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Virginia Tech shooter’s videos

April 20, 2007 @ 22:14 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last couple of days as to whether the videos sent to NBC by Seung-Hui Cho should have been aired. CBC was the first broadcaster to declare that they would not show the videos nor pictures of Cho holding guns. FoxNews changed its mind and stopped airing them and other news outlets, including CNN, have established policies on the use of the footage on their networks.

Should NBC have aired the footage? I don’t think they should have.

People who commit atrocious acts like this often want to receive attention and be remembered. Having their images and videos appear on virtually every television station and newspaper front page means that they’ve achieved this goal. Because many news outlets have websites, this inevitably means that it’s going to be immortalized forever because the Internet never forgets. Other people who are perhaps teetering on the edge of committing a similar act will see this attention and some will decide that it’s the way they can be remembered by history, as grusome as that may be.

One deterent would be to virtually eliminate this opportunity for celebrity by refusing to air the videos, pictures and writings that people like this create. It would go a long way to the person being little more than Seung-Hui Cho, 23, killed 32 people at Virginia Tech before taking his own life. No good is served by giving them an ever bigger soap box than they’ve already got.

The event was sad enough without having to subject the families of Cho’s victims to his rantings. And this includes Cho’s family.

Four days after the terrible shootings in Virginia, on the eighth anniversary of the Columbine shootings, a NASA contract worker at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston took two hostages, a man and a woman, and ended up killing the man before taking his own life. One has to wonder if this would have taken place if Cho’s videos and writings hadn’t been published.

CBS News’ website has an article that talks about NBC’s releasing the videos. It ends with the following, which I think hits the nail squarely on the head:

…FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt told MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson: “He wants to be able to reach his hand out of the grave and grab us by the throat and make us listen to him one more time.” He got his wish.

Incidentally, I have not seen any of the videos that Cho left behind and I have no desire to. My life will not be enriched by my seeing them.

My condolences go out to the families, friends, students and staff at Virginia Tech; the families, friends and co-workers of the NASA employees; and everyone affected by the shootings eight years ago at Columbine.

One Response to “Virginia Tech shooter’s videos”


  1. Trashy says:

    Good piece Gordon – though I must admit that I have been of two minds over this issue.
    Admittedly, I have had some problems with the media coverage of many of the “bad” things happening in our modern world. Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. could benefit from more details, not less. By sanitizing the news through choosing what to air and not to air, the media outlets are constructing a culture of “avoidance” – that is, if we cannot see the nitty-gritty – the real dirt that is happening and that disgusts us – well, is it really there? Is it something that the populace can readily identify with and critically assess? Avoiding the horrible reality of places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Darfur plays into the hands of governments who want to pursue unpopular foreign policy objectives with as little blow-back as possible from the electorate. It is not state-sponsored censorship, but it may as well be.

    I don’t like seeing the body bags and funerals for our troops or the American troops in Iraq. It must be very hard for military families to be reminded of the dangers that their loved ones face every day on the battle fields – and I cannot imagine the grief it elicits from those families who have lost a son, husband, wife, daughter or father or mother.
    But I think that by not seeing the terrible images coming from places like Iraq, we are sanitizing what is truly happening and much of the possibility of true assessments of the worth of the mission is lost due to lack of the full picture.

    But the Virginia Tech shootings were different. NBC did not air information that helps viewers assess their government’s performance vis ŕ vis their foreign policies abroad, but it served no useful purpose whatsoever. I don’t buy the argument that by not showing the video, we are desensitizing ourselves to a reality that is part of our 21st century life. This is simply not the case. This was a sick man who chose to act out his aggression on scores of innocent individuals. It was madness, pure and simple. And to repeat what Gordon has stated – no one’s lives have been enriched by seeing these videos.



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