Monday, April 23, 2007

Paying attention is cheaper than paying with your life

Between the Virginia Tech shooting and the recent murder-suicide at NASA, many words have been spilled about the lifestyles and/or psychology of the killers. And while these glimpses have been compelling at times, one description of NASA killer William Phillips by the BBC stopped me in my tracks:

Nasa said Phillips, a contract engineer, had been employed for about 12 years, was unmarried, had no children and reportedly lived on his own.

What are they implying here? That steady employment and singlehood are the basic building blocks of a raging psychopath? That's what you always seem to hear about the creepy loners, isn't it?

"He was employed, was unmarried, had no children and lived alone at the end of an apartment complex on a dead-end street near the edge of town."

AAAH!! But enough about me! While these descriptions add drama to the stories of those who lose it, it's ultimately a cheap shot. An unnecessary angle to pile onto these losers.

Know what else is a cheap shot? The way some are attacking the media (including cannibalistic pundits) for highlighting the videos that Cho Seung-Hui made before his rampage. They say that these anger-laden diatribes will embolden future creepy loners into filming similar bids for attention before conducting similar tragedies.

Well, I can certainly understand that angle. After all, no one wants to foster a culture of disaffected emo kids earning their fifteen minutes of infamy with sweeping murder-suicides.

But these calls to tone down access to these videos overlook one small thing: no one insane enough to mow down their classmates with semiautomatic weapons needs any outside motivation! Something that drastic comes from a lifetime of taunting, teasing, frustration, extreme personal depression and other factors, possibly combined with severe mental illness and substance abuse. Once those common factors run uncommonly deep, nothing else matters. That's precisely why it happens among loners--because the driving forces emanate from within, with little intervention to temper these urges. YouTube has very little to do with it!

What this self-righteous call to suppress Cho's video tells me is that people are afraid that too many Americans will identify with the killer's words. "We don't want anyone to see this video and think that it's okay to express themselves this way." If this revenge-obsessed culture is indeed producing such huge numbers of budding slashers, then hell, let's give them all camcorders! Broadcast whatever ramblings result to a large viewership. Maybe they'd cool off if they felt that they could attract an audience for once. If nothing else, at least we'd know who to corral before they act out on their anger. Isn't that the idea in the first place?

I say, let anyone who wants to see the Cho video see it. Go. Get your ya-yas out. The best way to quell curiosity for this video is to lay eyes on it! That's disturbing stuff, and hard to watch. Justified or not, people do feel like this. Anyone who thinks videos encourage this behavior is confusing cause and effect. Maybe if more people saw this even one time, they wouldn't take for granted the depths to which human nature can plunge, even in our institutions of higher learning. Perhaps it would help them treat others better in their own lives.

What won't work in preventing future tragedies of this type is to stigmatize groups such as single guys and introverted people. A quiet angry person deserves attention because they are angry, not because they are quiet. For their part, the talking heads do no service by saying we should censor the killers' pleas for attention. After all, lack of attention is probably the very thing that led them astray.

1 comment:

Cajun Tiger said...

Absolutely agree! Good post!