Friday, April 20, 2007

The Tapes of Wrath

"The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage."

-- Chuck Palahniuk

I want my soul back.

Over the years, the television news business has made me feel many ways -- exhilarated, proud, honored, embarrassed, enlightened, trivial, angry, frustrated, even ashamed on more than one occasion. It has never, however, made me feel dirty -- until now.

This overwhelming need that I have at the moment to crawl into a shower and desperately attempt to rinse the corruption and sickness off of my skin stems from one simple fact: the images that are currently plastered all over every television network and newspaper in America -- the photos and homemade video of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui -- should never have seen the light of day. Neither you, nor I, nor the families of the victims, nor anyone aside from FBI investigators should have ever laid eyes on any of it.

I'm well aware that there are some who would consider this a dereliction of duty on my part -- an abandonment of my unspoken vow to dispassionately satisfy the public's insatiable right to know, no matter the cost or consequence.

You know something? I couldn't fucking care less.

On Wednesday afternoon, NBC News made a decision that, if there's any justice in the universe whatsoever, will be remembered as the singular event that obliterated its once-hallowed reputation, got its smug, hypocritical prick of a president Steve Capus deported to a deserted island and brought 30 Rock crashing to the ground.

Through a thought process that I can't even begin to comprehend, nor would I even wish to be able to, NBC chose to give a final posthumous forum to the psychotic, self-obsessed and thoroughly delusional kid who took thirty-two innocent lives out of some ridiculously inflated sense of aggrievement for a supposed lifetime of persecution. The network's news executives put prurience ahead of prudence and in doing so rubbed the faces of the victims' families into the very dirt used to bury their loved ones -- they did it by seeing to it that everywhere those families turned, they would stare into the same cold eyes that their terrified sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives saw the instant before they died.

Understand, as a veteran of this business I've always been of the opinion that news must be taken at face value -- that the potential fallout, positive or negative, from running a legitimate story should rarely, if ever, be taken into account when deciding whether or not to go to air with that story. I've sat in meeting after meeting in which the news value of an item was weighed against its potential impact. I've listened to executive after executive rationalize the choice to run a questionable news item in the hope of hiding from others and possibly even themselves the tawdriness of their true motives. I've done it myself on more than one occasion.

I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, that this is exactly what Capus and company did on Wednesday when presented with a story, the spectacular sensationalism of which was matched only by its complete lack of any real value to the public. NBC's news department heads received a gift from the gods, via the mail, and they'd be damned if they weren't going to run with it -- no matter what kind of moral somersaults they might have to perform to justify the decision.

So run with it they did -- splashing Cho Seung-Hui's contorted face and idiotic ramblings across the airwaves with all the subtlety of gang-bang porn.

As if on cue from the network's PR department, Steve Capus himself took to NBC's airwaves soon after to assure America that he had personally wrestled long and hard with the leviathan ethical dilemma presented by such a story before valiantly pinning his conscience to the mat and forcing it to tap out. The hysterical irony was that it marked Capus's second such appearance on one of his own networks' news programs in two weeks: the last time was when he bombastically asserted the moral authority of himself and his network by dropping Don Imus, who had merely insulted, rather than gunned down a group of college students.

Let me repeat that in simpler terms: make a cruel comment about a bunch of kids and you're not worthy to have a forum on NBC; stalk through the halls shooting kids in cold blood and NBC will give you all the time you'd like to speak your mind.

No matter the bullshit ethical loopholes Capus continues to try to squeeze through, one need only look at the video itself for NBC's true motivation to become crystal clear. There, burned into the top left-hand corner of every frame of tape and every still image of Cho posing with his weapons of choice is the NBC News logo -- complete with peacock. It's been put there as an almost juvenile (given the subject matter) assertion of ownership -- a figurative tongue protruding in the direction of every news organization that NBC knew would fair-use the material.

It's the best and easiest form of promotion imaginable -- promotion the network hopes will turn into ratings which will turn into dollars for NBC/Universal shareholders and a big bonus for Capus.

And lest there be any lingering doubt that the network knew from the beginning that it was stepping over the line, Brian Williams basically admitted as much during a conversation with imbecilic talking-head Chris Matthews on MSNBC Wednesday night -- saying that he was well aware that by airing even a portion of Cho's manifesto, NBC was bestowing upon the killer the martyrdom he had hoped to achieve. The reason he had killed -- the reason he had mailed the tape to a television network to begin with -- was because he wanted to be heard loud and clear, and NBC was more than happy to oblige him that opportunity.

Satisfying the motives of a murderer should've been reason enough for NBC to refuse to air such an obscenely stupid diatribe. The only argument that can ever be made -- the one mitigating factor -- in favor of giving a killer what he wants is the threat of further violence, and Cho wasn't the Zodiac; he had already seen to it that he would never kill again.

The morning after the network made its contemptibly immoral decision -- one which opened the floodgates for every other news organization in the world to follow suit, as the genie was out of the bottle by that point -- the families of two of the shooting victims canceled their scheduled appearances on the Today Show, citing a very understandable level of bitter outrage. Whether that was enough to hammer home the culpability of the network in the continued emotional torture of these poor people, who knows; it would be nice to believe though that behind the walls of 30 Rock and its bastard stepchild MSNBC -- the nicest warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey -- someone somewhere was considering the throwing of himself upon a sword for the unforgivable crime of dishonoring what's always been a strictly above-the-board news operation.

I knew none of the victims personally, and yet I grieve for them. As someone who's always allowed myself the comfort of detached analysis, and an occasional moral relativism which is the natural by-product of it, I don't often see subjects in terms of absolutes. Things are rarely black or white, right or wrong, good or evil; there's typically an abundance of gray area in between which demands to be taken into account.

Not this time.

I feel for the families of the victims. I feel for the victims themselves -- all of whom were guilty of nothing more than waking up and going to class on an otherwise typical Monday morning. I imagine their terror when confronted with their cold and methodical executioner. I place the life of Max Turner against the life of Cho Seung-Hui -- what he chose to become -- and it's not even worthy of comparison; it's innocence versus guilt -- life versus death. Not one of those thirty-two people deserved to die, certainly not at the whim of a craven fucking coward who needed to lock them all in and mercilessly gun them down to achieve whatever narcissistic sense of authority he felt life was denying him. Anyone who demands respect from behind a gun is spineless to begin with; a person who demands it from an unarmed kid who's cowering on the floor in front of him, begging for his or her life -- just before shooting that terrified kid three times -- is a worthless piece of shit.

Make no mistake: I would wink at the devil and gladly accept a lifetime in hell just for the sheer, unadulterated joy of having been able to take Cho Seung-Hui's skull and smash it against the concrete floor until there was nothing left of it.

Someone should've put a fucking bullet in that kid before he ever had the chance to destroy so many innocent lives.

I don't care what his twisted reasoning was or who had beat him up back in high school, there's simply no excuse for what he did.

Just like there's no excuse for complicity in the elevation of his act to the martrydom he had hoped it would be seen as by the next sociopathic kid with a gun and a grudge.

Believe me, that kid's already out there somewhere -- and he's thinking that he can kill thirty-three.


Sara said...

I love you, Chez. You couldn't be more correct in your condemnation of the sensationalism addiction suffered from by today's media. The fact that you've been in the trenches of the business give your highly intelligent, eloquently written opinions all the credibility in the world.

Anonymous said...

Hey - thanks for this. I've built up a similar tolerance to yours for this kind of tragedy, but the combination of your last two posts have made me literally ill. I knew a lot of the kids at VT, and I can't believe they and their parents have to watch this shit. They had martyr videos in Palestine, but the Israeli networks never aired them for us to see, you know? I can't believe this is how it is here.

slouchmonkey said...

You're piece about Max was really moving. I too explored some of the myspace pages. Difficult, to say the least. Max, floored me. When I heard what Capus and NBC did, I wanted to go through a fucking wall! This fuck, Cho, needed something. And Capus, gave him the glory he so craved.

I'd spit in the devil's fucking eye as I ripped out Cho's throat. Cock sucker! The rage!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Well, now you're angry.

The labeling has always been disgusting. The "we were there" type slogans attached to 9/11 were all a vain attempt to capture the twisted sense of import originally attached to Walter Cronkite after the Kennedy assassination; They all want to be "that".

Unfortunately, they have no real sense of self, so they seek to re-create the spirit of the event that created the original, and they mime - the tone, the cadence, the false dead-pan loss for words -Becoming a terrible twisted effigy to a place in the past they all desperately want for themselves.

Let go of Cho. He was pathetic, no more sypathetic a character than a runaway train, and he's gone. Instead, let's focus on letting go of the pain of having someone plugged and unplugged from our mind in a moment when our curiosity got the better of us.

Goodbye, Max.

Leigh said...

When I heard Cho's voice on N-fucking-PR of all things, I felt not only ill, but also a deep and inexpressable outrage and the fact that this sick, sad little boy had in fact been given everything he wanted in return for his crime. Thank you for expressing that outrage for me and for everyone else who felt it too. Your blog is one of my favorites.

Alex said...

I'll admit I'm a bit torn on this issue. The fact that Cho gets the stage he never wanted in real life is disturbing. On the other hand, I can't completely fault NBC for airing parts of his rant. In the video we all get the answer to the question of why this kid killed all these people. You can see with your own eyes that Cho was crazy. It would have been braver for NBC to say no but that would go against the nature of journalism. Since the Kennedy assassination (when Lee Harvey Oswald was given the public stage to declare he was a patsy) this sort of thing has happened. Even security camera video of the Columbine killings came to light a few years after that horrible day. It is the nature of the beast.

All this reminds me of a conversation I had with a producer back in the days when I worked in TV news. We were debating the merits of a story and whether it was newsworthy. I can't remember the specific story because in the grand scheme it was meaningless - and that was the crux of my argument. Why are we doing this story when in the end it helps no one and only serves to fill up valuable time that can be devoted to a more important but not-as-sexy piece? "Because we have video" was the answer. I walked away knowing I could never get through to this individual. Add this to the many reasons I decided to leave the news business a couple of years later.

I AM disturbed that someone at the Grand Peacock home base thought it was a good idea to smack the NBC NEWS logo on the footage for posterity. It certainly was no "scoop" for them. The tape was delivered to their door without them even asking for it. They get no points (but points to the post office for delivering the package despite a wrong address and ZIP code). And the fact that every other news organization has played and re-played the video is just as reprehensible as NBC airing it in the first place.

Manny said...

I haven't seen the video, and I don't feel a need to. It's plainly obvious that whomever would commit such a vile act is 31 flavors of crazy. No video, drawing, diagram or flow chart is gonna convince me that he was a anything other than batshit insane.

The only thing that would have floored me is an anchor's flat out refusal to be a part of any news organization that woult take part in fulfilling the last wish of a madman. But, as we have seen, that isn't about to happen.

Thank you, Chez, for giving voice once again to the thoughts and feelings we all share.

I can only hope that the eternity he spends in whatever hell he believed in is spent being tormented, gunned down, locked in a classroom.

Anonymous said...

wonderful article. I'm glad people are writing about the absurdity of our sensationalist media. It makes me sick.

Aaron said...

Quite possibly one of the most perfectly written blogs I have ever read. Thank you for stating what so many of us feel but aren't eloquent enough to write.

TK said...

I haven't seen the video, or the pictures, nor have I read anything about him. I'm going through what I always go through when a tragedy of this sort happens. That is, total and complete media withdrawal. I stop watching, I stop reading, and instead spend my spare moments reading books, playing with my dogs, and holding on to my wife. I know the events, and I mourn the losses. But I neither need nor want to have the story overtake every corner of my life.

It's why I stopped watching televised news, any televised news, shortly after Columbine. I cannot abide how media vultures circle the bodies anymore, and I refuse to give them any more of my life.

Greg the Surly, Cleveland, Ohio said...

Dear Media,

Congratulations; you've out done yourself. In a time when the world is at war against an ememy that believes suicide and the mass killing of innocents is one of the most glorious acts of self sacrifice, you've found a way to capitalize locally. One of the sickest and saddest events in our country, and you've taken the opportunity to help a murderer accomplish his mission by plastering his picture and manifesto everywhere. I wonder how much NBC made by selling these images to other networks eagerly grasping for coat tails? You may not be an accomplice to this crime, but by giving the sick and twisted a platform and their own version of American Idol, you should be held accountable in the future. Every form of media is covered with the picture and the number of lives he's taken. Thats good for your business though, isn't it? You claim to have carefully weighed the decision to share the images; but obviously this wasn't on a moral scale, nor common sense. Sadly, the only scale I can see that would support this decision would be a finacial scale. The next time you recieve a package like this, I hope you realize that it was your actions that glorified this atrocity; and that no matter how twisted, you'd gladly share their message if the body count sells. He wasn't the news, he was a sick and troubled person who's incoherent (in your words) ramblings offered nothing to the masses, and more pain to those already suffering. You've provided other attention seekers hope, that if enough people die, they too can be heard by everyone. I hope at that time, you will be judged as an accomplice, because thats exactly where you've placed yourself.

Jay said...

I agree that NBC should bear the brunt of this shame but as Chez mentioned this phenomenon is/was spread across many agencies and mediums. I had to spend a few days adblocking this fuck's picture just to surf the web. NBC had a chance to nip it in the bud but they chose dollars instead over humanity. I can't say with certainty that FOX,ABC or CBS wouldn't have carried on in a similar way. To potential sick fucks: if you feel the need to go on a killing spree start with yourself.

Bob said...

I read this and wonder: Why such a discourse on "feeling dirty" is filled with coarseness and profanity. Might it not be a good idea to encourage civil discourse and more precise language to replace the cheap and vulgar?

Anonymous said...

How would the sanctimonious president of NBC news would feel if one of HIS kids had been on the list of victims? A heroic teacher died saving his class and all NBC can think of is rating$?!

Ryan said...

I just wanted to leave you a line letting you know that not only to do I agree with your sentiment but also that I find your writing extemely captivating. I found myself very a blog....rarely does that happen. So, thanks for this

Anonymous said...

Here's a question - did you bring up your dissent to your network bosses? I am sure you did not.

It's easy to rail against the corrupt establishment from the comforts of your tiny posh Upper East Side pad - but not to say anything to the people that make the decisions - WHEN YOU HAVE THEIR EAR - is just being a weasel.

I'm not saying quit your job - or piss people off - just make as eloquent of a point to someone who can change things - instead of to a bunch of synchophant blog watchers that love to kiss your ass.

You're a good writer, for sure, but you don't live your convictions. You just talk. And talk. And talk.


Chez said...

Sorry Bob -- the answer to your question is, "No."

There's nothing civil or dignified about my anger, nor is any intended. Sometimes it's necessary to take the gloves off to fully express yourself -- and as far as I'm concerned, using "profanity" in no way detracts from the point I'm trying to make.

Besides, who says "fuck" is profane?

If it was good enough for Lenny Bruce...

I do appreciate the comment though.

Daverocks said...

Normally I enjoy your posts and as a fellow journalist, agree with your viewpoints, but on this matter I don't. I firmly believe all information should be made available to everyone, even if some might find it vile or disturbing. If that's how you feel, simply don't watch.
Yes, Cho was a disgusting piece of shit who should have shot himself first, but not making his tape available isn't going to bring any of the 32 innocent people back. By releasing this tape, the public can begin to comprehend how something like that can happen and how important it is to help people like Cho, who was so obviously in need of serious professional counselling.
And why don't people express the same outrage whenever Osama Bin Laden or any other Al Quada fuckhead releases a tape? They've killed thousands and are still free to plot more deaths... Once we start "deciding" what is or isn't moral, the slope become very slippery indeed. And who "decides" what we do and don't get to see?
Very well written though.

Anonymous said...

I think you're a dick...

Chez said...

John, John, John...

Of course I brought it up to my superiors -- eloquently -- and you can see how much good it did. I do remember mentioning somewhere in this column that once the genie was out of the bottle, all bets were off. That initial decision was NBC's and NBC's alone.

That said though, I'm loving the irony of you calling me names and questioning my integrity from behind the safety of a keyboard and a generic name -- when you could very easily confront me at work with this kind of thing.

Hate to sound like a ten-year-old here, but, say it to my face -- otherwise your criticism is, as you said, worthless.

Who's the weasel?

Chez said...

Anonymous -- you're right, I am a dick.

VOTAR said...

Well as you know, my friend, this time we've turned up on opposite sides of this issue (and I do not diminish my sense of astonishment at that!). I say this with full appreciation of the fact that I have no knowledge of the workings of the "news industry," such as it is, other than my long association with you.

I'm eager to repeat some of what you and I have discussed privately since we now have this post to broaden the participation in it. I've given up on my own attempt to post on the shooting incident because it is simply too visceral an event, and too heavy with emotional implications, for me to find any words to add; you've done so more than eloquently. I try to keep VOTAR SAYS upbeat, with the occasional smattering of seriousness; but this time I am simply overwhelmed, and rendered mute.

That having been said, let me raise a few observations for everyone's benefit. First, you are making several arguments simultaneously, the supportive structures of which are getting a bit jumbled up, because of course this is a powerful emotional issue for you. You've combined two assertions: 1) NBC should not have aired the tapes at all, and 2) NBC should be called out for the cynical attempt to garner self-promotion by airing them FIRST, with their logo slapped on to boot. Now, I appreciate that they were in a unique position to air them first, since they were in sole posession of them from the start, and were therefore the linchpin that sets the rest in motion (I can't imagine, however, that NBC is somehow uniquely deserving of criticism for doing EXACTLY what any of the other outlets would have done). I'll also stipulate that the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality of modern day news is repulsive, and in some cases, absolutely immoral. I'll further stipulate that I agree, wholeheartedly, that a network that can UNAPOLOGETICALLY put the killer of 32 people on display to the horror of the families and friends of the victims, a week after crushing the career of an employee who, in fact, insulted no one within the sound of his voice, and from which an APOLOGY was deemed insufficient, is utterly and irredeemably contemptible.

I'm compelled to ask, though, even assuming that there was a prurient motive to bump the ratings by "breaking" the manifesto first... in what material, measurable way has NBC news benefited by releasing it? Specifically? Can you demonstrate that the DIRECT result of this decision was a ratings bonanza, and a financial windfall for the corporate stockholders (as some of the commentors have suggested)? Within seconds of its release, every other network certainly had it. Every internet blog had it minutes after that. The impact on NBC certainly has been anything but positive ever since, and that impact has everything to do with the raw-ness of the emotional component than with the contentof the material itself. We need to remember, we are not being assaulted with as-it-happened raw footage of 32 murders; we are being shown the incoherent and pathetic ramblings of a disturbed young man playing an imaginary character he invented to make himself look and sound scary, who also committed mass murder later, and off-camera.

Which leads me to my next point. The families of Cho's victims are justifiably horrified that this material is available for the rest of us to watch, and although I can't relate to their pain, I sympathize with them. That seeing this person's face must hurt them, is something I can't refute. But I'm not sure how insulating them from this very real and very relevent component of their ordeal will make their situation any better. Unless the almighty goes all Book of Job on every one of them, I don't see how their situation gets any worse. Insult-added-to-injury aside, Cho's manifesto is the news. Period. The tapes and photos and journals exist as a historical document and as a piece of the tapestry of this event, in exactly the same way the Zapruder film is now part of American history, as is every frame of every angle of the coverage of 9/11 (among many other awful, grisly images we now use to teach school children about our history). They MUST exist, and be considered thoughtfully, free of the trappings of emotional baggage. Yes, there is decorum, and common sense, and basic human decency, as necessary components that news directors and editors have to grapple with to make these decisions (I hope). But -- and this is just my opinion -- I feel more comfortable knowing that I've been kept more informed about an important event such as this, than I would be to know that there are certain esoteric facts that some faceless executive has decided is not in my interest to learn. I would be outraged to learn some time later that there was (literally, "first hand eye witness") documentation of this event that had been kept in someone's desk drawer at NBC.

And that, I think, is the value of putting this information on display (to answer the question I know you are asking, "what possible good can come of this?"). Well, whether we want to settle for inadequate labels like "good" and "bad," these images and words are "informative." Mental health professionals will have one more resource to draw upon to help them develop profiles of people who may degenerate into this kind of evil. Students, parents, teachers, employers, and society at large, may come out of this better prepared to recognise the warning signs of mental illness, that the people in Cho's life saw, failed to recognise properly, and didn't do enough about.

Yes, you absolutely make this information available to the public. You must.

The American fixation on sensationalism may taint this with an aura of filthiness, and make you want to shower it off, but there must remain, procedurally at least, an absolute level of objectivity by journalists when it comes to presenting the COMPLETE truth (not just the parts of the truth that are feely-goody). That we collectively have an obsession with the gratuitous, is each person's demon to wrestle with. This isn't Pam and Tommy's sex tape; this isn't al-Jazeera broadcasting the decapitation of Daniel Pearl, this is a major step in the direction of a possible explanation of what happened, which has the advantage of being delivered directly from the mouth and mind of the perpetrator himself. Is it offensive? There could not be an argument otherwise, of course. Is it gratuitous? Is it exploitive? Of that I'm not so sure. There is no crime being committed on those tapes. Just a lot of bad poetry. If that's where the bar is set, get Jack Thompson on the phone right away. Several posts ago, you argued that "To my knowledge, the only forbidden [speech] is that which is either false or incites violence." If you can honestly argue that this is a psycho killer instruction manual, you and the PMRC have a lot of work ahead of you. Slayer's ode to Ed Gein, "Dead Skin Mask," may inspire a kidnapping someday, and those guys should be held accountable, in advance, for giving some lunatic the idea.

Ok...sorry for that bad attempt at a little levity, but I kind of needed it there. Either way, this leads me to the next point. It has been stated that a major, if not singular reason, to prohibit the airing of the "Cho Manifesto," is to prevent his martyrdom, to deny him a platform post mortem, and to reduce the possibility of copy-cats.

Is there anything about the coverage of Cho's crime that portrays him as anything other than pathetic and revolting? I've seen NOTHING to suggest the use of words like "glorifying" in relation to what he did. I mean, SHIT, his own family hates him, and they now have to live in seclusion in fear for their own lives, not to mention the irrationality of the idea being spread by many that South Koreans in general should be treated with suspicion. But Cho was
pathetic and revolting and demented long before he turned on the camera, and he was Korean whether or not he made a videotape, and whether or not NBC aired it. That he will be forever remembered as the worst single-event mass-murderer on a college campus (until the next one) is unavoidable, and again not reliant upon the existence of his manifesto.

I don't remember whether Dillon Klebold or Eric Harris made any sort of manifesto (some cheezy videos, if I recall). But I'll bet my next paycheck, that every person who just read that knows exactly who they were, and what they did, without me having to type the word.

Pop quiz: name any five of their victims.

We remember the villains, and we forget the victims. Sadly, that is a fact (and kudos to you Chez for doing what you can to attempt otherwise in this case). The barbarism of their crimes is why they are remembered, not their dorm room confessionals.

As to whether he's been given a platform?

News flash. He's dead.

As for the possibility of copycats, I believe that will happen no matter what. There will be more school shootings in this world's future; get ready for them. At some point, there will be one with a higher death toll than this one. Be prepared for it. This will happen with no regard for the existence or broadcast of one killer's bizarre ideas. Cho's verbal diatribe makes no sense, it doesn't address a coherent grievance, there is no identifiable audience for which it is intended, and makes no intelligible statement that the next sad little nerd with a grudge (and a gun) won't already be eager to make on his own. The body count to beat -- assuming that's now a benchmark worth establishing -- is 32, whether or not the last guy made a pathetic video taped confession. If anything, the only thing this encourages, is more pathetic video taped confessions.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent, and open up the conversation a little more.

Much love, Chez. Tu sabe te quiero.

girl with curious hair said...

This is what pisses me off about the 'sincere' emotions TV personalities portray. Are they really saddened and horrified by what's going on? Or is it new fodder for the news cycle. How touched are the likes of Brian Williams when they stand victims of a campus shooting in front of a camera ON THE DAY HE WAS SHOT, and ask him what he remembers.

This isn't even sensationalistic any more. It's porn of greed and violence, with a sprinkle of fake sympathy for the victims and their families to make it feel less dirty.

Anonymous said...

One question I am not asking myself, post-tragedy, is "why?". Cho answered that loud and clear, and yet the very reason it all happened is our first emotional defense after the fact.

Start listening, start paying attention, and start trying to help, rather than bitch about the problem and how you don't approve of how it was handled.

This kid tried to reach out with several calls for help, but was either rejected, denied, belittled, or made to feel unwanted every time he tried.

And now, now we weep because another faceless, voiceless loser decided to make his point in a way we couldn't ignore.

Chez said...

I'm so goddamned sick of that excuse.

Anonymous said...

I understand that you're sick of it. Humanity is a gross, disgusting thing that feeds upon the death of it's own. Accepting that the world turned it's back on this kid would including at least partial responsibility for his actions. Every kid that was shunned or picked on in school could turn into what Cho did.

I'm not saying that what he did was justified in any way. I think it's horrible and have been physically ill since first word. However, I am not a hypocrite in wondering *why* it happened while simultaneously blasting the flow of information giving me that very answer.

Seek and ye shall find. Is there a term limit post-disaster now? How many Columbine documentaries have we watched? And why? The footage and material contained within is EXACTLY what we're dealing with here. However, because we waited a couple of years post-tragedy, we're more prepared to accept it. Very much, "oh, I remember that...what a tragedy...let's watch".

I, however, don't have to puss out when it comes to my news. I don't need a grieving grace period before finally getting my questions answered. I firmly believe in having the choice of learning what I want to know when it's available to me.

But if you'd rather wait on the 90min TV movie, be my guest.


Anonymous said...

Through a thought process that I can't even begin to comprehend, nor would I even wish to be able to, NBC chose to give a final posthumous forum to the psychotic, self-obsessed and thoroughly delusional kid who took thirty-two innocent lives out of some ridiculously inflated sense of aggrievement [sic] for a supposed lifetime of persecution.

See, this is where I stopped reading... I agree that's what NBC is doing is terribly wrong and immoral, but the reasons are very clear to me. NBC is a business, and it makes a crapload of money when it has exclusives, especially on big stories like this one. Is that really hard to comprehend?

Cheryl said...

Hey, Chez... Ignore the people who said, "I stopped reading", or criticize your article. It's brilliant.

VOTAR said...


"crapload of money?"


I still don't get this angle that virtually everyone has fixated on. Someone please point me to a report that details the specific benefit bestowed upon NBC (is it still general electric?...what, since every TV and every computer runs on electricity, letting EVERY NETWORK AND EVERY WEBSITE have access to this "exclusive" material somehow funnels all that electricity bill money into their pockets or something?)

Jen said...

Good post Chez.

Cheryl Robbins said...

Hey "anonymous" (hopefully you know which one it is)...

There isn't, nor can there be a "why" to this incident.

I was picked on and beat up in high school on a pretty regular basis. "Normal" kids are relentless when they realize that someone has under-developed social skills. It's a part of life. If you're not naturally born with these skills, by god, everyone will be intent on teaching you the hard way. That's how kids learn to interact, learn what is and what is not appropriate.

There will always be nerds, and there will always be bullies. No quantity of "bully bills" or "sensitivity training" is going to change that. People are primal; adults have learned to hide it because they've discovered that good things come to them from societal cooperation. Kids haven't learned that yet, and it takes time.

People like to look at things like this, and blame our current culture. Do not victimize this murderer. By doing so, you are cheapening the gravity of someone murdering thirty-two people, and disrespecting the people he killed. No matter what these "bullies" did to this little bastard, they sure as hell didn't kill him and thirty-two other people. Let's remember what the greater evil is here. He is not worth a sample of my morning stool, and should be buried upside down.

You say you do not need your news "watered down". I think this means that you have a pretty broad interpretation of what is "news". Britany Spears shaving her head is not news. It's entertainment current events. The Sadam Hussein hanging video isn't news. It's smut. This video is a different breed of smut, but it's still smut.

Radio and television are about shock value. The more shocked we are, the higher the ratings. That's why Ellen kissed a woman in her sitcom, why Howard Stern still has a career, and why "Real TV" even exists. The only reason people want to see this sort of thing is to satisfy those primal sadistic urges that they never completely got rid of.

Anonymous said...

As a viewer and consumer of news, I'd rather be told the truth and shown the information no matter how horrible or offensive it may be. For those who don't like it - don't watch it. These are not excuses, but my opinions: The video and manifesto advanced the story and showed very cleary he was severly ill (and raises questions about the Virginia mental health system). I have not seen any evidence that NBC gained larger ratings or profit from the release. Once we start choosing what is too offensive or 'out of bounds' for news (Imus is not news, it was an entertainment show) what is next? Like speech, news will show us things we don't want to see or hear - but it is better than censorship. I know everything is much MUCH more complex than I have stated - and I personally could have done without some of the images shown. Just look at the Columbine interviews with the parents that was just put under seal for 20 YEARS! Who wants it unsealed..the media you about the parents of the dead. Those impacted by a tragedy and the public may never get all the answers, but cutting off or denying the flow of information is a dangerous slope.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that someone who says tht tey would gladly have murdered this kid himself then immediately turns around and condems the media that merely showed a video the public would have demanded to see. Such a hypocrite. How is your act of proposed violence justified, but merely putting a video on TV, which people do not have to watch, a mortal sin? The fact that you even have a blog shows that you crave attention as much, or more than Cho. I see you as no different and certainly no better.

Anonymous said...

You write everything I am thinking, only articulate it in a way I never could. I made this argument the other day, and was shocked by how many people disagreed with me. (People who work with me. People who are about to become Producers. People who have no right to wield that kind of power.)

The best part was this: (Not to quote you back to yourself, but yeah... I am.)
"make a cruel comment about a bunch of kids and you're not worthy to have a forum on NBC; stalk through the halls shooting kids in cold blood and NBC will give you all the time you'd like to speak your mind."

Jayne said...

To Cheryl Robbins:

I wasn't going to post a comment on this article, as obviously I think Chez is brilliant, sensitive, creative, and insightful... (I married him)

but your comment really hit me; you are dead-on. I keep discussing this story with friends and co-workers, and the one point that I keep bringing up is that I, too, was a "loner," and I knew many others that were as well. I knew kids that fit that sterotype... weren't socially graceful, were introverted, dressed/said/did the wrong thing all the time... etc. And in the years since, every single one of them (including myself, I'm proud to say) has become a well-adjusted productive adult. (and hopefully quite attractive- at least myself!)

we all go through awkward phases; that's part of life. this kid wasn't just one of those awkward "loners," he was seriously messed up. I have every belief that it had nothing to do with his heritage, his family, his hometown, his school... it's just a story of a very disturbed human being whose wiring didn't quite work. And it is sad, and it is frustrating, and it is horrible in every sense of the word. and it sucks, to be brutally non-eloquent.

For some reason, most of us were able to eventually adapt to society, and this kid didn't give his life that chance. The result of this is that innocent, beautiful people died; and I'm disgusted as much as the rest of you.

It's a horrible story, and I've seen myself the effects that its had on even the most bitter malcontent- (I've had to comfort chez several times this week), and I cannot imagine what the victims' loved ones are going through.

But Cheryl- your comment was extremely articulate and poignant, and I'd like to thank you for it. I hope to hear from you again.

Jeff said...

I've never read your writings before. I found this through a link on With that said, you're a freakin' idiot.
NBC-News is in the business of giving the News. This was news of the highest caliber. Millions of people across the country were trying to understand who this kid was, and what would possess him to do such a terrible thing. These pictures and videos shed some light (however dim) on that subject. How could they not report it? Could they really just not mention that they recieved this package?
Let me ask you this... were you this outraged when the faces of the 9/11 attackers were plastered across every news outlet the day after they killed THOUSANDS? I bet you weren't. Why is this kid different?
Do I feel sorry for the victims and their loved ones? Of course I do. Am I angry at this guy for what he did? Sure I am. But more than that, I pity him. I pity him for his warped sense of reality and being mentally unstable but remaining untreated. I pity him for feeling he had no other option than to do what he did.
And I feel empathy for the survivors having to look at his face. But I don't blame NBC-News. They did their job. They reported legitimate news. And what I saw was not done tastelessly or with any degree of sensationalism. It was simply, "here's what we recieved in the mail, here are some of the pictures and some (not all) of the video he sent." Could they really just not mention that they recieved anything? You said nobody but the FBI should have seen it. What would the FBI do with it? It's not like they were looking for the guy.
All that aside, you said, "he wanted to be heard loud and clear, and NBC was more than happy to oblige him that opportunity." Aren't you, and everybody complaining about NBC, equally obliging him by ranting on and on about it? Isn't this just more and more publicity? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

You know something? I couldn't fucking care less.

You know something else? Your fucking tv comes with a fucking remote. Turn the channel, or turn it off. You're on the same moral ground as those assholes that think the FCC should do their parenting for them.

Those of us with a brain would prefer to have the access to as much information possible, and decide for ourselves what is over the line. I sure as hell don't want the decision of what is or is not acceptable decided by someone who thinks that we should all have our heads in the fucking sand just because that works for him.

Craig said...

I'm so happy to have read this post. Every time something like this happens, we're inundated with information about the perpetrator. For once i would like to have the name of a victim be the first association I have with a tragedy like this. I think you've possibly done that for me.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to target the media and blame them for giving the public what they want. How many times did any of you look at the pictures of the killer, and hit the next button to see the second picture in the collection? And then again and again? The media is giving all of us what we all secretly want, an all too personal view of this killer, and a tour of the neurotic life that he lived. If NBC hadn't chosen to show them, all of you would have been getting links to YouTube in your email boxes. But I am going to guess that none of you would have clicked on the links when you got home where no one could see you...

Omar said...

"Don Imus, who had merely insulted, rather than gunned down a group of college students"

A ringing endorsement of Imus if I've ever heard one.

Pim's Ghost said...

I'm just mad at the Imus crap because I AM a nappy-headed ho, dammit! No really, I've been called the 1st two words for too long to remember.

100% correct though, this should never have been on all of the airwaves. Thank God that all I watch is House and Rome. On DVD.

Nice blog, found it at Kristen's MySpace blog.

Anonymous said...

I am a Hokie, standing wounded, but tall and proud. Today was Hokie Pride day for all us Alums, and many people everywhere, we wore our colors. It was the first time I wore a VT shirt to work, and I don't my chest could have been more inflated with pride.

That said, thanks a fucking lot for airing that bastards video and giving him what he wanted. Hope you can sleep at night while we have to live with that horror as well. Sometimes enough apparently isn't enough.

Christie said...

Brilliant. I agree with every single word of this already know that though having read mine. You feel dirty being part of the news media? I feel dirty just being part of this sensationalist society. How much lower can we stoop?

Marcus said...

As someone who is here in Blacksburg, I think I have a somewhat different perspective on the media's involvement here. I always used to think that the media was exploitative and heartless. Being here though, I really see how their well-being is predicated on the suffering of others. It makes me sick to my stomach to be accosted by a reporter on the street and asked, "Did you know any one who was killed? want to talk about it?". Sure, I recognize that they are a business. A shitty business. I've been called late at night asking for my friend's cell phone number, my friend who is in the ICU and was shot twice in the leg.

I personally think they are symptomatic of a larger societal problem in America. A sickness and taint that extends to the heart of our being as a nation. I'm probably a little cynical at the moment, due to my proximity to so much sadness.

As for NBC, it's probably the most disgusting move in a wave of tasteless coverage. In other words, par for the course for the American newsmedia. Every international news outlet I have dealt with has been considerably more tactful. Much love to the Dutch National Television Network!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow. I've wanted to say something like this ever since the news stations started using more of their powers to come up with clever turns of phrase to describe the event than to realize what it was doing to the people involved, but you seem to have everyone beat there. This was one of the best-written, best articulated pieces I've read in a long time, and I agree with you 100%. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when Jews run the media.


Jayne said...


I've debated back and forth as to whether I'd respond to you.. and I've debated with Chez as to whether I should...

...but your comments have been personal, and they've insulted me and my marriage, and although chez won't publish the latest, I will respond...

I don't know who you are, because you've been too cowardly to tell us. But you could not possibly know who we are, who I am, or what we've been through. I persuaded Chez to start this "little project" when he was on medical leave, because I believed in his voice and his talent, and I pushed for him to be brutally honest about who he is, what he's been through, and how he feels. I'm proud of how this site has grown, and I love all of the readers whether they agree with him or not.

But to insult our marriage? We've had as many tough times as any other couple, but we've (I believe) had more amazing and brilliant moments than anyone could even imagine. Should you feel the need to discuss your opinions on the subject, please free to email Chez and I directly (since you've learned so much, you know how to reach us.)

Thank you for reading- all of you. Positive and Negative comments are always welcome. But don't expect me to stand idly by if you begin to attack beyond the subject.

theodicy said...

Amazing post. In the blog-o-sphere, there is near universal condemnation of NBC from every point of the political spectrum.

Let me honestly admit that I might be the only person on the planet that found the information contained in the manifesto to be of value--if only in terms of my understanding of the killer's motives and state of mind.

My motive for wanting to understand
is quite simple: I don't ever want this to happen again. The only way to find a way to keep this from happening is to understand exactly what went wrong, as far as we can given our limitations.

One of the disturbing things I've discovered in my research concerning this shooting is that whatever else is the case, the killer was very much plugged into, and very sympathetic with, a large variety of negative messages that comes through mass media, even something as stupid as the dissing of McDonald's by the likes of "Fast Food Nation" and "Supersize Me."

Understand that I'm not blaming society or the media for what happened at Virginia Tech. But neither am I willing to absolve them of any guilt what-so-ever.

Today at a high school a few blocks away, some unfortunate youth left a very disturbing message in the boy's john, quote: "I can do BETTER than Virginia Tech." Whether or not the person who wrote this watched the NBC exclusive I don't know, but does it really matter? Whoever wrote it felt a certain solidarity with the Virginia Tech murderer, and I have a feeling that this local teen-ager is not alone in his his admiration. (At the very least, perhaps he was hoping for the school to be closed!)

The VA Tech killer himself references Columbine, the Nazis, Islam, The Matrix, MacBeth, and other sorts of dark literature, films and events throughout history.

But boring history books rarely, if ever glorify evil people, but movies, TV, and the Internet do it on a daily basis. Just look at the fantastic PR any given Muslim terrorist gets from a variety of media and political sources. Every analyst who knows anything about terrorism knows that it is 99% public relations & power, 1% real grievances. Successful terrorists manipulate the media and politicians so easily and so effectively it's painful to watch. (Just look what Iran did with a handful of British sailors!) The major tool of terrorists is not beheadings, or suicide bombers or kidnappings, it is the news media--which can quickly turn some chump with a grievance into a world wide star faster than you can say "Network."

My own observation is this: mass media does a fantastic job of providing any person with a grudge a wide range of movies, books, and TV shows in which to encourage and promote their anger and grudges; and there is almost a guarantee that if you're really, really bad you will be very, very famous. Just look at Hannibal Lecter...and he's just a fictional character.

Yet most everyone in the media business, from book publishers to network executives, insist upon their "right" to glorify violence, hate, and perversion. It's called freedom of the press...a protected Constitutional right don't ya know...

(If the 2nd Amendment where treated as liberally as the 1st, I'd be able to go down to the local Wal-Mart and stock up on machine guns, hand grenades, land mines and atomic bombs.)

There is a rank hypocrisy in the media business in that everyone wants the freedom to print and promote whatever vile filth they wish, but then they absolutely refuse to take any responsiblity what-so-ever when that same vile filth is used to motivate disenfranchised young people into new realms of evil.

At no time in American history has violence been so highly praised, encouraged and gloried as it has been in our own--and I'm speaking of "Kill Bill" type violence here, not the more bland, boring, garden variety military violence. We're reaping what we have sown.

There was more than enough "in depth" coverage of the VA Tech murders by the news media to motivate plenty of young people to find future glory through violence. Our current media culture assures this. At least the manifesto was interesting information; a lot of the coverage I've seen done by the major networks didn't even meet that criteria.

<>< TM

Anonymous said...

Here's the best compliment I can give your post: It made me happy.

Weird how an ager-filled diatribe can leave me with such a sense of calm.

Thanks for taking the time to post it.

JimLA said...

A few of you postimg here today feel the release of the videos was necessary in order to provide the public with some insight into Cho's motives or state of mind.

One would think that 32 bodies and more than a dozen wounded would have convinced you he was angry and insane. Do you really need to see the videos to convince you of that?

Couldn't NBC have satisfied your thirst for information without actually showing the video and most disturbing of the photos?

Were any of us worse off for not being able to view the Columbine video until four years after the fact?

And what if the law enforcement officials had released the material first? Would any of us be equally outraged?

I personally long for the days when the grimest of news was handled this way (Cronkite's Evening News coverage of the Kennedy assassination). It is perhaps, I think, the best lead sentence in broadcast journalism:

Anonymous said...

I regularly enjoy your musings and rants and this one is no different. I must admit that like TK (way above) I just stop watching the news when tragedies occur, and I realized why a few years back. Because in the commotion after the fact, I don't actually learn anything.

That said, I don't care one way or another that NBC played the tape. Freedom of speech allows them to throw the images into the faces of its viewers. I also have the right to not watch NBC. or any other news forum, and have not had to watch this tape. In all honesty I don't need to. The shooter was insane and in the next few weeks some psychiatrist will go on a news show and testify that he had this disorder or that disorder and they will drag this tragedy out for weeks.

If I were to pay attention to the news I really would stop caring long before the news cycles dry up. So I avoid it and can give the victims families my sympathies.

The problem I have with the news media is not that they lack taste or have sold out, its that I havent actually garnered news from them in quite a while, which is odd. I usually have to look online to actually find the news. What's the US death toll in Iraq, is there a way to work something out in Middle East, hell, Is the publc transportation system in Chicago running remotely close to times today? and yet, the tv news will not be answering any of those questions for me today. So why would I assume they learned anything at VT except how to more exploit a tragedy and convince more of the American public to be afraid of everything.

And apparently this was my time to rant. Sorry, just got off of work, but thanks for your article. I have recently been enjoying your blog.

Have a nice day,

Schwa said...

I've tried typing a response, and I keep deleting it. All I can say is that when I saw the videos were released the way they were, I was disgusted. Good on you for calling the media machine out on this.

Anonymous said...

Hey chez. It seems you have touched a nerve, and even got Jayne in a frizzy with anonymous. Chalk it up to your captivating writing prose. Jayne, rebut idiots who bring up your personal life? Don't bother.

I agree about the hollywood-esque "news" coverage, but what is equally worse are the "reporters" who bring you the story.


Ailsa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Only in Boston, Kids! said...

Read your column...very much appropriate and well said!

If NBC were doing this as a service for showing us what true evil incarnate looks like, rather than going for sensationalism, ratings and advertising dollars, NBC would be seen as a shining beacon. Unfortunately, NBC ended up looking like sleazy, corrupt, pre-Disneyfied Times Square, complete with peep shows and women looking for more than directions to Saks or Bloomies.

Alisa, we've watched the News Hour before, and yes, watching Jim Lehrer deliver a good, solid, factual newscast is a treat. And best of all, you can watch the newscast and come away with news, not sound bites and talking points.

mrmook said...


Thanks again. I personally have willfully restrained from writing about this tragedy for many reasons and so I deeply respect you for attempting to find sense in a senseless world and for sharing your emotions, however raw, and your "insider" tv news viewpoint,however valuable.
Having said that, I must add (for what little it is worth) that Theodicy is correct.

These hideous videotapes DO have value.

I have no doubt-and I'm sure you don't either- that NBC's motivations were of the most base and vile variety but the fact remains that viewing the pathetic, self-centered ravings of this sick fuck IS instructive at some level.

1) The kid may have been born in S. Korea but he is clearly All-American. He was living in the most prosperous Nation on earth, getting a world class education, he was well fed, had money to spend and complete freedom to burn and yet all he could do was stare into his lonely mirror and complain about how "tough" his life was. This is, sadly,instructive to this American and I hope to many others.

2) Not every tragedy has meaning or a "solution". Watching this rotten fuck whine about his existence completely nails the fact that this was a hole in the universe, a tear in our reality that is wholly seperate and estranged from any of our problems that can or should be addressed. This is something that happened and that may happen again but cannot be rectified unless we somehow rid the world of fucked up lunatics with access to guns forever. and that ain't gonna happen any time soon.

3) The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
If the politicians are truly appalled then march on the NRA, smack them in the face and wrestle them to the ground until they cry mercy.......but they better pack a lunch because those gun nuts are more motivated, organized and disciplined than all those liberal pols put together.

As Mr. Pink said-
Put it on a piece of paper and I'll sign it, put it to a vote and I'll vote for it, but what I ain't gonna do is play ball.

Repeal it or don't waste my time.

As for the pain of the 33 families. No words can suffice although yours, Chez, come close.

I hope that one day they can remember a bright moment, a joyous smile, an eruption of laughter from their loved one and that this precious, fleeting memory might assuage their grief if only for that beautiful second.

Paul said...

NBC should have shown 30 seconds of the video once. Once! Then said "we know some people are interested in seeing and hearing him, and we feel the public has a right to know so we are putting everything on our website. But nothing he sent us will ever air on any of the NBC networks ever again because that would dishonor those that he killed."

What you're talking about is spite. In my experiences spite doesn't work too well.

Nick said...

sometimes it's nice to know who the monsters are.

Anonymous said...

You ARE an asshole Chez....but then again I'm a complete in the grand scheme of things the chicken DID come, I want an omlette. But I digress>>

My only issue with all the vitiol is this:

At some point we as a society needs to actually start impoloring some preventative measures. For lack of better analogy (because i live in Babylon) does it make more sense to wait until you're morbidly obese and then blame the society that makes "Pink Dot" a phone call away, or start to look at changing your diet prior to reaching Hindenberg size?

What outrages me is in a system that is in a decay that can only be described as ubiquitous, we continue to blame these haneous, cowardly acts of souls who've lost the ability to function in the construct on video games, movies and music. Please America wake up. This is intellect calling. Lets start looking at the environment we're creating. One in which validation and relevance comes from a full bank account, material possession, hitting the genetic lottery, carrying a ball over some sort of line for while the world watches and Chevy applauds this as our country, we need to start opening our eyes. This is intellect calling.

And please don't misunderstand, I believe that allowing Cho this platform is reaching the apex of an already morally reprehensible ladder of events, but I want for us to wake up and realize that, even though the actions carried out by this kid were FAUKED, there is SOMETHING to be learned from these events when they happen...and the longer we are distracted from that lesson, the longer we'll spend being forced to repeat it.

The psychotic ramblings of the delusioned aren't news worthy, but I'm also subjected daily to the musings of those who believe GOD cares if they hit a home run, win a Grammy or buy a new house..and then there's Paula Abdul.

So, lets just all put down the Koolaid spoons and reach for a different beverage. There's a reson these events are happening and it's bigger then one misguided souls disconnection, but to realize that we need to look around and see that the souls becomming disconnected number much more then singular numbers.

I do not want to watch a society decline. I want to watch it ascend, but to do that we gotta wake UP.


Not Only, But Also Lee said...


I read you occasionally through I think your post accurately sums up the rage that a lot of people are feeling about NBC giving a jerk-off monster martyr what he wanted. I'm sure a lot of people will agree with you.

However, I don't agree entirely. Although I think that NBC has been entirely too self-righteous in their apologies and their reasoning for airing a gift-wrapped ratings bonanza, I think that these videos would have gotten out anyway.

I mean, if NBC just forwarded the package to the FBI, it would have been either the government or an information-should-be-free-minded bureaucrat leaking the information in 6 months or so, and a lot of people would still view it as inappropriate. Same argument, different day.

As for the "this will inspire a copycat" argument, I'm not sure I buy it. I mean, where's the line? First, a 'copycat' is going to have been mentally unhinged already. Second, it's not like a mass murderer writing or recording a rambling, incoherent manifesto about things that he or she hates is an original idea. Aren't all these people Unabomber copycats? Or Columbine copycats? Or aspiring to Osama?

Look, I didn't like seeing Nutjob's angry face everywhere either, but those pesky "W" questions journalists ask include "Why?" It turns out that this time NBC confirmed that the answer was, "Yup, it's because he was drifting through crazy creek without a paddle."

And, in one sense, it's nice to see the news go too far instead of not far enough. I much prefer the former, since at least the information is out there to discuss. Or (and this was my solution) turn it off.

Thanks for continuing the discussion.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant and well-said. Thanks for this.

-- The Comish (sic)

Anonymous said...

Well written, Chez; I agree wholeheartedly.

While I agree with those commenters who find educative value in the manifesto, there was no value at all in airing the thing over and over again. Should someone wish to study it to peer further into the twisted mind of a killer, let him do so, but let him do so in his own private place.

In other words, it IS a good thing for, say, a professional profiler or ciminalist or psychologist to use the manifesto as research material. It is entirely unnecessary for me or anyone else with no professional interest to view it. For we laymen, the killer was a nutjob with death on his mind - that's my opinion, and it my opinion was so formed before I knew anything at all about him (hell, I didn't even know it WAS a 'him').

So 'bollocks' to anyone who found any worth to NBC airing the manifesto. They only display their morbid fascination, revealing themselves as fans and tacit if not explicit supporters of mayhem.


Bob Davis
bob AT planetbob DOT org

K.Clancy said...


Good column, though I don't agree with you on this subject.

News is news, and the media has a responsibility to report the news, whether we/they like the subject matter or not.

Someone brought up W.Cronkite and how he handled the Kennedy assassination. I agree that Cronkite was at his best that day.

But, let's remember- not long after the assassination we all saw the Zapruder film which showed the president of the United States getting his head blown off. Though, as I recall, they did show only the sanitized version for awhile.

My point is- should that (Zapruder film) have been shown? Doesn't really matter whether it should have been or not. It was history and it HAD be shown, whether we like it or not.

This is in the same category. Whether we like it or not, it also had to be shown.

BTW, you're a very good writer. Your column on Max was the first thing I've read from you. It brought me to tears and I don't cry easily. Keep up the good work.


Zoe said...


I sgree with everything you said. I was completely disgusted with NBC when I heard about this. Haven't seen the tapes, turned off the TV at the first mention of them, haven't searched them out on youtube or whatever.

And I also have to say I agree with Jae. We DO need to work on preventative measures. I mean, NBC etc can shout "We aired it so we'll understand and prevent" all they want, but until this country actually starts working to PREVENT these tragedies instead of obsessing over them the tragedies will continue.

I don't feel anything but disgust and revulsion for Cho Heung-Sui. I don't think anything short of a bullet could have stopped Cho him, but that doesn't mean that we can't prevent other people turning out the same way. But guess what? When a country's at war, all "non-essential" programs are cut. I don't know about other states, but in New Mexico, funding for behavioral and mental services has been cut (drastically), funding for schools has been cut, funding for Headstart has been cut.

If the release of the tapes had caused the country to wake the fuck up and realize that some things are more important than a pointless war that's already lost I would be the first to throw NBC a parade. But it hasn't.

As long as politicians continue to deny money for programs that actually help people in favor of cutting taxes and appealing to the "base," society won't change.

(Sorry for the rant; I obviously work in social services and it fucking pisses me off that the experts are all, "Metal detectors in schools! Armed security guards!" It's the worst form of treating the symptoms and not the disease.)

Anyway, GREAT entry, Chez. thank you so much for posting it.

Anonymous said...'re so very right.

I don't think that NBC should have shown the video. I know that many people have had this same opinion, for whatever reason. I also understand that people can disagree with this opinion; I also know that the reasons given are somewhat logical. I can also tell you that I don't really care why people think NBC should have shown the video.

Why, do you ask? Because I am a Hokie, because I was here, and because I lost three people on that fateful Monday. A professor, a lab TA, and a friend.

Those of you who agree with showing the video are not dealing with what I'm still dealing with. Only a few days after it happened, and I get slapped in the face with this? I know seeing it was one of the reasons I had problems sleeping. I can't even imagine what it's like for the people who were lucky enough to make it out of Norris alive.

No matter what anyone says, the media turned this campus into a circus. Many of you may have watched it on the TV, but I had to experience it first-hand. And I have to say that it wasn't a good experience. I felt like I was just an object, one that should pose for the pretty camera. The media is the reason I practically fled home.

I know I haven't given my name, or the names of the people I knew who were killed. I will only give one name. I know it's ironic, but Maxine was my very good friend. I wish you all could have known Max...she was amazing.

laughin said...

I am getting to this late since I just "discovered" your blog.

My husband and I are VT alumni. He works for Tech and I work for the Town of Blacksburg. He was in the building next door to the shooting. For a couple of hours we did not know the fate of a friend of ours who worked in Norris Hall. Thankfully, he was not at work and did not have his cell phone.

Two weeks before the shooting, I met one of the victims. He was planning on going to Florida for graduate school.

All of have our stories of April 16, 2007.

But what disgusted me more than anything was seeing the national and international news media swarm on our small town looking for tears and then snapping pictures or shooting video, following students around like they were OJ heading to trial.

God, I had to answer the phones for the Town and for people looking to interview anyone who would talk to them. CNN being one of the most persistent. Funny, they still haven't returned my calls about getting a copy of the interview they did with our mayor.

Then NBC had to make it worse. Now whenever I think of the shootings, I see the picture of that sick son of a bitch who did this. I have a hard time focusing on the victims and instead focus on that same image over and over. Part of my job was to keep track of media coverage. So I got to watch that and then see the picture replayed over and over on the major news websites. CNN and Fox News got the hint after a couple of hours and started focusing on the victims and their stories. Maybe because of the outrage. Maybe because they realized that the folks here and their cohesiveness was more newsworthy than Cho.

Thanks for this. I plan on linking to it in my blogs.