Lie Down in Darkness

Does a death on the highway implicate the entertainment industry?

Except for Michael Shingledecker's friends and family, everybody seemed to know exactly how to interpret the 18-year-old's death last week. The reason was timing. He was killed just as the debate was heating up once more about pop culture's effect on young people and raising some old questions: Just how vulnerable, how suggestible, are these young consumers? Will they parrot anything they see done on a screen? And if so, who's responsible?

Shingledecker's death was easy to portray as a clear-cut case of cause and effect. On Oct. 10, he and three carloads of friends saw the movie The Program at...

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