Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre: Media Overload?

Yesterday we learned that Cho sent a multimedia package to NBC News with the intent to have the world view him and his rambling and raving statements.

NBC News chose to air portions of the videos and posted the images that were included in the package, along with portions of the manifesto.

People have both criticized NBC News for publishing those details and some have even demanded that all the information be released without any editorial input.

Among those who are criticizing NBC and its decision to publish the items are a number of families, who cancelled their appearances on NBC to protest the decision.

There are folks, like Jane Hamsher who noted that the media and law enforcement took steps to prevent the Columbine killers from having their writings and other items released to the public. Why was that sensible step not taken?

It's a very good question and there is no right answer. The media outlets have determined that this stuff is newsworthy, so they pump it out there every 30 seconds. The news broadcasts were virtually unwatchable because it was wall to wall coverage of Cho's visage and rambling statements. Still, I do understand that there is some newsworthiness of these items and that people have a morbid fascination as to the inner workings of someone who went out and slaughtered so many people.

And in the course of releasing the images, it would appear that folks have managed to link some of the images to a movie that he may have watched.
Detectives say Cho Seung-Hui repeatedly watched the South Korean movie Oldboy in the days leading up to the massacre in which 32 people were killed.

The film's themes of obsession and revenge also occur in Cho's own writings.

In a chilling video sent by the student to the American TV network NBC he appears to re-enact scenes from the movie in a series of photographs.

In one he holds a gun to his own head and in another wields a hammer, images that appear in the film.

The video also confirms that Cho had been planning the killings for some time.
As a counterpoint to the production of these images, we've repeatedly been told that many of the more disturbing images from the 9/11 attacks would not be aired out of sensitivity to the victims and survivors to the attacks because of the severe emotional content of watching such images. How exactly is this situation any different? People were emotionally wrecked hearing about the loss of their loved ones and/or watching their loved ones being carried out of the VA Tech buildings. They're again devastated watching the news pimp Cho's videos and images. Where is the decency or at least restraint in what should be produced.

I know this puts me in the uncomfortable position of hoping that the media doing the right thing by the families and victims and that their judgment would be one of compassion and restraint, but one has to believe that people will ultimately do the right thing. Problem is, that too many in the media have not done the right thing - here included.

Brian Williams tellingly recognizes that NBC News is in a no-win situation.
In an interview last night on MSNBC, Mr. Williams said NBC had been concerned about the sensitivities of broadcasting as much of the material as it did.

“This was a sick business tonight, going on the air with this,” he said.
It could have been a slightly less sick business by withholding the bulk of the photos and multimedia packages.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin notes the issues raised by the temporary detention order and how that the law as it is currently written does not prevent someone from purchasing a firearm. The law as it is currently written required an involuntary hospitalization, which was not the case here. It appears that the law may have to be reviewed and amended to deal with situations where an individual may not be allowed to purchase a firearm if they have been deemed to be an imminent threat to themselves or others. This is an issue raised by Mark Levin and Hot Air as well.

Still, there is the nagging question over whether someone would self report that they were indeed involuntarily hospitalized for mental health issues. Also, if the law is changed to adjust for the mental health treatment, what information can or should be included in the databases utilized to conduct the background checks? I tend to lean towards including a search of mental health and other medical facilities for ailments that might affect a person's judgment and health situation that might make them unsuitable to purchase a gun.

Hot Air has a very lengthy posting on the situation, and notes a report stating that because the judge referred Cho to an outpatient treatment for his mental health situation instead of being committed, he was kept out of the system that would have quite possibly kept Cho from being able to purchase the weapons. A detailed look at mental health laws and confinement follows.

Here's a detailed accounting of what Cho did once he entered Norris Hall and turned it into his own personal killing field.

Also, here's a very touching look at the victims of the massacre.

Frankly, it seems that Cho was throwing everything and the kitchen sink into his rants and manifestos. You can draw almost any conclusion you want about the motive depending on the page.

What I see is disjointed thinking and someone who felt compelled to kill for the sake of killing - perhaps because he felt persecuted.

There's 9/11 references, biblical references, the timing of the attacks nearly coincides with the Branch Dividian incident, Columbine massacre, and OKC. Now add the neo-Nazi stuff, and you've got just about every major theme considered.

I'm waiting for someone to blame this on Quentin Tarantino. After all, his movies include mass violence, draw on Asian chop-socky films, and even Kill Bill had a supposed reference to the Crazy 88s - which the characters say were so named because it sounded cool.

Was the source of the Ismail/Ishmail scrawled on Cho's arm not the James Fenimore Cooper Book The Prairie, but another book named Ishmail by Daniel Quinn? AJ Strata thinks there might be something to that angle. There's also a website named that references the book and appears to be managed by Quinn.

Law enforcement says that there was nothing new to be added to their knowledge of Cho and his motives in the package received (and released) by NBC. Go figure.

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