Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Surprise, surprise: killer produced manifesto

Man, I hate being right all the time. My post of two days ago described all too accurately what arrived at NBC offices today. It was a package sent by the Virginia Tech killer, containing "a rambling and often-incoherent 1,800-word video manifesto, plus 43 photos, 11 of them showing him aiming handguns at the camera," according to this article in The Globe and Mail. There's not much I can add about this, except that the deranged young man knew his tape would make global headlines.

In his manifesto, the killer actually refers to "martyrs like Eric and Dylan", the teenagers behind the Columbine massacre. I know it's easier said than done, but we need to open a discussion about the idea of somehow not publishing these glorified suicide notes. By doing so, we fulfill the killer's ambition to live in infamy and quite likely inspire other nutbars to try a similar stunt of their own.

The killer actually shot two people at the dorm building before walking to the post office to calmly mail his package, apparently satisfied that his killing spree would proceed as planned. The effort he put into assembling the content of this manifesto, and the fact that he mailed it to media just before the slaughter began, demonstrates that the killings were a twisted public relations device; a way to ensure maximum coverage of his hate-filled and demented world view.

The top headline on page one in the April 18 Globe and Mail had a large picture of the killer and one of the victims. The headline reads: "Cho Seung-Hui was a dark and demented student. Liviu Librescu survived the Holocaust and tyranny. They will be remembered for their final moments."

Don't try this at home, kids. Please.


Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

While the media hand-wringing is understandable, I think it's taking on a misplaced responsibility.

Terrorist acts are media events and are executed with media coverage in mind and as part of a goal.

Still, would you want to put a blanket ban of the destruction of the WTC or any coverage of the attackers?

Do you want to bury the Osama Bin Laden story?

I'm not sure that media coverage (or not) would be a deal-breaker for somebody like Cho. He sounds like he would have gone ahead and done this, media coverage notwithstanding.

We have to be mindful to conclude a causal link (did the idea of media coverage cause or encourage the massacre) when it might be more accurate to just conclude an associative link (media coverage was part of the plan but ultimately just a bonus).

I'm not keen on burying the stories of guys like these because I want to know their stories if for no other reason than I want the information to better equip me to possibly recognize one if I ever meet one.

In any case, I prefer not to have my information filtered for wooly-headed reasons like "my own good" or "might inspire others".

If a news report is likely to inspire more massacres then we are all in real trouble and the media is the least part of it.

Geoff Meeker said...

Whether the link is causal or associative is a matter that warrants further investigation. But we do know the link is there, through the reference to "Eric and Dylan" and the effort the killer invested in serving up his manifesto to media. I am not advocating a blanket ban of coverage of these issues, such as the WTC or Osama Bin Laden. In fact, I am suggesting simple and clear legislation that bans outright the use of the killer's name or photo in any news report. Simple as that. I have no objection to publishing what is contained in the manifesto, but there should be no references to previous mass killers. Just delete their sorry names from the record. I know that you can't control the Internet even if you tried, but these first steps would certainly turn down the volume on these killers. I think it is wooly-headed to pretend, even for a second, that the media notoriety these killers receive does not inspire other sick and disenfranchised souls to similar acts.