987, after the press had exploded with freaked-out suggestions that heavy metal might be an easy scapegoat in the suicides of Ray Belknap and four teens in Bergenfield, NJ, 20/20 felt it was time to explain “the truth” behind heavy-metal music to unsuspecting parents.

It weaves a lot… Read full post »

Are video games “too violent?” Or are violence critics forgetting who we are?

Another E3 has come and gone, giving the gaming press a taste of video games to come. Since then, a number of folks have come come out against the violence in the next wave of games, claiming… Read full post »

Indian students learn how to design video games. Photo courtesy Duke TIP.

It’s been a while since I saw so much junk science in a single article.

The Indian Express just published a piece arguing that video games make kids aggresive. The article quotes official-sounding people, such as Adarsh… Read full post »

Is it so surprising that a young goth man could have such talent?

The country is abuzz about Andrew De Leon, the 19-year-old who wowed the judges during an audition in Austin, TX this week on “America’s Got Talent.” Two things about De Leon have gotten people talking: his impressiv… Read full post »

In Somalia, boys face more danger out on the streets than they do in front of the game console. Is that true elsewhere? Photo by Flickr user tkru.

Somalia has been known for years as a place of extreme violence and lawlessness. Since civil war broke out in 1991, all… Read full post »

Some people intentionally choose to have “666″ on their license plate. Others aren’t so keen on it. Photo by Flickr user msmail.

The state of Georgia has unrolled some new license plates, and some folks are in an uproar over the fact that many contain the number 666.

WRBL… Read full post »

Photo by Flickr user benjennings.

Drugs make people — okay, some people — do very strange things. They can make men undress on the side of a highway and chew another man’s face off, for example. Or, they can make a mom gouge her own son’s eyes out, possibly withRead full post »

Pig Destroyer’s Scott Hull (far right) isn’t a boneheaded metal Neanderthal; he’s a computer specialist for the government.

As Baltimore gets ready for the annual Maryland Deathfest this weekend, metal writer Kim Kelly cautions outsiders not to misjudge metalheads.

She explains:… Read full post »

MAY 24, 2012 5:48PM

Justice in anti-goth hate crime?

Melody McDermott (left) and the man who attacked her, Kenneth Kelsall (right), outside the UK courthouse where Kelsall was convicted.

Goths worldwide celebrated World Goth Day this week. But another, more bittersweet, victory came today with the news that Kenneth Kelsall has pleaded guilty to the vi… Read full post »

British MP Keith Vaz, who has a history of criticizing violent games, is calling for a “closer scrutiny” of first-person shooters. Photo courtesy UK Parliament.

In the wake of Norway terrorist Anders Breivik’s claims that Modern Warfare helped him train for a real-live massacre, BrRead full post »

The oil change of the beast.

An oil-change mechanic at a Walmart in Ft. Worth is in hot water after a customer discovered some graffiti on the underside of her Mustang. The woman claims the graffiti (above) reads “666,” and includes an upside-down cross and pentagram.

(Of course, I&#821… Read full post »

Another horse mutilation in Cornwall — this one a beheading — has locals blaming Satanists. Again. Photo by flickr user Beer Coaster.

Someone in Cornwall doesn’t like horses. At least, that’s what their newspapers want you to believe.

In recent days, locals found a beheaded… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
MAY 11, 2012 1:43PM

“The New Satanism” in heavy metal

Pelle Forsberg, guitarist for black-metal band Watain. Photo by Flickr user Tiffany Peters/TiffanyFoto.

Heavy metal has always had a reputation for being Satanic. That reputation came from a number of places: the stage makeup used by Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper, KISS, King Diamond, and others in the… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
MAY 7, 2012 6:38PM

How not to get hysterical about a pentagram

Pentagrams and walls seem to go hand in hand — like bored teens and vandalism. Photo by Flickr user The Trousered Ape.

As the weather turns warmer, kids in suburban and rural areas go outside. They’re bored. They’re looking for something to do. They’re angry, or at least irri… Read full post »

A new study shows that playing 20 minutes of Resident Evil makes you a better marksman. Photo by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Anytime someone defends video games, or discusses the benefits they provide, often the first words out of their mouth will be, “hand-eye coordination!… Read full post »

Are video games making society more militaristic? One academic thinks so.

Did video games help Anders Breivik train for his terrorist attack in Norway? Victoria University lecturer John Martino says such questions are missing the point.

“What has not been addressed in the debate generated by… Read full post »

Psychology instructor Jayne Gackenbach and her son, Teace Snyder, play video games together — and wrote a book about the benefits of gaming.

If the name Jayne Gackenbach is familiar to you, there’s good reason — she released research in January that playing violent video games can… Read full post »

APRIL 23, 2012 4:47PM

Backward Messages: now on Pinterest!

I wanted to let readers know that I’ve started a Pinterest account, where I’m gathering links related to this blog. Some of them will wind up as blog posts, while others are just along similar lines. Follow me there to keep up with the news I’m tracking.

Read full post »

This map shows concentrations of metal bands per capita around the world. (Click for larger version.)

This awesome map (sourced mainly from has been circulating on the Internet for the past few months, but it wasn’t until recently that someone put it into context. Richard F… Read full post »

Schools in Cornwall, home to some of the most beloved stone circles in Britain, may soon start teaching students about paganism. Or will they? Photo by Flickr user iknow-uk.

The ever-sensationalistic Daily Mail ran a story this week claiming that teachers in Cornwall will now be required to teach paRead full post »

Norway terrorist Anders Breivik played a lot of World of Warcraft before his rampage, prosecutors say. But is that relevant?

The trial has begun for Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, accused of shooting and killing 77 people on Utoya Island last July after detonating a bomb in downtown Oslo. That… Read full post »

Are the themes of child sacrifice in The Hunger Games enough to label it “occult/Satanic?” Some groups think so.

Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy has earned many accolades, and is one of the best-selling young-adult book series since Harry Potter. This week, news broke that t… Read full post »

British teachers say video games cause kids to play more aggressively. What are they missing? Photo by Flickr user wsilver.

The battle for children’s well-being is never-ending. While American Congresspeople consider a warning label on virtually all video games, a group of British teachers has… Read full post »

What does Druidry have to do with homicide? Absolutely nothing — which is why a judge has forbidden any mention of an Illinois man’s (not pictured) faith during his upcoming trial. Photo by Flickr user owenski.

In recent weeks, the news has been flooded with criminal cases where the alle… Read full post »

Ben Moores, left, and Gena Willenberg, right, were recently beaten in separate incidents in the UK — because of how they look.

When emo and heavy metal fans are stoned to death in Iraq, it’s easier to dismiss it as something that happens “over there.”

But in recent weeks,… Read full post »