First there were the blue-and-silver commemorative lapel ribbons, then products like the combination set of teddy bears (one blue and one silver) whose maker promised "a portion of the profits" would be donated to some fund or another to benefit Columbine High School students.
The "let's all grieve together, then pray for normalcy and make some cash off of it" cottage industry of tragedy has really kicked in. With every new mass shooting (four since Columbine and counting) apparently comes another great chance for some entrepreneur to make some money off the deal.
Who could pass up a just-released copy of She Said Yes, a book penned by her mother about the life of slain student Cassie Bernall, who has been elevated to martyrdom because she told the killers she believed in Jesus Christ?
And did you catch those "Let the Healing Begin" banners hung strategically in the Fort Worth church that was the most recent sight for blood and mayhem? Betcha when the next humdinger hits, those banners will be available as quick as you can say Federal Express, complete with discounts for bulk orders.
Making money off catastrophe is nothing new, but still, it's gross, gross, gross.
So we weren't really shocked when this week's slick, glossy 72-page, fall 1999 catalog for a company called At-Risk Resources arrived in the mail.
At-Risk Resources also goes by the moniker, "The Bureau for At-Risk Youth," which is a little misleading, because this is no government agency. Rather, it's a Long Island-based, for-profit company that sells videos and wall displays and posters to parents and school districts around the country.
Founder and owner Ed Werz actually got a head start when he started his little company eight years ago, operating out of his attic. Now, a spokeswoman says At-Risk Resources is the sixth-fastest-growing company on Long Island. An estimated 50,000 schools buy the company's multimedia products, which dispense advice and warnings about violence prevention, substance abuse, teen sexuality, anti-smoking, developing positive role models and personal growth.
And the products ain't cheap. Even with the "special offer" discount, for example, the six-video CD series titled Dangerous Drugs 101 costs $429.70. A "beautifully laminated" nine-poster set warning of the evils of drinking, smoking and drugs costs "only" $42.95. The 10-video series on violence prevention costs $790.
The company's newest feature this fall is a video series titled Saving Our Schools From Hate and Violence. (What timing!) Order now, and the two-part video designed for middle- and high-school use costs "only" $179.95. Werz said he was unsure whether any Colorado Springs-area districts use his products. But one thing's for sure, plenty of public schools shell out the big bucks for his products.
"It's been a pretty nice ride over the last nine years," Werz said this week.
Maybe for him.
In an "action alert" issued earlier this month, the liberal media-watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting cited two recent examples as proof that hate radio is making a comeback and needs to be the topic of an open and honest national discussion.
One of the examples was a six-week-long radio promotion on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles to give away black plastic garden tools that were promoted as "black hoes." The crude pun on "black whores" enraged civil rights groups who are calling for a national boycott of the Walt Disney Company, which owns the radio station. Disney issued an apology on Aug. 24, roughly a year after the promotion aired.
And this month, in Albuquerque, N.M., Citadel Communications yanked the nationally-syndicated "Don and Mike" show off the air for disgusting racial slurs and for mocking the town of El Cenizo, Texas, for adopting Spanish as its official language. (Citadel also owns five radio stations here in the Springs.)
Speaking of, we've had our own share of hate radio of late. Some callers to the Chuck Baker show, On the Carpet, that airs daily on KKCS-AM 1460, just do not know how to be nice. The most disturbing comment came from one kook who, just before the annual gay PrideFest parade and celebration, said on the air that all gays and lesbians should be killed.
Baker later insisted that an earlier power outage resulted in technical problems, making it impossible for him to keep the guy's comment from going out over the airwaves. But the fact is, the slur was uttered no matter what the excuse.
For his part, Baker has vowed to continue calling the mayor of Colorado Springs by the derogatory nickname "Butch." (Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace dismisses such babble, saying she's no fan of Baker's and doesn't listen to him anyway.)
This is the same talk-show host whose virulent anti-government comments and guests' comments inspired Francisco "Franco" Duran to drive to Washington from his home in Security in 1995 and shoot at the White House. After the shooting, amid claims that he was Duran's inspiration, an emotional Baker told his listeners he was "going away for a while" and promptly took a two-week vacation.
In a delicious -- or disturbing, depending on your constitution -- bit of irony, it should be pointed out that the feds who seized Franco Duran's pickup truck noted he sported a bumper sticker which read "Fire Butch Reno," in reference to Attorney General Janet Reno.
With his revival of that nasty old nickname, we might assume Chuck Baker misses the old days. Or maybe he just needs another vacation.