I was perusing the Fox News website last night when I came upon the video the country is talking about this morning. Snippets of video that Cho Seung-Hui chronicled in the days and minutes leading up to his massacre of the students at Virginia Tech. Admittedly, I was excited to finally hear this man's thoughts, to gain a glimpse into his reasoning. I brought my wife in to watch it as well.
The delusion of a madman is captivating in a macabre sort of way. I watched it twice in morbid curiosity. But today, after reflection and thought, I realized that I shouldn't have watched it. Not because it's scrambling my brain, but because it will scramble someone's brain.
Cho Seung-Hui was a troubled young man who had seemingly no connection to reality. His ramblings were so mad they were nearly incomprehensible at times. But what is obvious is he was looking for a voice. He said often that people had forced him to do this. His writings, the plays, poetry, and stories that had triggered his teachers and classmates to fear him were his first attempts. Whatever disconnect existed in his mind created a need to be heard.
So Cho did what he had deemed necessary. He killed violently 32 others and then himself. In the interim between the first two killings and the others, he stopped by his dorm room to set in motion his last attempt to be heard. He wrote an 8 page manifesto and packaged several photos and video snippets and sent it to a local NBC affiliate. Then he did the deed. Now with the airing of his photographs and his videos, he's been given his voice.
This is the part that scares me. We can no longer expect media to discern what is newsworthy and what is prudent to be published. What we can now expect is a rush to air whatever is interesting, whatever is sensational, whatever is going to pull ratings. Cho knew he would be heard. So how many more troubled souls keeping up with this in the news are thinking the same thing. I'll grant you that people who are disturbed enough to do something like this are very few and far between. But assuming that they don't exist is naive to a dangerous fault.
There are others. And now those others understand that if no one will hear them now, they have a recourse. That recourse is to perform some heinous act and leave behind something like Cho did. They know, as we all do, if they do leave something like that behind, that we'll all hear it. That's a frightening impetus for violence.