Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Late Wednesday came news that Cho Seung-Hui sent NBC a package of materials, including a typewritten screed, video clips and digital photos. The package was sent from a post office between Cho's two shooting sprees -- after he killed a woman and an RA in a dorm, but before he killed 30 others in a classroom building.

So far, most of the video aired has Cho speaking quietly, his tone close to regret. But in one snippet Cho's tone is venomous, and he is wearing the clothes he died in. "You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option," he snarls. "The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

A couple of same-day thoughts:

•Fascinating. Macabre, but much more than that -- you can see the flat affect he displayed in December 2005, behavior that led to a temporary detention order on the shooter. Seeing his deranged mind helps explain the insanity of his last acts.

•We'd like to see it all, but NBC News is engaged in a display of public hand-wringing: what to air? what to keep secret? will publicizing this encourage others like Cho? It's all very nauseating. NBC News isn't supposed to be in the business of suppressing information from the public. You get an exclusive on a big-ass story, you run with it.

Full disclosure of what Cho sent to NBC News should be viewed through the Theodore Kaczynski prism. The New York Times and the Washington Post printed Kaczynski's 35,000-word "manifesto," and his brother recognized the disturbed writing style. The Unabomber was caught. By posting all of the Cho material, NBC would provide a unique opportunity for mass study of a mass murderer.

•Cho is the Charles Whitman of our time. Like Cho, Whitman killed two people, then paused before beginning a bloodier rampage. Like Cho, Whitman left a note, some of it written between killing sprees.

Unlike Cho, Whitman seemed to want to understand why he was becoming a killer. From Whitman's note:
I don't quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I don't really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can't recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.
From Cho there is only rage, and blame for everyone else:
I didn't have to do it. I could have left. I could have fled. But now I am no longer running ... You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
His suitemates say Cho rarely spoke. He knew enough to keep the madness inside.


Anonymous said...

If NBC really wanted to "do the right thing" without trying to capitalize on the tragedy of others, they wouldn't have slapped the NBC NEWS logo on every stinking image!

Amy said...

I read an article quoting one of Cho's English professors today saying he made repeated attempts to get Cho to talk and come out of his shell, as did some of Cho's classmates. The prof posited that he had trouble speaking and found writing to be his sole means of communication. Another eerie but fascinating fact about Cho.

Ken said...

After seeing that Cho has become a national "celebrity" on NBC who will be the next deranged person to try and better his record?

Anonymous said...

One thing out of this is that we find that the government is collecting presription drug records on all americans and using it for law enforcement. Check out the story:

Anonymous said...

It took them longer to fire Imus.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, NBC had an exclusive on a "big-ass story," as you so sophisticatedly put it, and indeed, they ran with it. And overwhelmingly, in the eyes of those who survived in Blacksburg, it seems NBC is now viewed as a Big Ass itself. I can't say that I disagree with that view.

NBC could have taken a higher road of editorial discretion, and instead they chose to ride the middle, feigning it as the outcome of an anguished internal debate. In the end, it still amounted to pandering to morbid curiosity of the masses. Had the network not run any of Cho's "package," we all know that eventually it would have been accessible to those for whom serious study of psycopathic individuals is legitimate.

E said...

I completely disagree with your assertion NBC should show all the footage. They should show none of it. The message they have sent so far is "Kill a bunch of people and mail us a tape. We'll get your message out!"

That's a terrible message to be sending. Too much focus is on the loser who killed a bunch of people; not enough is on the victims. Maybe if we don't make the evil guy the centerpiece of the story, being evil won't seem so alluring.