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Wednesday, 25 April 2007 00:00

Media blew it at Virginia Tech

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The same popular culture that some have alleged to produce yet another mass murderer wasted no time in trying to explain him to us in the hours and days following the massacre at Virginia Tech last week.

 

We learned that the killer was a “troubled young man” who had been picked on and made fun of after his family moved here from South Korea in 1992. He was a loner, virtually unknown by his classmates and the students in his own dorm. He had written disturbing things in his creative writing class, and had spooked both his classmates and the teacher with his strange behavior. Eventually, that teacher went to the department head and said, “Either he goes, or I go.”

There were obvious warning signs, people said. Why didn’t somebody do something? Why didn’t his parents do something? Why didn’t his teachers do something? Why didn’t school administrators boot him out once problems were identified? What about the counselors who treated him? Some wanted to blame administrators who failed to lock down the campus after he killed the first two victims a little after 7 a.m.

Some jackass who writes for the National Review went so far as to blame the victims for not rushing the killer in the midst of his killing spree.

The gun lobby rushed to the microphone to remind us that guns do not kill people, people kill people (usually with guns, but they would use bottle openers or egg beaters if guns were not available, we can be assured), never mind that a troubled young man with a documented history of mental instability was able to walk into a local gun shop and purchase a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic and 50 rounds of ammunition in less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette.

It is, however, only fair to say that this killer seemed determined to kill a lot of people, and that it is difficult to imagine that any gun control law, however rational, would have stopped him from obtaining a gun — or making a bomb.

What very few people seem to be saying is that the TOTAL responsibility for this massacre rests in one place — with the killer.

You may have noticed that I have not used his name in this column, nor will I. I refuse to add to a culture that glorifies killers and forgets their victims. Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer. These are household names, a collection of men made famous by their horrific murders of innocent people whom no one remembers, except for their friends and families.

I cannot say for certain that NBC’s decision to air the “manifesto” sent to them by the Virginia Tech killer on the same day of the massacre has resulted or will result in any copycat killings around the country, but I will say that their justification of showing video footage of the killer talking about his “motives” — along with various poses of him brandishing his weapons — as permitting us “a glimpse inside the mind of a killer” is not only shameful, but utter hogwash to boot.

I watched the footage, and all I glimpsed was a pathetic little coward preparing to make a name for himself, his rage toward the rich as manufactured as his image. He had a tough childhood? Get in line. He had a hard time making friends? Well, you actually have to speak back when spoken to.

You have to make at least some effort. He had difficulty meeting girls? He could have tried talking to them, instead of stalking them, or taking picture of their legs under the desk with his cell phone.

What possible purpose does it serve to show any footage whatsoever of this murdering fool? Why do we need to see his picture, or read the plays he wrote in class, or learn more about his background? There is nothing special about mass murderers, nothing that we can learn about them that will teach us anything useful, provide any comfort, or prevent the next one from crawling up out of the sewer to do it again. All we can really do is grieve with the friends and families of the victims, and resolve not to make their killer’s life more meaningful to our culture than theirs.

Shame on any network or news organization that ever again shows any photos or footage of the Virginia Tech killer. The only revenge we can take now is to take away the fame he was so sure he was going to get for this act of cowardice, to delete him once and for all for his horrible act of deletion.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Waynesville. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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