mass murder in the age of the internet

Within a few short hours of the tragic events at Virginia Tech this morning, everything had been Flickred, Metafiltered, and Wikied. I don’t have anything substantive to add to what’s already being said elsewhere, but I found it fascinating how quickly details started coming out. It’s just a matter of time now before the killer’s life begins to unfold online. Millions of us are already out there looking for blogs by Virginia Tech students with guns and trying to satisfy our morbid curiosity.

If I’m reading things correctly, almost two entire hours passed between the first shooting on the campus, in which a few people were shot, and the second, which claimed the lives of more than 30. Was the university wrong not to have shut the school down after the first incident? That’s something we’ll be hearing a lot about in the days to come. It’s also being reported that a bomb threat was called in a few days ago for the same building where most of the killing took place. In retrospect, I suppose it could be that the killer did it in order to see how the police would respond, how students would exit the building, etc. Either way, I’m sure the administration will be accused of not taking that bomb threat seriously enough. Of course, all of these questions about culpability will just divert us from the real issues at hand, like the American obsession with guns, the prevalence of violence throughout our society, the heightened sense of fear we all live with, and the generally poor state of our mental health services. Instead, we’ll focus on putting metal detectors in our schools and arming our college students. (One friend has already told me that this wouldn’t have happened if students were allowed to carry guns.)

My thoughts go out to the families of the victims. Hopefully their losses will not be in vain.

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  1. Posted April 17, 2007 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I must have a different idea of “troubling signs” than some – from wiki: “….he recently showed troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women”

    seriously? troubling signs?

  2. cleo love-paste
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine what the University counselor who spoke to this guy must be feeling right now. How do you keep on going when you know that this guy was in your office and you had an opportunity to help him?

    Here’s part of the Chicago Tribune article.

    The note included a rambling list of grievances, according to sources. They said Cho also died with the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on one of his arms.

    Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.

    A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus.

    Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school’s counseling service, the Associated Press reported.

    Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university’s English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department’s director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as “troubled.”

    “There was some concern about him,” Rude said. “Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it’s creative or if they’re describing things, if they’re imagining things or just how real it might be. But we’re all alert to not ignore things like this.”

  3. Cousins Vinyl
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Alright, we’re going to break this down to a tee to who was at fault, what could have been done, who could have helped, how it could’ve been prevented, ect. And this is all part of the process as we make sense out of this senseless event.

    The thing is, nobody ever sees things like this coming. There are people who set off far worse warning signs who obviously don’t act out like this.

    The best thing we can do as a national community (and local community) is to move forward and be sensitive to those around us. The single biggest factor that helps troubled youth are meaningful relationships with positive role models – in schools and the community.

    This kid was hurting inside before this happened. The college councelor may have had an opportunity to help him, but sometimes the certified professionals can only do so much to reach somebody. Anybody can be a positive influence – it takes a village.

    Relationships with positive, caring, and supporting people are what these kids need. After we point fingers at what happened at VA Tech and who was at fault (and rightfully so), let’s be proactive in applying what we’ve learned.

  4. mark
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Who do you think one would talk to about optioning the film rights for “Richard McBeef“? Not that I’m interested.

    [You know that someone is going to do it for shock value.]

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