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April 25, 2007

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Some Thoughts On The Virginia Tech Massacre

There is something particularly terrible about young people dying violently because they have been deprived of everything—the husbands and wives they never married, the kids they never had, and the contributions they might have made to society. Their lives are gone before they have really begun.
They are dead because a tormented kid with a gun decided to copy what other tormented kids have done. They are dead because any number of institutions and people failed them. Seung Hui-Cho bounced around in the Virginia Tech system like a lethal pinball. The only people who saw how dangerous he was worked in the English department. Aside from those few teachers, everyone failed, including a legal system that is so concerned with the protection of an individual’s rights that it puts the rest of society at risk. Apparently, administration officials at Virginia Tech would have been unable to expel Mr. Cho or do anything else effective even if someone had the brains and the initiative to tell them they had an authentically dangerous student on their hands.

****

A few news sources have recalled the first campus massacre, which took place in Austin, Texas, in August, 1966. A deranged gunman named Charles Whitman took up a firing position in the University of Texas tower, and began killing people. But when it was revealed where the sniper was, off-duty law enforcement officers and civilians put down a hail of gunfire on the tower and in doing so, probably saved lives. However, it is politically incorrect to recall this part of the story.

****

The Usual Suspects in Congress have been strangely silent about the need for new gun laws as the result of the massacre. This is probably because it’s an election year, but it may be because there is plenty of blame to go around in this one and it has nothing to do with guns.

****

Most of the parties involved were simply incompetent. The only really reprehensible group is the media, and in particular, NBC-TV News. The same organization that found Don Imus intolerable has had no problem in granting a mass murder’s last wishes by giving prime air time to his recorded ravings. Since they aired the tapes and it blew up in their faces, we have heard from NBC that there was considerable and agonized debate over whether to air them. But in the name of journalism, and bringing you the news, etc., etc., they felt they had to.

To quote the much-despised Bill Maher, “NBC debated for seven hours whether to broadcast the tapes and then opted to make a s**tload of money.”

The news media wallow in these tragedies, milking them for the last drop of blood, the last tear, the last ratings point. And what they practically guarantee is that it will happen again. In some dormitory room, some twisted geek who doesn’t care if he lives or dies is watching this stuff, thinking, “Why not?”
And sooner or later, he will.

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Comments

Dan Salmon

Well said!!

Let's not find a way to fix the problem, just make it go away and move on. But, before that happens, let's let Hollywood, the media and any politician looking for a platform for re-election milk this for what it's worth.

Then we'll make more unenforced laws that only serve to help the criminals and not protect the innocent victims they create. It's amazing how screwed up a form of self goverment for the people by the people, can get when greedy, selfish and wealthy can weed out the people that would make it great.

Wulffy

In February 1995, a freshman walked into a math class at the Jr. High School in my town with a Winchester 30-30 and a pistol. He shot 3 students, killing 2, and also killed his math teacher, before being taken down by the school wrestling coach. It quickly made local and national news, with a frenzy to report what ever info they could, with out regard to fact or rumor. I was a sophomore at the time. I knew all of those killed, and 80% of the other students in the classroom. I also knew the shooter quite well, and had been in classes with him the previous year.

The media jumped all over the idea that the shooting was gang related. They continued to report it as such till another student, my girlfriend, called and set the facts straight. We never see the media out of Seattle in our small town, and only get the news vans from Spokane once in a great while. For several weeks after the shooting, there were news affiliates from all of the surrounding areas in our town for the latest update. They even had the guts to set up outside the churches after the funerals and at the community memorial service held a couple weeks later.

I lost all of my respect for the news media then and there, and am still very cautious with anything they present in an effort to “educate and inform” us.

Mark

I was taken this kid at VT showed no fear in his recorded ranting. He wasn’t crazy, he was just Evil
His sister graduated from Princeton, he got into VT on his own merits. The medical community let him go after counseling, medication, and examination for he was a social case, not a medical issue. Lots of people are mentally ill, more so than having cancer. They don’t go around popping 32 innocent souls.

Evil is very much a part of our physical world, why else did this kid mention Christ, Moses, etc.
Many people will scoff at this comment. Call it The Devil, Demons, Resident Evil….but this is what I saw talking to me. For those who don’t prescribe to this thought, the only other possible examination is mental illness.

What to do? Bill Hickock is quoted in saying a person should feel no guiltier of shooting a bad man than shooting a mean dog. Rather PI, but likely shows more wisdom than I first thought.

Sam Irish

Yes sir, thank you for posting this. I'm a longtime reader just finding the website. This is one of the only rational rundowns of the situation I'v heard, and definately the best worded. Thanks.

Sam Irish

Yes sir, thank you for posting this. I'm a longtime reader just finding the website. This is one of the only rational rundowns of the situation I'v heard, and definately the best worded. Thanks.

Walt Smith

I agree whole-heartedly with your comments. The warning flags were there but everyone seemed to drop the ball which is sad and unforgivable. As in all of these situations everyone seems to blame what happened on anything but the truth. Nice to see that your not everybody. thanks for the truth.

Richard Kaylor

It is indeed strange how silent our foes
have been on this issue.Except the
media.I find it disturbing that NBC would air this guys tapes and
give a deranged killer his last wish in the name of so-called journalism.The cable media has also re-visited San Ysidro and other mass shootings this past week ad nauseum.This is equally disturbing.They claim First Amendment rights to free speech to report the news but yet they freely say we have no Second Amendment rights.Hypocrisy.I think
our foes have been silent because
we have a Presidential election coming up in 2008.We all best be on our toes.The only person who has not been silent is Reichsfuhrer Michael Blommberg and his cronies.

Richard Kaylor

It is indeed strange how silent our foes
have been on this issue.Except the
media.I find it disturbing that NBC would air this guys tapes and
give a deranged killer his last wish in the name of so-called journalism.The cable media has also re-visited San Ysidro and other mass shootings this past week ad nauseum.This is equally disturbing.They claim First Amendment rights to free speech to report the news but yet they freely say we have no Second Amendment rights.Hypocrisy.I think
our foes have been silent because
we have a Presidential election coming up in 2008.We all best be on our toes.The only person who has not been silent is Reichsfuhrer Michael Blommberg and his cronies.

Chad Love

Look, I hate to invoke the Pogo cliche here because I agree in spirit with some of what you're saying, but before we get all self-righteous about the alleged failings and moral degeneracy of the amorphous all-encompassing "media" I'd like to point out that it's in business only because there's a huge, ravenous market clamoring for what it produces. Using the media as a collective whipping boy for deeper societal ills is a simple cop-out.
I'm not trying to defend NBC's decision to air the footage from a news value point of view. It's not like this stuff was the Pentagon Papers or anything. An endless loop of images of him holding a knife to his throat didn't IMHO offer much in the way of insight. I think 32 bodies pretty much clued viewers in to the fact this guy was shithouse crazy without having to endure the violently salacious posturing of a lunatic.
However, the 24-hour news cycle is a demanding beast, and when the biggest story of the year literally gets dropped in your lap, well, you either run with it or you get run over. Deal with consequences later. There are enormous pressures on news organizations these days to get the story out quicker than the other guy. Rumor? Run with it. Unverified facts? Run with 'em. Questionable source? Get 'em on air. Report now. Fact-check later.
That's the nature of the broadcast journalism beast in the 21st century. If you don't air it, they'll just go find it on Youtube. It may not be right, but it's what is.
If you really want to change that then I suggest we all ditch our cell phones, our cable/satellite and our broadband connection. Not likely, eh?

Andrew DeVries

I say we go with Archie Bunker's idea. Just put a bucket of guns at the door. When you go in, you take a gun. When you leave, you put it back in the gun bucket. Everyone minds their manners.

Grmart

Dave,
By far your best blog yet! It's a shame in this day and age you can't "shit", even if you have a mouth-full.
Cheers,
George

Ralph the Rifleman

Kudo's to you Dave-Well written and thought provoking article.
This was a tragedy in the making long before the killing began, and I hope society will learn from it to avoid such a tragedy again.
My prayers go out to all the families.

chuckb

Dave: The victims are gone, and their tragedy is intensified by the knowledge that nothing constructive will come of their deaths. Stand by for the inevitable assault on legal gun owners' rights that the lefties will exploit, and for the future consequences of NBC's cynical publicity incentive to the next mass-murderer who wants his 15 minutes of fame on national TV.

Dan Warner

I have two friends at Virginia Tech, a pair of brothers, Michael and Matthew. Matt was thankfully off campus. Mike was in an adjacent building in lockdown; he watched as 13 bodies were carried out. Unfortunately, a bridesmaid that was to be in Matt's wedding this summer was cut down.

"Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee."

It tolls for us.

What follows is a copy of an item I posted on MSNBC, April 17th.

It's unfortunate that a tragedy such as this will be used as a soapbox for some. Yet, in the America in which we live, it's unavoidable. Politicians who've never darkened the door of Virginia Tech, will be tripping all over themselves to express their grief... and their views on why it happened and how it could've been avoided if only: [insert random, popular catchphrase of the moment here].

Already, news reports have so much political spin -coloring various candidates as the press best sees fit- that I have no doubt the events will figure into the next election.

And so I make the short climb to my own soapbox

While those who seek political advantage are already calling for stricter restrictions, smart people, educated people, people of common sense, sadly shake their heads.

Thinking people understand a simple fact: laws only apply to people who obey laws. The single, criminal mind responsible for this attack did not obey laws. Therefore, increased restrictions on firearms would not have applied to him.

Perhaps most tragic of all is that the whole incident could have been prevented.

I attend college myself. And each day that I pull into the student parking lot, I reach to my belt, draw my own semi-automatic handgun from its holster, and lock it securely in my vehicle. Then I walk away. This is the only way to be in full accordance with state laws concerning the legal carry of concealed firearms. In class each day, I sit next to a local SWAT officer. And I know that he too is unarmed.

I have undergone extensive firearms training. I am registered with the local, state, and federal government as a citizen who should be trusted to carry a firearm, both for my protection and for the protection of those around me. I carry legal, government issued identification stating the same. But if this same situation occurs at my own college campus, I will be just as helpless to stop it as anyone else.

There is no doubt in my mind that, had people like me been on that campus in Virginia, with the legal ability to act in defense of those who cannot defend themselves, lives would have been saved.

The question is this: if a legally armed student or instructor could've stopped the attack, and thus saved lives, would you have let him? Even if he only saved one life? Or five? Or ten? Or twenty? When does it become worthwhile enough for you to allow well-trained, armed citizens to help keep you safe? Or to keep yourself safe? You decide.

My police officer friends will all attest to the fact that law enforcement is inherently reactive, not proactive. It is long past time to quit pretending that gun restrictions limit crime, and return the ability to defend oneself, and those around us -regardless of the setting- to the individual.

That's common sense that anyone, even a politician, should be able to understand.

-D. Warner, 25
myspace.com/tipthebalance

3kidsdad

It is a telling comment on our society that it is more acceptable to endanger others than offend someone. It requires a value judgment to pronounce someone a danger to others. And we are being continuously attacked for applying "our" values to other people. As for me, I am growing increasingly unconcerned with who is "offended" by my values. It offends me that so many are convinced that they should be able to tell all of us how we should live, but we shouldn't judge them. The truly annoying part is their refusal to see the hypocrisy

scott

I remember a scene in the movie called "Scrooged", starring Bill Murray. At the beginning of the scene a panel had been debating the merits of their company's Christmas advertising, Bill's character was clearly not pleased and aired his version of the Christmas show. If you recall, it ended with a nuclear detonation. An old lady was given a heart attack during one of the airings of the commercial but instead of quitting it, Bill's character just ran a disclaimer at the top of the spot, thereby eliminating the network's responsibility.
This is staggeringly close to reality here, folks.
I mean, it's almost like the guys at NBC took their cues directly from the movie...
What's next? I used to say nothing surprises me anymore after having lived as long as I have...but damn.
Well done Dave. I think you're spot on.

lynn

"...including a legal system that is so concerned with the protection of an individual’s rights that it puts the rest of society at risk." Sir, the alternative to this type of system is one that puts everyone at risk for just the few. It is call Socialism. The protection of an individual's right (or rights) is always accomplished at the expense of a few. Typically, the few always seem to be Socialist or Communist leaning.

Steve

You can find clues to motives in many details. Note that Cho is almost exclusively refered to as a "gunman". When have you heard a report wherein he is called "murderer", "killer", or even the more sanitry "assailant". Always we are presented with the modality of his crime, not the crime itself.

Pete

Mr. Petzel,
A very perceptive and thought out observation. Will the media ever get a clue?

Michael

Well said, Dave.
Somewhere, sometime, a decision has to be made: security can only be increased by giving up some rights. Regarding today's media; There are no more Walter Cronkites; journalists with integrity, a sense of duty, and "common sense". Journalists of today are no longer the watchdogs of society, but rather a sleazy bunch of sensationalists.
William Randolph Hearst of the yellow journalism/muckraking era would be proud. "Truth is the first casualty of a sensational story." How pitiful.

Peter C

I beg to disagree: security is obviously not increased by giving up some rights. Was the security of the VT students increased by infringing their individual right to carry the means of self-protection?

Robert W. Sprague

Dave, thankyou for a very well written blog. I cannot express how deeply my feelings of contempt are for the leadership at NBC for choosing ratings over morals. Bearing in mind that the media uses every opportunity to portray gun owners as evil, I would ask all your readers to write, call, and e-mail NBC and ask for the resignation of those responsible for that decision, and then let the sponsors of NBC news know how you feel about the programming. Thankyou

Chad Love

Michael, journalism has fundamentally changed (for the worse, mostly, I'll concede that) because society's means of communication has fundamentally changed and right along with it, society's opinions of what's important and should be covered has changed right.
Believe me, there have been myriad attempts by a number of media outlets to chunk the sensationalism and celebrity/pop coverage and give the people real news, and almost without exception it has failed miserably.
People, by and large, don't want to be informed, they want to be titilated and entertained and therefore that's what the market dictates.
You think you're disgusted with the media? Believe me, you aren't any more disgusted or disillusioned than the legions of reporters (whom the vast majority of, BTW, did NOT go in to journalism for the money and fame...) who are forced to go out and cover stories and events in ways that are almost wholly influenced by consultant-driven focus group research. And from where are these focus groups drawn? You and me and everyone else. Welcome to the feedback loop...
Reporting is the only career I've ever known, so maybe I'm a bit biased, but instead of slamming the "journalists of today" we should be slamming the system that's producing them.
For the past few years I've been a fairly active freelancer for a very large circulation pop culture/celebrity-driven magazine, and in that time I've been sent on some truly moronic assignments and I have, by necessity, covered things and pursued stories and subjects so banal and shallow they made me seriously question both my personal dignity and the long-term viability of a society that would be interested in such crap.
But I did it, because A. we can't all write for Field & Stream, and B. I need to eat, and C. despite its shortcomings and challenges, I still believe in the positive power of good journalism and hold out hope there remain enough like-minded people to ensure it doesn't completely get swallowed up by the corporate infotainment beast.
And lost in this whole debate is the fact there was some damn fine reporting going on right along with the crap, you just had to wade through the sewer to find it.

Gerald Keller

I don't have the exact quote in front of me at this time,so it is possible that I mis-quote slightly and attribute it to the wrong Founding Father.I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said "those who would give up their rights for percieved security DESERVE NEITHER"

Dan Warner

I believe it was Franklin: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Security, deserve neither Liberty nor Security."

Well said, indeed.




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