Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE CHO VIDEOS....Sign me up with Atrios on this one:

I'm a bit puzzled by all the conversation about whether NBC and other news outlets shoud've broadcast Cho's videos. While there can always be debates about what should be front and center, the idea that this kind of thing should be withheld by a Media That Knows Best is rather disturbing.

There's no question that these images and videos are intense; they undoubtedly cause pain to the loved ones of the victims; and they might even help promote copycat behavior — though I suspect this is more urban legend than reality. But like it or not, they're also a key part of helping us understand one of the biggest news stories of the year. Under those circumstances, maybe there's someone you trust to unilaterally decide that we're not grownup enough to see this stuff, but not me. If we're all going to jabber endlessly about this event — and we are — we ought to do it with as much factual information as we can possibly get.

Besides, unless I miss my guess, the same people who are yelling the loudest right now would be yelling even louder if investigators announced the existence of the material but then refused to allow anyone to see it. Right?

Kevin Drum 12:42 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (131)

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Maybe there's someone you trust to unilaterally decide that we're not grownup enough to see this stuff, but not me.

Perhaps, but playing Devil's Advocate, I'd have to ask if the MSM has demonstrated any judgment about any of this up to now. In other words, why would I trust them to make this decision, exactly?

Posted by: craigie on April 20, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Strange how there was all of the "outrage" over showing the tapes but yet NBC blew away the competition in the ratings.

People want to watch this stuff, their protests notwithstanding.

Posted by: Old Hat on April 20, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Craigie: Exactly my point. I don't trust them, or anyone else. Stuff like this should be released, and individuals should then make their own decisions about whether or not to look at it. We really don't want to start down the path of news organizations withholding genuine news just because some people might find it "disturbing," do we?

Posted by: Kevin Drum on April 20, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought NBC only released part of the vids and pics, and so did indeed exert editorial control over what we get to see. Doesn't matter to me one way or the other. I must be the only person in the US who hasn't seen the vid. It is enough for me to read what he said to know that he is crazy.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

But then, I also never bothered watching the head decap vids.

Some people conflate news and sensationalism.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

" they might even help promote copycat behavior — though I suspect this is more urban legend than reality. "

Ya think? I was pretty sure I recalled at least one teenage murderer who specifically referenced Stone's "Natural Born Killers" in a boast about his crime. Here's what two seconds' worth of googling turned up -- and no, this does not seem to be a reichwing propaganda site (it's an Aussie paper, and the column is titled "Defence of Stone"):

" In the eight years since its release, Stone's picture has been confidently linked to at least eight murders - from Barras and Edmondson's wild ride, through the Texan kid who decapitated a classmate because he "wanted to be famous, like the natural born killers", to a pair of Paris students who killed three cops and a taxi driver and were later discovered to have the film's poster on their bedroom wall."

Here's the source:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/01/01/1041196685081.html

Not that I'm suggesting this means TV news shows should not have shown the Cho videos. I'm just saying anyone worried about copy-catters isn't just being stupid or overwrought.

Posted by: smartalek on April 20, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

In any case, if it was my decision, I would give deference to the victims and their families about whether to publicly release the vids.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Ya think? I was pretty sure I recalled at least one teenage murderer who specifically referenced Stone's "Natural Born Killers" in a boast about his crime.

and Cho mentioned Kyle and Eric (of Columbine). this stuff feeds on itself.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

On the one hand the news networks can't often enough display the depth of their empathy with the victims, their families and friends; and then, they turn around and offer the killer a soapbox.

It's the hypocrisy thing.

Posted by: Ellen1910 on April 20, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

But like it or not, they're also a key part of helping us understand one of the biggest news stories of the year.

Oh yeah? How? What are you going to understand? That he was crazy? That he was angry? Guess what, I figured that out from the fact that he shot 32 people. That was my f---ing clue.

As far as whether NBC "decided" we "were "grown up enough," if I were in editorial control of NBC, it wouldn't be a matter of deciding whether you were grown up enough. It would be a matter of deciding--strictly on the basis of whether I thought that idiocy and insanity was newsworthy--whether it was appropriate to show it.

Basically your argument is that showing the video of the man mowing down people at the Farmer's Market in Santa Monica would be key to us being able to decide whether that man should be sent to jail or not. No, it wouldn't be. In fact, I could argue that that would be MORE relevant to see than Cho's fantasy videos.

It's not a matter of censorship or NBC deciding whether you're ready for it. It's a matter of editorial discretion. And on this you're WRONG--editorial discretion with any integrity would not air this violent pornography (and I like pornography, just not the violent kind).

Posted by: Rick on April 20, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Show the entire world who can legally buy a gun in VA with a one-minute instant check.

By all means, keep this front and center and meld the issues.

This time it happened in the Old Dominion itself, and en masse. But seriously, if you look at the northeast, I bet it's safe to say that there a couple of cumulative VaTech massacres every week - perpetrated with guns that came from Virginia. This time the chickens roosted at home.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo:

It is enough for me to read what he said to know that he is crazy.

It is enough for me that he killed 32 people and himself to know that he was crazy.

Posted by: Rick on April 20, 2007 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ha, ha. Just the latest in political correctness, which is essentially feigned ber-thoughtfulness and consideration in response to feigned hypersensitivity.

Posted by: Luther on April 20, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

It is enough for me that he killed 32 people and himself to know that he was crazy.

There's crazy and then there is crazy.

What I mean is that it was enough to know that he didn't even have a pretense of a motive.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK

Ha, ha.

When the trolls start rolling in to laugh at the murder of 32 students and their profs, it's time to go to bed.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect the problem isn’t that NBC showed the videos, but that they showed them over and over and over and over and . . . The mainstream media today seems to be obsessed with taking 10 minutes worth of news and recycling it 144 times a day. They can no more cover two stories simultaneously (or two different aspects of the same story) then they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Posted by: fafner1 on April 20, 2007 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that it is one of the biggest news stories of the year demonstrates how separated the media is from the horror in Iraq where many more people were senselessly murdered that same day. And every day before and since.

If the media treated Iraq like our 51st state in its coverage, which it in effect is as long as we are there, we wouldn't be there anymore.

Posted by: Michael Ditto on April 20, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin; however, the repetitive 24 hours a day exploitation of it bothers me. There is a difference between disclosing it as news and running it relentlessly, shamelessly and breathlessly like some kind of Girls Gone Wild snuff film. No to prior restraint and censorship, yes to moderation and treating it somberly as news, not entertainment sensationalism.

Posted by: bmaz on April 20, 2007 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

My problem with this "controversy"?

We know the practical outcome of the debate before it begins: nothing. Such videos will be shown -- they will always be shown. The media can't possibly resist showing it to us, and we can't possibly resist watching it.

All the conspicuous, fake, "moral" emotion we have about it in either direction is intended to make us feel that we're better people than we are, and/or better people than everyone else is. All to zero effect, as we know perfectly well in advance.

I just have no patience with the kabuki anymore.

Can we talk instead about something that we might change?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 20, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Drum sez:
Besides, unless I miss my guess, the same people who are yelling the loudest right now would be yelling even louder if investigators announced the existence of the material but then refused to allow anyone to see it. Right?

Drum: You got this one right. There are those in the media whose purpose in life is to play up such games to hilt ("Hard Ball"), but this case is so REAL that, for once, I hope that the "collective unconscious" (read: MSM) will take it seriously and deal with it as sacrosanct. People can get killed in the future unless we learn something from this, y'know... sheesh! Are the TV ratings that important?... (that's a trick quiestion; there is no need to answer)

DCS, Ph.D., NYC

Posted by: dcshungu on April 20, 2007 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

I have a solution for the justice department. I say we demand the ouster of the top eight positions at DOJ Main, including Gonzales; and then hold a random lottery, complete with a hopper of numbered ping pong balls on live teevee, to determine the pecking order in which the eight wrongfully fired USAs take their new positions in charge of DOJ. Heh.

Posted by: bmaz on April 20, 2007 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Whether NBC showed the videos isn't a big issue for me. My only reservation about it is that Cho was obviously psychotic. I find showing the videos of this sick man a bit too voyeuristic and sensationalistic. We all know what insanity is although whatever pity we feel for the afflicted individual is usually suffused with anger at that same individual in cases like this. Cho had no choice. I don't think NBC would have televised photos of extremely deformed babies, for example, even if the parents had willing provided them with tapes. I think a verbal description of some of the elements in the tape would have quite adequately provided us with the info we sought without 'freak show' quality of the photos. Strange, but I worry that the tapes must have devastated Cho's parents more than the parents of the killed students. Everyone in this whole tragedy was a victim of one kind or another.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

>>We really don't want to start down the path of news organizations withholding genuine news just because some people might find it "disturbing," do we?

You must live in that alternate, bizzaro world where the media don't already do this on a daily basis. Everything you see on TV news is the result of an editorial decision regarding what to "push" and what to withhold. There are millions of stories out there right now that are newsworthy. The media select which ones they want to promote, usually motivated by a desire for ratings.

I thought everyone already knew that.

Posted by: Orson on April 20, 2007 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

If he was an active patient it could possibly violate HIPPA.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

He is no longer active.

Posted by: bmaz on April 20, 2007 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Look. I woke up this morning and checked my usual morning news sites. NYT - Cho. CNN - Cho. Newsday - Cho. NY Daily News - Cho, with a banner that said 'The Face Of Evil! Click for image gallery!!'

It was like a bad parody, only it was too real. I made a point of not watching this punk on any news broadcast, only to wake up and have his hate-face shoved down my throat.

As far as I'm concerned, the media completely debased itself on this story - even worse than they've debased themselves pushing the BushCo line for six years.

They sent a clear message to any psychopath with a gun and a video cam - 'Killing is wrong, but if you do kill someone send us a video and we'll put you on TV.'

All bets are off. They'll do exactly the same thing, and maybe even worse, the next time this happens.

Posted by: Stranger on April 20, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I could have put that better, bmaz. That was rather vague. I didn't mean that what is happening now might be a violation - it clearly is not because he was not an active patient receiving psychiatric care.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

"I made a point of not watching this punk on any news broadcast, only to wake up and have his hate-face shoved down my throat."

Cho wasn't a punk. He suffered from extreme mental illness. Enter the 21st C. please.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah - there is a palpable "freak show" element surrounding this.

All this guys life, he was passed off and made someone elses problem. His relatives in Korea said he was mentally disturbed as a child there.

He has been here since he was eight years old. He was 23. So for 15 years, he went to school and was at least marginally part of society. When a tutor at VT pointed up her concerns, she was told nothing could be done.

Signs and signals were there. Nothing was done. Instead, they just wanted to pass him on to a grad school or an employer, and be done with it. Well, it didn't work out so well for them as it did for his high school.

Maybe that is the blood he said society has on it's hands?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

BGRS, Thanks for your comment.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm torn here. I agree that the MSM has turned this into a circus, all for the magical ratings boost (see: CNN). It also may turn another twisted, sick person to action.

On the other hand, what about the most famous televised snuff film of all time, the Zapruder film? Wasn't that important enough to be seen by everyone? Do we make presidential assassins out of some who view it?

News is news. There are different levels of importance. This one just happens to be the single largest mass-murder in American history. Shouldn't we be able to learn as much as possible about it?

The repetitive screening of this video will fade. Its importance, maybe not so much.

Posted by: bigcat on April 20, 2007 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Cho wasn't a punk. He suffered from extreme mental illness.

Okay, that was a bit harsh.

But my point was I went out of my way to avoid seeing the video, only to run into that which I was trying to avoid anyway.

The New York Times had a gallery of him with guns, knives, hammers - and quotes from his 'manifesto.' (No, I didn't click on it. My wife did and mentioned it to me.)

What in the world justifies giving this guy saturation media coverage like this? Is it not possible to cover this story without making him look like some kind of perverse celebrity?

Now I notice that the NYT site has a story up tsk-tsking the backlash from the amount and nature of the coverage this story was given. Way to have it both ways.

Posted by: Stranger on April 20, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry to post and run, but I've got a warm bed and almost 4 hours of sleep before another day at the salt mines. See ya.

Posted by: bigcat on April 20, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

What in the world justifies giving this guy saturation media coverage like this?

Magnitude.

we should be having the intense discussion - but it should be about society, not what he did one Saturday night in April five years ago while all his classmates were at the prom.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

'The repetitive screening of this video will fade. Its importance, maybe not so much.' - bigcat

What in the world is important about it? What did you learn about anything other than there appeared to be some sort of paranoia present which served as motivation.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Night Bigcat. Pleasant dreams.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Nepeta, you are welcome. (You and I always have nice discussions.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

Stranger,

I agree. The Cho coverage was impossible to escape. But this is what the MSM loves to do. I didn't hear Iraq mentioned all week on cable news. Thanks for toning down your 'punk' comment.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

What are you going to understand? That he was crazy? That he was angry? Guess what, I figured that out from the fact that he shot 32 people. That was my f---ing clue.

Exactly. And a crazy person's "reasons" for shooting 32 people and himself are irrelevant.

Broadcasting the videos and photos transformed him from a near-anonymous sicko punk into an instant icon, larger than life, in the general consciousness. That can't be a good thing. That's what he wanted, after all, so it isn't even a sane thing.

We don't need the videos and photos to learn what we need to learn from this: we have very little understanding of how to deal with the craziness that makes a person do what he did.

I resent having such a vivid image of him taking up space in my memory banks. It doesn't help me, and it certainly doesn't help him. And I can't even conceive of what it must do to the victims' loved ones.

Posted by: Swift Loris on April 20, 2007 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

nepeta,

This whole thing has put me in a mood, and I apologize. The waste of all those lives, coupled with the media gorging on the most lurid aspects of the story has lowered my respect for the media in this country - something I hardly would have thought possible a few days ago.

The media has trivialized the deaths of these kids, and for what? Ratings?

The media in this country is beneath contempt.

Posted by: Stranger on April 20, 2007 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

"The media in this country is beneath contempt."

I don't quite understand why you feel the media trivialized the deaths of the students. But we're agreed on how low the media has sunk in general. Finding the truth about anything requires hearing what MSM reports and then using the internet to dig and find out the truth of the matter from sources one trusts, original documentation online, etc. How did we manage without it?

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

He killed all these people and he sent out a press kit.

If, say, a rock band sent out a press kit and was able to get not only on the news but splayed like a banner ad across sites like Yahoo, of course other bands would follow in their footsteps.

Posted by: Eric Z. on April 20, 2007 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, would you write the same thing if Cho had lived and sent out his press kit?

Posted by: Eric Z. on April 20, 2007 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a bit puzzled by all the conversation about whether NBC and other news outlets shoud've broadcast Cho's videos.

I think the response to NBC's broadcasting is displaced anger and frustration over the situation itself, having little to do with their broadcasting the material Cho sent them.

Thirty-two people, most just starting out in life, hunted down and murdered or wounded at a location where they were presumed to be safe. If the story alone didn't churn up emotions in people, there were the pictures and sound effects (cell phone capturing the shooting spree). There's nowhere for people to direct their upset because the murderer took himself out of the loop by turning the gun on himself. People tend to then look for anyone close-by, handy.

NBC, after receiving the material from the murderer, filled the bill. Mostly for reasons it had no control over, but for one reason that seemed to me to be shameless self-promotion on NBC's part.

I had the television on that day, but the sound off. I looked at the television screen periodically and read the chirons. Early in the day, NBC announced that they had received the package from Cho, and reported the story a little too cutely. The on-air NBC news division (in Washington) reported the story as if the NY NBC news division was a rival news organization who was guarding the information about the contents from the Washington bureau.

Washington (Chris Matthews) was even interviewing a NY NBC news division person who was 6 degrees of the news division (3 floors up) that received the package, turned it over to law enforcement. But only after opening it up, making a copy of everything while waiting for the police. All of his information was hearsay, he didn't know what was in the package, but "Stay tuned because NBC will be broadcasting it on the Evening News with Brian Williams." It was clear from Chris Matthews' questions that he knew more facts than the NY NBC newsman was willing to talk about because of Matthews' leading questions. Initially, he explained that the police didn't want NBC talking about the contents, so their *breaking news* was that Cho had left word from beyond the grave, and NBC made sure it was in police custody. But within five minutes we learned that they were going to broadcast the contents on that evening's news - so much for not divulging anything because of the police request.

For the rest of the afternoon, the chiron on MSNBC (and when news updates and breaking news broke in on regularly scheduled broadcasting on NBC affiliates) seemed more boastful ("We got the scoop!") than in the public's service.

Long story to what should have been a short answer: NBC = media whores

Posted by: Maeven on April 20, 2007 at 3:50 AM | PERMALINK

It's not a matter of censorship or NBC deciding whether you're ready for it. It's a matter of editorial discretion.

What is discretion if not censorship?

There's a belief shared by most people that serial killers are a modern day phenomenon. Whenever one is apprehended, the media interviews the family and neighbors, and their reaction is uniformly predictable: "Shocking," "He was very quiet", "Didn't have many friends," "Nice, polite young man," "Once, he saw me struggling with a garbage can and he wheeled it to the curb for me."

The truth, however, seems to be that serial killers have always been with us, and may be the inspiration for early myths and superstitions. Monsters, vampires, wolfman, all created by people in earlier times who couldn't fathom human beings committing such vile and heinous acts.

This latest rampage at Virginia Tech may mark a seed change. Cho didn't fly under the radar, or happen out of nowhere. Ordinary people in his orbit, informed by pop culture what people like Cho are capable of, turned to professionals for help and resolution. It will be interesting to see where the investigation goes.

If we're not going to ban or control who can get guns, if we're not going to put resources into mental health programs (or re-fund rigorous screening and counseling programs in public education), if we're not going to invest in de-bullying programs in primary education or teach mediation skills to students, if we're not going to screen legal immigrants to the U.S. more carefully, then what, if anything, are we going to do?

Posted by: Maeven on April 20, 2007 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl targets a key issue -- Virginia's liberal gun laws. Here's another take on that discussion:

Many Virginians believe the only reason there have been two Democratic governors in succession while the legislature is solidly Republican is that Democrats have basically agreed not to make gun control an issue in their statewide platform.

That a person with a documented history of mental illness could so easily obtain not one but two guns to carry out his delusional scheme attests to the tragic, Faustian nature of this political bargain. When you form a pact with the devil he occasionally takes his due. All of Virginia's voters are complicit.

Catholic governor Kaine is already viewed suspiciously by conservatives because he has openly voiced his personal objection to capital punishment, a cause near and dear to the Virginia GOP. By adding gun control to his agenda Kaine would risk tipping the political balance back to the anti-tax, transportation policy-challenged Republicans.

So here we are, with 32 beautiful lives full of promise and accomplishment sacrificed on the altar of the Second Amendment. Was the bargain worth it?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 5:31 AM | PERMALINK

To address Kevin's immediate issue on this thread about the appropriateness of airing Cho's videos, I think the media has an obligation to do so. Whether we like it or not, the videos are news and they help us understand the killer's motivations.

The tragedy and the irony is, people already knew Cho was mentally ill and motivated to kill people. But we treat mental illness as protected, private information. This makes airing the videos seem at once like too much and too little. It's very frustrating to have so much information so sensationally presented that is of no use and comfort to the victims and their families.

Perhaps the videos will help us develop a better sense of appropriate responses to mental illness and to our nation's extremely liberal gun laws.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 5:48 AM | PERMALINK

This whole event reminds me of the movie Taxi Driver where a pyschotic loner is finally recognized and has his claim to fame through a very bloody act of violence.

Posted by: Botecelli on April 20, 2007 at 6:09 AM | PERMALINK

Too bad Kevin judges everything in terms of how to upset the fewest people.

On a more pedantic note, did anyone know that this massacre at Va. Tech was not the worst mass murder at a school in American history? That dubious honor belongs to the Bath school disaster of 1927, wherein some right-wing nutjob (of course), who didn't want to pay his taxes, killed 45 people.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 20, 2007 at 6:26 AM | PERMALINK

Regrading the "copycat" claim, Dave Winer responds perfectly:

"Some people say that if NBC were to release the videos, completely and exactly as Cho produced them, this would spawn copycats. That's a valid opinion of course, but I don't see why. We don't know what's on the videos. And do you think anyone who wanted to see them hasn't seen enough to get the basic idea? Maybe the copycat will strike because Cho's video didn't get broad distribution, and they have an easy shot at outdoing him. I don't know how the mind of a mass killer works, if anyone does."

Posted by: WCB on April 20, 2007 at 6:28 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding the "copycat" claim, Dave Winer responds perfectly:

"Some people say that if NBC were to release the videos, completely and exactly as Cho produced them, this would spawn copycats. That's a valid opinion of course, but I don't see why. We don't know what's on the videos. And do you think anyone who wanted to see them hasn't seen enough to get the basic idea? Maybe the copycat will strike because Cho's video didn't get broad distribution, and they have an easy shot at outdoing him. I don't know how the mind of a mass killer works, if anyone does."

Posted by: WCB on April 20, 2007 at 6:30 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have any problem with NBC's partial release. I haven't heard any sound. I have just seen pictures and brief video clips of a clearly disturbed human being prancing around proving he is psychotic. I do understand why the Virginia Tech family is upset. At least the media has had the decency not to show closeups of the bodies.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 20, 2007 at 6:35 AM | PERMALINK

Come on you idiots. automatic weapons should be available to everyone. but not videotapes.

Posted by: della Rovere on April 20, 2007 at 6:46 AM | PERMALINK

How many experts do we need to tell us this young man was disturbed who needed serious help? Its quite apparent that if you walk into a classroom and unleash pure hell on people, something is not right. I don't need some expert to tell me that.

I don't believe enforcing stricter gun laws would have stopped this individual. Hell who is to say he couldn't have thrown together some explosives and took out his angst on a grander scale, say the graduation? Imagine if this young man worked in the food service area and poisoned the food.

Posted by: n0rd1x on April 20, 2007 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

My only problem with the Media showing the tapes is their repetitive usage - With the exception of perhaps a few, we have seen them, over and over. I believe the Media can discuss the issue without constantly rerunning them.

However, it was chilling, to me, to see life imitating art - My first reaction to seeing Cho, with his hair cut short, looking into the camera, while trying to look buff and holding the two weapons, was Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver" - The "You talking to me, you talking to me" moment in front of a mirror with his .45 at his side juxtaposed with the Cho tape was eerie. Travis believed he was on a mission to cure the city of decadence and sleaze - Travis worked out to tone, cut his hair into a Mohawk, packed a .45, and put on his old Army fatigue jacket.

Perhaps Cho had never seen "Taxi Driver", but the similarites of a mentally ill person turning himself into a Messenger of Vengeance ala a character from a movie are troubling.

And, yes, there was a fellow in Yuba City, CA who told his family that he wanted to take his AK-47 out into the streets and make VTech look mild and commit suicide by cop, to boot.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

I don't often disagree with Kevin, but I do here. For folks in California the VT shootings probably seem like some abstract news event, but I went to VT for graduate school as did my partner, and my email box is filled with grieving letters from old friends who's friends and students are dead.

Cho did what he did because he was crazy, but also because he clearly wanted to become some kind of glorified killer. Shame on NBC for not only giving him what he wanted - but by endlessly playing the footage over and over again.

And shame on America for watching it. I hope you enjoyed your vicarious death and violence. Trust me, when it really happens to you, you'll like it less.

Posted by: Matilde on April 20, 2007 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

There are already plenty of movies out there with disturbing scenes for cats to copy. The Cho videos are just a drop in the bucket on the score.

Posted by: Stan Czyk on April 20, 2007 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree 100% with Kevin on this one. Not only were the videos not especially helpful in determining that Cho was seriously mentally ill, I believe that airing them in heavy rotation maximizes the chance that there will be copycat killings or attempts.

What I'd prefer is *no* pictures of the shooter at all and minimum mention of his name. "An apparently mentally ill student shot and killed 31 people before committing suicide..." and then talk exclusively about the victims. There will be no path to glory for others with similar psychopathology.

Meanwhile, Cho wasn't just passed off as someone else's problem. It is damned difficult for people to get good mental health care in this country, especially for those of limited means. And once a person becomes an adult, laws stand in the way. A friend of mine's beautiful sun became schizophrenic in his early twenties, and she couldn't even drive him to appointments with his psychiatrist because it was considered "coercion".

Posted by: greennotGreen on April 20, 2007 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Amazing how Kevin thinks like Republicans, it's either black OR white, nuances are out of his spectrum.
It could have been published AFTER the victim's family and their friends had some time to grieve, but NBC and all the other vultures, in their rapacious way wanted to make a quick dollar on that hot topic as soon as possible. I don't understand why giving a period of respite to the victims' families is an affront to people like Kevin and the libertarian crowd. People fuss about their cats but will refuse to respect the pain of others. It is hard to do that when you affirm: I don't trust anyone except myself. The American Way!

Posted by: Oratorio on April 20, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

There is a difference between sharing information and sensationalizing it. NBC chose the latter, and it makes me wonder just how responsible their action is. Do you really think that continually cycling through photographs of Cho holding out handguns, waving a hammer, or pointing a gun directly at the camera is essential to understanding why he did this? And isn't it plausible to believe that by doing that sort of promotion we are sewing the seed for future acts of violence by others? Where was the coverage about the pain that this caused the families of those who were killed and injured or even the trauma that students on the VT campus must face? I’m all for open reporting of information, I just would like the method the news is delivered to be tempered by some judgment. After all, it is the NEWS not ENTERTAINMENT, a distinction which has been forgotten by our media.

Posted by: Tubodg on April 20, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Cho sounds like Napoleon Dynamite. If you keep that in mind while you watch the videos, they seem ridiculous rather than scary.

Posted by: Maldoror on April 20, 2007 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl targets a key issue -- Virginia's liberal gun laws.

Damn liberals!

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Mark Foley and the GOP wished Foley's pedophilia hadn't been uncovered and broadcast in the press right before the election. What would discretion dictate about Foley's behavior? Who should decide?? News is what it is and it often comes out at inconvenient times.

Speaking of news, in the Washington Post print edition today there's an article about how Democrats are meeting with the NRA to develop a new policy about selling guns to mentally ill people. Too late for Virginia Tech's victims, but maybe it could prevent a future massacre.

It's sad and tragic that so much public policy is made in response to our stumbling failures as a society. Now we focus on the mentally ill and handguns. What will we say after the next person massacres dozens of innocent people with automatic weapons?

The sad fact is that as long as violence permates American culture we all live on the edge, waiting for the next tragedy, hoping it doesn't hit us.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Do we really get anything out of spending this much time with Cho?

Posted by: Kenji on April 20, 2007 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

It was interesting reading the comment section on Little Green Racists before NBC aired the video. They all said NBC would never air it because it would prove that Cho was a jihadi. Those morons would definately have spun some big conspiracy theories if NBC had not aired the video.

Their interest in the whole matter definately died down after hearing CHo invoke Jesus as his reason for doing this.

Posted by: Teresa on April 20, 2007 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's just self-interest in the market share war. Other networks are using it as a conveniet tool to whack down NBC. "We didn't show it near as much as NBC", "If NBC didn't release it everyone wouldn't be playing it." Some shows on NBC are even distancing themselves from the playing of the video.

It reminds me of the response of politicians to. . . well . . . just about anything said or done on the other side of the isle.

Posted by: B on April 20, 2007 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell, you deluded piece.

The lady flak for Shrub came on to issue condolences for the victims and added the statement that Bush did not believe in gun control.

Bush introduced this into the discussion from the gitgo.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Ratings, ratings, ratings people. That's what the craven and desperate Peacock Network was trying to get. Higher ratings, more ad revenue, and then sock it to the American people with seventeen nights of Let's Make a Deal with Howie Germ Free Mandel. The news organizations are hemmoraging money because they don't have a lock on the truth anymore--trusty old Fox News has proven that the networks are liberal bilge holds, full of lies and assorted variations on 60's nostalgia. How many more segments on aging baby boomers can we sit through before anyone realizes that the baby boomers (I am a tad older than most, luckily, and cannot be lumped in with such degrading filthy people!) are going to suck America dry with their desperate needs and their entitlements and their love of something called the "counterculture."

I, personally, am sick and tired of broadcast Television. The programmes on cable are better. Last night, I sat enthralled watching that deceased Crocodile Hunter throw down with a lizard. I watch a fair number of kickboxing and Ultimate Fighter programmes as well--not bad. I've noticed that the throat punch and the eye gouge have both gone out of fashion.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 20, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Why the killer did it" is less urgent a question than "What we can do to prevent it." I speak as an English professor, who's learned from experience (thankfully not traumatic) that the law ties our hands at every step. See the following, from today's NYT, called "Laws Limit Options When a Student is Mentally Ill":

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/19/us/19protocol.html?n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fV%2fVirginia%20Polytechnic%20Institute%20and%20State%20University

Posted by: helmling on April 20, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Nepeta said: "What in the world is important about it? What did you learn about anything other than there appeared to be some sort of paranoia present which served as motivation."


I'm so glad that all of us here can psychoanalyze Mr. Cho through video. We all know how that worked out in diagnosing Terry Schiavo.

The point is, the video itself may acutally be instructive in warning other people familiar with similar types of people. That teenager down the street, the homeless man wandering downtown.

These people need help, and unless the general population recognizes that, and actively responds to that need, this will happen again. Probably sooner, rather than later.

There's just as much chance of a copycat, as there is of someone being able to get help for one of these lost souls.

Posted by: bigcat on April 20, 2007 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with Kevin about this. Concern about copycats is justified. It has been documented that "suicide contagion" is a real phenomenon and certain kinds of media coverage are more likely to lead to copycats. As a result, guidelines for media coverage have been disseminated by various organizations involved in suicide prevention efforts, for example, http://www.yspp.org/media/reportingGuidelines.htm. Of course, suicide is not the same as what happened at VaTech, but it isn't a stretch to think that the way media coverage is done could have an effect on susceptible people here, too.

Posted by: motherbear on April 20, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

It's not about whether we're "grown up" enough or not. It's about whether it is in the interests of our society to imply to possible future Chos that they may be "rewarded" in the same way. We increase the lure to people like him who have not yet acted.

Video and pictures have dramatically more impact than words. Perhaps we could have posted just his words.

Posted by: David Marshall on April 20, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

As others have noted, there is a difference between disseminating information, and running clips of the rantings of paranoid schizophrenic twenty minutes out of every hour. Contrary to kevin's assertion, there is nothing to be learned from what such a mentally ill person says. His brain was extremely dysfunctional, and there is nothing to be gleaned from seeing this stuff. Beyond quickly demonstrating his mental illness, it simply isn't "newsworthy", unless "newsworthy" is defined as whatever attracts the most eyeballs.

If anybody doubts that NBC News' actions in the Imus fiasco wans't primarily commerce-driven, as opposed to a matter of moral standards, despite what the head of NBC News claimed, look no further than how they used this material. The only thing that would have pleased the network more is if Cho would have had an Anna Nicole Smith obsession.

Posted by: Will Allen on April 20, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

There's always more than one way to present information. The facts about Cho's photos, etc. could have been presented simply by being described. There was no need to show the pics, etc.

By presenting them, the media sent this message: "Want to shock and horrify as many people as possible? Then get yourself noticed -- go on a murderous, suicidal rampage. Just be sure to send us your photos and screed beforehand, and we in the media will be your monster megaphone helping you to scream louder than you ever thought possible at the whole world in your dying moments." This will make mass murders more likely.

Also, if hostage takers demand a network broadcast of their message before releasing their captives, we'd generally see that as a bad thing, something to be avoided if at all feasible. Even if the message were broadcast, we'd see that as a concession to the criminal. Here, NBC conceded for no good reason.

Posted by: otherpaul on April 20, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

It's not that I trust the media to withhold the tapes, it's that I trust the FBI. NBC should have given the FBI the tapes and then let them determine whether to release them or not.

Posted by: Steve W. on April 20, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Do we really get anything out of spending this much time with Cho?"

Kenji is right and Cho won!

PS: Do you remember what the hijackers used to say:" We know we will be on the 10:00 News and they were.

Posted by: oratorip on April 20, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

This is not at all a matter of protecting viewers (whether connected to the event or not), it's about:

1) newsworthiness

2) whether NBC should've turned this stuff over to the authorities rather than turn it into event programming, and

3) to what extent crazy people do bad things in order to get the media to pay attention to them.

No. 3 in particular is the big one. Nobody would've looked twice at this guy's video had he not already committed 32 murders -- at most NBC would've forwarded it to the police. Because he had killed people, however, his "message" was given all sorts of purchase in the media, including very limited-resource media like television (limited as opposed to the mostly unlimited-resource Internet) -- see also the Unabomber's manifesto, the Zodiac, the other Zodiac, et al. Indeed, the recent Zodiac movie does a really good job of capturing the tension of the to-publish-or-not-to-publish question in its first hour or so.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on April 20, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Jame Hamsher.

I can't wait till the YouTube mashups.

Don't incentivize these assholes by airing their videos.

Posted by: jerry on April 20, 2007 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

For me it's not so much that they aired it (any of the outlets) it's that it becomes their "wallpaper" and they go over and over it ad nauseum focusing on the MOST VIOLET of the photos and words. It does NOTHING to help anyone understand WHY this poor, sick, young man did what he did...only shows some extent of his pain and illness. Like most issues today this one is far too complicated to be reduced to sound bytes by the likes of that poor fool Wolfe Blitzer and his ilk...it's a genuine tragedy and something that SHOULD create dialogue about directions for the future...but it WON'T ...Columbine didn't...Iraq doesn't...it's the way "MERICA" the land of the dollar works!! Or doesn't...

Posted by: Dancer on April 20, 2007 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Assertions that the Cho videos will incite the next mass murderer are just that, assertions.

I think an equally plausible result of showing the videos may be to motivate politicians to tighten gun laws and to consider including couselling in discussions of comprehensive health care.

Those ugly, taunting, cruel pictures Cho took of himself wielding guns and a hammer, making himself look powerful and menacing beyond his slight physique, makes me wonder even more how such a mentally deranged person could have gone uncounselled and been allowed to purchase weapons.

The fact is, Virginia has liberal gun laws. We have been conditioned to think of gun rights as a conservative issue because it is championed by the NRA and the GOP.

Conservatives blame all manner of our nation's ills on liberal policies, from family planning to gay marriage to equal rights for women. Ironically, the Virginia Tech incident is a real example of how overly permissive gun laws cause harm.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't what NBC did with Cho's press kit in their own broadcasts and website, it's that by releasing the photos and videos they gave Cho exactly what he wanted. They weren't "discovered" like the Zapruder film or the Foley IMs -- they were mailed to NBC as a multimedia press kit by Cho himself.

As David Marshall notes above, NBC rewarded Cho.

Have you seen the UK tabloid headlines? Like the one with Cho aiming his pistol and locking eyes with the camera, accompanied by the headline THE LAST THING HIS VICTIMS SAW?

Posted by: Eazy on April 20, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

I think Cho's "press kit" should have been shown -- as previously noted, the jihadist-did-this conspiracy theories would have run amok if we had not seen him invoking Christ as his guide. It was news, and NBC had it in their possession. Did they sensationalize it for ratings? Of course. How new is this? We've had "yellow journalism" for over a century now.

Look, if you believe guns kill people, you try to control the guns. If you believe people kill people, you try to control the people. Any society is going to try both to some degree, but I'd rather try to control the sale of guns instead of the display of video.

Posted by: Diana on April 20, 2007 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Do not forget the other 13 individuals he shot as well.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

I do think that debunking conspiracy theories is one of the few benefits of the photos and video being released.

Posted by: Eazy on April 20, 2007 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Thirty-two people killed in Virginia because of a young man's mental illness:

THE NATION MOURNS.

Three hundred innocent Iraqi civilians killed because of George W. Bush's deliberate lies:

THE NATION YAWNS.

Posted by: Laff It Up on April 20, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

It's an emotional issue. No matter what anyone does, it will provoke an emotional response from one camp or another. The people that vehemently object to airing are likely different from people that would object to not airing. Neither is a large majority but a vocal minority.

Posted by: bakho on April 20, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

It might have been better to have the videos, pictures, and docs available on a website. But only provide a simple description about them on TV.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on April 20, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

How does broadcasting the rantings of someone who is clearly insane add to the understanding of this case? Have any of the talking heads heads in the bogosphere or in the MSM gleaned anything sensible from these materials, other than that this guy was clearly messed up? Does this shock anyone and what are we supposed to have learned? Can anyone here please explain to me why I'm better off having seen these horrific screeds?

If NBC spent had spent time actually considering the ramifications of releasing these materials other than the obvious effect on their bottom line, I suspect it would have taken them more than one night. What would it have cost them, other than ratings and ad revenue of course, to have waited a few days to at least give the families some time to mourn without seeing this stuff?

Posted by: Not_Right on April 20, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

What if these pictures were all about this idiot taking a crap and chewing the guts out of live cats?

Would Kevin be so sanguine in that case?

Posted by: cld on April 20, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Showing the video footage once or twice - the network can publicize the show times heavily - allows those viewers who want to watch and analyze a madman and does make sense. To show the footage over and over and over and over again is sensationalism.

The MSM is not about news or analysis - it's about making money and voyeurism. This reminds me of Hogarth's prints in the 1700s which depicted the fall of young men and women into prostitution and disease. While ostensibly educating, these images were legally permitted pornography. Showing the footage repeatedly is our equivalent.

Posted by: ml on April 20, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

If anyone's wondering what website would be appropriate, may I suggest the thepoorman.net: video of Cho next to Bin Laden next to McCain singing "bomb Iran."

draw your own conclusions.....

Posted by: Diana on April 20, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

I notice that Kevin put up two posts around midnight last night.

This one has generated over twice as many comments as the thread following the post about bailing on training Iraqis to "stand up" so Americans can stand down.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

You are not the only one who has not watched the video- I haven't either.

NBC could not have buried the video in any case, so it is OK that they broadcast it. People can decide whether they want to watch it or not.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 20, 2007 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

GC, it's not that this is the more important of those two stories, but I haven't seen many articles yet debating NBC's decision. Plus, it's not an issue that falls along partisan lines, so it's a good one to see debated here.

Posted by: Eazy on April 20, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to know why we have to understand "one of the biggest news stories of the year." An obviously deeply disturbed young man snapped and killed a lot of people. What more is there to understand about this? This so-called need to understand is the excuse that the media repeatedly uses to beat stories like this to death. And their interest has alot more to do with ratings than this supposed 'need.'

I won't participate in this media travesty and in this disgusting invasion of so many people's privacy, namely those who've lost a loved one. I haven't watched a second of news coverage nor read one news story about it. Count me out.

Posted by: kim on April 20, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

As usual, Mr Hypocrisy, BillO, while showing the tape over and over, was lamenting that the other networks were not showing the "Evil" from Iraq.

Well, Keith Olbermann regularly shows videos of the carnage from Iraq. While he is showing this, BillO is showing footage of his thugs going after some columnist who has disagreed with him, or the Mayor and her husband in Virginia Beach, or he has panels of supporters on to discuss Rosie or the "Evil" at NBC because of his feud with Olbermann. This is followed by segment after segment railing against any state which has not passed Jessica's Law - Or his segments of Body Language - When the war goes badly in Iraq, BillO Punts big time. One minute he states that we are winning, the next he criticizes others for not showing the carnage in Iraq.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Here's something the Cho videos do: they graphcally debunk the notion of shyness as an explanation or rationalization for a lack of social skills and un-communicativeness.

Hidden behind Cho's quite demeanor was a desperate, irrational cruelty fueled by mental illness. I will never again assume a "shy" person is just a gentle soul who needs to be drawn out with a little confidence-building.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I think a false dichotomy is being set up between 'not showing the stuff' and 'giving it a central place of prominence'. My complaint (shared by many I've talked to) is not that the media outlets played the videos and showed the pictures, but that they did so relentlessly for what seemed like 24 hours straight. On CNN it seemed to be playing on endless loop behind whatever else was going on. C'mon, folks, in the age of the internet you can just show it a few times, and then refer people to the web page. Not like Cho's stuff is going to be hard to find on the internet for years to come. On cnn.com they had a large version of the picture of Cho pointing a gun straight at the camera front-and-center on their page. Probably Cho would have been delighted with the coverage. It just seemed like a line was being crossed from 'reporting' to 'glamorizing'. Personally, I'd like to see pictures of the victims front-and-center, and maybe a clickable link to take you to Cho's crap, so that it's not being forced down your throat nonstop. Of course this is an emotional reaction, but aren't most reactions to this thing emotional?

Posted by: Shag on April 20, 2007 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK
If he was an active patient it could possibly violate HIPPA.

Okay, aside from the whole active patient issue, what could be a violation of HIPAA? Certainly not the release of the tape, since that was never health information protected by the privacy rule. Not the public release of the fact he was ordered committed by a court, which again is not protected health information.

Actual treatment information released by healthcare providers might be (even if he is not an "active" patient), but that's not what has been discussed in this thread.

I feel like I missed something, here.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK
Craigie: Exactly my point. I don't trust them, or anyone else. Stuff like this should be released, and individuals should then make their own decisions about whether or not to look at it. We really don't want to start down the path of news organizations withholding genuine news just because some people might find it "disturbing," do we?

“Start down the road”?

The “news” media already actively and openly does that; the business of the news media is to sell advertising dollars, and they do that by showing video that is titillating enough to keep viewers glued to the set, but not disturbing enough that advertiser's don't want to be associated with it.

We're already far down that road, for good or ill. And, heck, even with this tape, the selective release is yet another example of that.

We're certainly not at the point where it makes any sense to discuss whether we want to “start down the road” of the mainstream media filtering what is present by how disturbing it is, not merely how newsworthy it is.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK
2) whether NBC should've turned this stuff over to the authorities rather than turn it into event programming, and

NBC did turn it over to the authorities. After they had done so, and after discussion with the authorities over releasing it, they released selected portions of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

This one has generated over twice as many comments as the thread following the post about bailing on training Iraqis to "stand up" so Americans can stand down.

Oh, Iraq is old news in the progressive blog-o-sphere! The war is lost, you see. No WMD, Bush is a war criminal, Rummy is gone. The whole thing is a canard and why debate yesterday's conclusion that it's not about terrorism?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 20, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

They should have described his appearance and paraphrased his rant, but not given him a prime time commercial. After all, they don't show the 9/11 jumpers.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on April 20, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Er, many did show the jumpers, Wally old Courvosier indulgee.

And the difference between the two, once again, Wally, is what - Or, more importantly, trying to equate the two, is what, Wally?????

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

cm dicely - I agree with what you said about NBC. My question is this: What was the mechanism by which NBC broadcast all the stuff? They had the footage, pics, etc. immediately. My assumption has been that they copied everything before turning it over. But if this was a "total cooperation with law enforcement" case, they would not have made copies, they would have put the whole kit and kaboodle in a plastic bag the second they realized what it was; and if I were the cops, I wouldn't have been handing them copies THAT fast. I still lean to the copying before cooperating theory, what is your opinion?

Posted by: bmaz on April 20, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Had NBC decided not to show the tapes, you just know people like Pammy Atlas and the Power Line boys would be doing all kinds of wild speculation about him shouting "allahu akbar" or something, and accusing NBC of "dhimmitude".

Posted by: C.L. on April 20, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

>We really don't want to start down the path of news organizations withholding genuine news just because some people might find it "disturbing," do we?

When was the last time you saw footage of dead or wounded American soldiers in Iraq on the nightly news? Hell, when was the last time you saw a dead American soldier's flag-draped casket on the nightly news?


Posted by: zeke on April 20, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Here's something the Cho videos do: they graphcally debunk the notion of shyness as an explanation or rationalization for a lack of social skills and un-communicativeness.
Hidden behind Cho's quite demeanor was a desperate, irrational cruelty fueled by mental illness. I will never again assume a "shy" person is just a gentle soul who needs to be drawn out with a little confidence-building.

As someone pointed out earlier this week, shy, quiet people lacking social skills aren't exactly rarities among English majors at large universities, so for Cho to stand out like he did, he must have been uncommunicative and anti-social to an amazing degree. He wasn't your garden variety timid Piglet/Garrison Keillor-type Shy Person.


Posted by: C.L. on April 20, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I suppose the networks "had" to show the Cho video. But at least, it could be announced ahead of time, warned about, and never put up as intro material (if it ever was.) Just my two cents worth.

Posted by: Neil B. on April 20, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I want to make one last comment regarding the copycat issue.

It pisses me off to no end when people like Kevin, who make a living based on the premise that people's behavior is influenced by what they see (aka advertisements), unashamedly make the opposite argument when it comes to offering non-ad content, the sole purpose of which is to maximizing eyeballs viewing the revenue generating content ad content.

This is not just directed at Kevin. Everyone in the infotainment industry is afflicted with this mental illness.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

By withholding the full contents of the tapes under the guise of decency, NBC gets to control the flow and keep ratings high. Maybe that's too cynical a view.

Posted by: Sugar Cookie on April 20, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK
I agree with what you said about NBC. My question is this: What was the mechanism by which NBC broadcast all the stuff? They had the footage, pics, etc. immediately. My assumption has been that they copied everything before turning it over. But if this was a "total cooperation with law enforcement" case, they would not have made copies, they would have put the whole kit and kaboodle in a plastic bag the second they realized what it was; and if I were the cops, I wouldn't have been handing them copies THAT fast. I still lean to the copying before cooperating theory, what is your opinion?

I don't need a completely speculative theory, as there are already published accounts of what occurred: NBC Security opened the mail per network procedure, copied the contents, and notified management who directed that law enforcement authorities be notified; per law enforcement request, the originals were turned over to law enforcement.

See, for instance, here.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

From Wednesday's Richmond Times Dispatch:

". . Because he killed and injured so many people in so short a time, some speculated that Cho used high-capacity magazines containing as many as 33 rounds in each clip.

Glock magazines drop free from the bottom of the pistol's grip with the push of the release button.

Under the federal assault-weapons ban enacted in 1994, magazines were limited to 10 rounds. But that ban was allowed to expire in 2004."

-- Unfortunately, video clips repeated every 20 minutes showing our brave U.S. Senators letting federal assault weapon legislation die doesn't make for exciting news. This is one of the problems with MSM. They focus on what's senational, not necessarily what's important. Then they try to make it sound like the sensational is what's important.

I think the Cho video clips have their place, but we should not let a mentally deranged killer take our eyes off the bigger issues we all have an obligation to address as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 20, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think you have to look at this in context. Part of the issue is that we now have 24 hour news. I agree that the Zapruder film is important in understanding our history but if we had 24 hour news channels (and hundreds of them) when that was taken and it had been shown relentlessly (as the Cho video was) I'm sure there would be a reaction from the public (maybe there was, I was only 3). I think there is a place for editorial discretion/judgement. And in fact haven't we all been dismayed by the lack of judgement displayed by the media for quite some time now?

What worries me is I get no sense that the media even gave this any thought before they launched into a 24 hour Cho'athon. I'm with Shag on this. I don't think it was the content as much as it was the relentlessness of the coverage that became disturbing.

His parents are being protected by the Police, and from what I've heard being moved periodically to keep them safe. The videos could not have helped. My heart goes out to them.

Finally, I have to comment on the progression of explicit violent images we now see daily. In 15-20 years we have seen an increase in violent images in the media (specifically fictional tv) that I find very disturbing. I like a thriller as much as the next person and I don't believe in censorship but I'm amazed that we continue to accept this flood of violent imagery (and yes, I know we could turn the tv off). It makes me wonder if we've become desensitized to the point that those in the media chose to show the video and stills from Cho without really thinking twice about it?

Posted by: lianne16 on April 20, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK
I think the Cho video clips have their place, but we should not let a mentally deranged killer take our eyes off the bigger issues we all have an obligation to address as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Any obligation we have to address "bigger issues" predates the VT tragedy, the tragedy is a symptom of the fact that those issues have not been addressed, not the source of the obligation.

OTOH, I don't think that the attention given to the Cho videos would, in their absence, be redirected toward solving the problems, so I think that you are implicitly presenting a false conflict.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yes. All Urban Legend Actors make their bows to "the martyrs of Columbine", who happen to be butchers.

Such bullshit!!

Posted by: Scorpio on April 20, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"The MSM is not about news or analysis - it's about making money and voyeurism. This reminds me of Hogarth's prints in the 1700s which depicted the fall of young men and women into prostitution and disease. While ostensibly educating, these images were legally permitted pornography. Showing the footage repeatedly is our equivalent."
Posted by: ml on April 20, 2007 at 10:50 AM

Very thought-provoking posts. It got me to googling about and I found an interesting book:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusing_Ourselves_to_Death

A snip: "But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think."

The premise in the book seems to be that *video* (no matter what is *said*) boils down to nothing but entertainment.. there isn't much decent information at all. I think the over and overness of TV News spectacle is a way of satisfying people's morbid fascination with evil. A kind of projective demonization. TV as a demonization device.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 20, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think this whole controversy is silly. "NBC gave Cho what he wanted"? So what? The guy's dead, remember? It's not like he's getting any satisfaction out of this.

I did find the videos interesting, because every description of Cho made him seem almost a mute. Yet here he is on video ranting endlessly and expressing his violent thoughts. It did gve me a very different picture of him. And just because someone's seriously mentally ill doesn't mean their words have no meaning. He wasn't talking in tongues, after all. He was saying things like (paraphrasing) "you threw away a little boy." I found some of what he said compelling. As for making him famous, come on. Charles Whitman is still famous 40 years later. Do you really think Cho would fade into obscurity if only NBC hadn't shown the video? He's responsible for the largest deadly shooting spree in American history. It's the killings that made him famous, not NBC. And all of the criticism of NBC is't going to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

And what's with the notion that the release of the videos is only appropriate if we "learn" something? It's the news, not CSpan. All of this tripe about how venal NBC is is ridiculous. Of course they're venal. They're in business to make money. They certainly have an obligation to be responsible, but they're not a public service organization.

Finally, while I certainly have sympathy for the VT community and the victim's loved ones, they're really not the ones who should be dictating how this story is covered. I see statements like "the focus shouldn't be on Cho,it should be on the victims." Respectfully, I have to disagree. The families and loved ones should focus on the victims. But the sad reality is, for the most part they are randomly selected actors in this event. If it wasn't one person, it could have been the person at the next desk, or in the next classroom. Why doe everyone in the country have to know every fact about each of the victim's lives? Certainly, we should know who they are, and mourn their passing, but they're not the news. I know this sounds callous, but that's the way it is. I truly believe that the reason a lot of people around the country (as opposed to people who actually knew the victims) think we should focus on the victims is because they feel it makes them vicariously involved in the event. As I read about the victims, I am saddened, which makes me a part of the whole process. Why is repeatedly focusing on the victms any less ghoulish than focusing on Cho? And what do we "learn" by focusing on the victims? That they were young and full of life and didn't deserve to die? I had that much figured out the first day. I just saw a sidebar on the CNN site asking readers "How are you honoring the victims?" How is that any less exploitative than NBC airing the videos?

Posted by: ChrisO on April 20, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

My God - I agree with both Kevin and Dunky. I'm going to go lie down.

Posted by: Brian on April 20, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK
The premise in the book seems to be that *video* (no matter what is *said*) boils down to nothing but entertainment.. there isn't much decent information at all.

I'd say that's largely, though not entirely, true. You don't absorb information by being totally immersed the way protracted TV experience makes you; you absorb information by receiving and reflecting on it. Video, generally, compared to text, loses informational value and gains emotional impact (not necessarily entertainment: intimidation or any other emoitonal impact is possible).

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Besides, unless I miss my guess, the same people who are yelling the loudest right now would be yelling even louder if investigators announced the existence of the material but then refused to allow anyone to see it. Right?"

What are you trying to do, put the profane and publicity starved out of work?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 20, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

ChrisO wrote: "NBC gave Cho what he wanted"? So what? The guy's dead, remember? It's not like he's getting any satisfaction out of this.

Sure he is. He's watching his video clips on a huge plasma TV in Hell. They show Fox News there 24x7.

Posted by: Laff It Up on April 20, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Did anyone perchance see the president's press conference today? He said he was authorizing a commission to determine what to do with what he called -- I shit you not -- "dangerously unstoppable people".

I don't know about you, but I actually feel better already.

Not from anything he said, mind you, but rather while watching him on TV this morning, I suddenly felt compelled to do break out the bong.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 20, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Brain Williams has a post on the Huffinton Post about NBC's decision, and a few of the comments that follow are the most insightful and articulate arguments I've read yet about the network's decision.

Posted by: Eazy on April 20, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK
Did anyone perchance see the president's press conference today?

No.

He said he was authorizing a commission to determine what to do with what he called -- I shit you not -- "dangerously unstoppable people".

I have a sense that the forthcoming plan to stop the unstoppable will involve us all futiley sacrificing some of our freedoms.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

How about making the info accessible online but not giving publicity to the murderer. It is akin to NOT showing the idiot who runs on the field during a sporting event. Not making the visual images default to wallpapering in the media will not give the next insane murderer the belief that his message will reach all.

Posted by: QTIP on April 20, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

You're right, cmdicely. Shyness will no longer be tolerated in American society. Personality tests will abound. Did you see the comment above which said he will no longer assume shy people are just 'gentle' souls but possibly psychotic killers? I'm in trouble if this is the message everyone takes from this, including Dear Leader.

Posted by: nepeta on April 20, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK
How about making the info accessible online but not giving publicity to the murderer.

If it is available online, it'll show up on YouTube or filesharing networks or in email attachments to people, get just as much publicity if its on TV, the only difference is that TV "news" programs will have to find something else emotionally gripping to fill the airtime between commercials with.

Well, until they start filling the time with people emoting about how shocking it is that the shocking video is shockingly being passed around on the internet. Probably while showing clips of the video, etc., just so that people understand how shocking the material is that is being passed around on the internet, even though the TV news had the restraint not to show it.

You certainly aren't going to reduce the "publicity" received that way, or make the next killer think they won't get publicity.

The problem is not the media. The "problem", inasmuch as there is one, is that, in fact, people do respond to mass tragedies, and when they find out about the killers notes, etc., do want to see them out of innate, perhaps morbid, curiosity. So, inherently, killing lots of people, is, in fact, an effective way to get people to pay attention to you, if only posthumously, and there is very little the media can do to prevent that without simply paternalistically destroying information that people would be interested in, "for the public good".

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have tv-hookup so I gladly missed the show. But I did watch some of the video on WaPo's site. I only watched Cho once. That was enough. I can't imagine watching it over and over on the razzmatazz of TV.

It was fascinating to watch him. He came across as a grade-C actor reading his lines poorly. Every now and then, he'd glance at his manifestor and seemed to remind himself to "show that I'm mad".

Sad.

A few students at VPI said it comforted them to see how he planned this over time. One student said she felt better knowing he hadn't "just snapped".

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on April 21, 2007 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

trouble if this is the message everyone takes from this, including Dear Leader.

I have already had visions of penal/mental institutions filled with political discontents, just in case. I think having a debate about how to prevent people who may be a danger because of some emotional expression instead of an actual aggressive behavior is very dangerous. It becomes a way to justify locking up people who have committed no crimes. There are people who need to be protected from themselves or are demonstrably dangerous to others and they should have easy access to care outside of the penal system. It is that lack of access for mental illness that needs to be addressed.

Posted by: Brojo on April 21, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Robert on April 30, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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