Vegard Skjefstad

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What is the Matter With Modern Media?

I guess you’ve heard all about of the Virginia Tech massacre and by now I wouldn’t be that surprised if you’re a bit tired of it, too. Even if you are, I’d appreciate it if you took the time to read through this entry. On Monday this week 23 year old Cho Seung-hui killed 32 people and injured 29 more before committing suicide. For years, Cho had been teased and picked on and was turned into an outcast. His behavior at Virginia Tech before his rampage was disturbing, to say the least.

From the BBC:

Fellow student Julie Poole said that on the first day of a literature class last year the students introduced themselves one by one, but when it was Cho’s turn, he did not speak. The professor, she said, looked at the sign-in sheet and where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. “We just really knew him as the question mark kid,” Ms Poole added.

Cho was removed from a poetry class and was described by his teacher as “intimidating… there was something mean about this boy. It was the meanness — I’ve taught troubled youngsters and crazy people — it was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak.” Cho had intimidated female students by photographing their legs under the desk and by writing obscene, violent poetry. Not a guy who easily makes friends, but by then it was probably too late for Cho.

At around 7:15 a.m. EDT Cho shots his first two victims. Between then and the second round of shootings, Cho goes to the post office and mails a parcel to NBC’s New York headquarters containing videos, photographs, and text explaining the reasons for his actions.

NBC decides to air the videos, show the photographs and make everything available to every news agency world wide, which in turn does the same thing.

From an Associated Press article:

When criminologists and psychologists look at mass murders, Cho fits the themes they see repeatedly: a friendless figure, someone who has been bullied, someone who blames others and is bent on revenge, a careful planner, a male. And someone who sent up warning signs with his strange behavior long in advance.

Think about that for a second. The mass murder profile fits a lot of people. I’m not saying that every single one of them will now go out and start killing people. But for some, seeing Cho get his 15 minutes of fame world wide might be that final push they need over the edge.

The police had found copies of all the material Cho mailed to NBC, but they decided not to tell the media about it. Clever move. NBC, on the other hand, decided to tell the world. Not that clever.

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