Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the killers from Columbine High School, were not members of a “trenchcoat mafia.” They did not listen to Marilyn Manson. They were not bullied by the popular jocks. They were not outcasts. They were not known racists or anti-Semites. They did not ask classmate Cassie Bernall if she believed in God, and then kill her, execution-style, when she answered yes. 

Yet all those myths live on.

Harris and Klebold, we now know, had an active social life and took advanced classes. Harris was adored by adults; he was a phony who would charm his friends’ parents and then eviscerate them on his webpage. Klebold was from a loving family who were doing everything to try to give confidence to a boy who viewed his life as a failure. And, had the two lived, they would have been disappointed by going down in history as vicious murderers: in their minds, they were martyrs.

That is their story. And yet we have constructed a totally different one. Why? To make ourselves feel like they are different. That they are not one of us. That people so evil must have been born different, raised different.

I think of the Columbine mythology all the time now. Mostly because we can’t go very far without thinking about terrorists, about ISIS, about those who would kill in the name of martyrdom. We call them “lone wolves,” these men and women who radicalize and perform heinous actions.

Think again.

One person who has made so many of us “think again” is Dr. Jessica Stern. She's spent a career in government and academia as a thought leader, advisor and author of books that look at the world of terror, including her most recent book ISIS.  

Jessica was studying -- and talking to -- terrorists to learn from the source, well before 9/11.  Later, she famously authored a powerful column in the New York Times that said that the war in Iraq had turned that country into a failed state, breading new terrorists -- a notion that was heresy at the time but is now accepted wisdom.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation: