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Thursday, April 19, 2007

In the public interest?

I have to say that, for the most part, I do not believe in the repression of newsworthy materials on a big story. It’s a journalistic thing I suppose.

However, I can’t help feeling that in the case of the mentally-deranged young man who murdered 32 people in Virginia this week, the release of his own self-selected material was probably not terribly wise, or indeed in the public interest:

‘The student who shot dead at least 30 people at Virginia Tech sent a package to the US TV network NBC News on the day of the shootings, police said. The package contained "disturbing" photographs, video and writings, NBC said, posted from the college campus between the two rounds of killings. Cho Seung-hui is shown pointing guns at the camera, and ranting angrily. A total of 33 people, including the gunman himself, died in shootings at two locations on Monday. "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," the 23-year-old gunman said angrily, in an excerpt shown on NBC Nightly News. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off," Cho said. "I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But now I will no longer run," the gunman said.’

What the material shows us is that the man was, as previously stated, mentally deranged. However, as he went on to kill several people including himself, I would have thought that that particular gem of information was already painfully self-evident.

What else does it show us? Well, more than anything else, it shows us that the man was suffering from dangerous delusions of importance. That these ‘schoolground killers’ (the Columbine pair included) fantasise about becoming macabre ‘celebrities’ through their murderous actions is a fact that has already been explored in several studies on the subject. These are depressed, often geeky, socially-excluded people who crave attention and validation, and somehow they believe that by achieving this type of notoriety, they will forever be remembered, they will evermore have value through the most dubious brand of ‘fame’.

This kid made damn sure that he achieved his moment of glory by posting what would, a week ago, have seemed rather ludicrous and pathetic videos of himself to a news network. The videos – and his image – have duly been beamed around the world, letting any number of potential killers-in-waiting know that – should they go ahead and gun down their classmates – they really will become as famous as they are in their sick dreams.

So I ask again, should NBC really have given Cho Seung-hui exactly what he wanted?

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