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Victims all: NBC airs the “words of a murderer”

April 19, 2007

Does this make the American public “the 34th victim” of Cho Seung-Hui?

Cho (AP/NBC News)

Last night, I sat in stunned silence as NBC aired the self-videotaped, incoherent words and images of the killer of 33 people at Virginia Tech Monday morning.

Later, that stunned silence turned to pent up anger.

The killer, Cho Seung-Hui, rambles on in the tapes and recordings that he sent to NBC News Monday morning at 9:01 a.m., according to the envelope NBC showed on TV. That would put the shipment between the time Cho killed two people in a dorm room and the time he killed the masses in the school classrooms.

Cho rambled on in an aired videoclip:

“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” Cho says on one of the videos. “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.”

NBC makes sure to point out that Cho never identifies who “you” is. Cho also says he’s doing this for his “brothers and sisters.” He compares himself to Jesus Christ, saying he’s being crucified. He even mentions the “martyrs Eric and Dylan” (the Columbine killers, whose 8-year anniversary is this Friday), which shows how truly sick he was.

NBC anchor Brian Williams emphasized that his organization had been sifting through the materials all day, and notified the FBI immediately upon receipt (which was delayed, because Cho got the ZIP code on the package wrong). Williams also said that NBC was careful to edit the materials aired to be cautious about offending a sensitive and hurting community.

He added that NBC was aware that they were “airing the words of a murderer.” In an interview with the NY Times, Williams went further to call the airing of the tape “sick business”. But Williams gave no apologies for showing it, and just offered prior warning to those who might be offended.

This is the same network that, along with much of the news media, decided to stop showing pictures and video of the 9/11 planes crashing into the Twin Towers soon after the tragedy out of sensitivity concerns for the public.

What is the difference here, in this case? Where’s the sensitivity now?

More after the jump…

It took less than 48 hours for the killer’s video to make it to air. A coward, who takes lives of innocent strangers and then takes his own, does not deserve the public airtime to spout his nonsense. It’s rewarding the action, and sensationalizing the killer further. And it shows that to all the potential mass murderers out there that they will be glorified profiled, dissected, and explained to the nth degree by the national media when they commit their barbaric acts.

It’s just another log on the fire of the 24/7 news-cycle monster than NBC has to fill daily. Now they can bring on the parade of psychological experts to analyse the killer’s tape, and debate for hours what degree of crazy he was, and who’s to blame. George W. Bush and gun control, video games, the campus administration, fellow students and Hollywood are already getting parts of the blame, when the only blame should be placed solely on the dead shoulders of this deranged student.

An angry Bill O’Reilly had it right last night… calling Cho a “despicable maniac”. Amen.

In my mind, this makes NBC no better than Al-Jazeera, which frequently airs Al-Qaeda suicide bombers’ final videos after a group claims responsibility for an attack. Cho on Today show (AP/NBC)

It has rewarded the killer’s effort with additional notority and a worldwide forum — neither of which are helping the Virginia Tech community, the victims’ families and suffering students heal.

NBC should have taken transcripts of Cho’s rant, then distributed it to the media, burying the video manifesto and not letting it see the light of day. A killer deserves no such platform.

In the end, I’m sure Cho’s haunting video will get more face time on TV this week than the oh-so-important (until Monday, that is) 2008 Presidential candidates. That is, until the candidates blame Bush for the shooting.

[UPDATE: The Washington Post has a piece today chronicling the internal decision-making that NBC News grappled with about Cho’s video diatribe.

Not once in the story are evening-news ratings mentioned, which NBC won handedly by almost a point-and-a-half, according to the Drudge Report. Not once is mentioned that NBC News threw it’s “exclusive” logo over all the video, to make sure it “branded” it.

Branding a killer … that’s interesting.

One Virginia Tech student blasted NBC for the decision:

Nate Calhoun, a Blacksburg High School senior who lost a close friend in the massacre, came to the campus last night to pay respects to the victims. He blasted the network. “NBC really ticked my last nerves,” he said. “The way this university is already struggling with pain, I object to them putting these pictures out like that. It’s just not fair.”Kerry Redican, president of the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate, said he was not surprised by what he saw in the video. “This is a cold, calculating sociopath,” he said. “He must have had a narcissistic core to him.”

Correct. Cho was a narcissist. And NBC has just given him exactly what he wanted.

The FBI saw it that way too:

Former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt told Williams that the mailing was Cho’s “ultimate victory. This is the way he’s victimizing, further victimizing all of us, by reaching out from the grave and grabbing us and getting our attention and making us listen to his last rambling words and pictures.” ]

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5 Comments
  1. colinhodder permalink
    April 20, 2007 12:37 pm

    I just watched the O’Reilly clip, and I think the part where he comes back on after showing the clip is nearly as disturbing as the clip itself. It reminds me of that anchorman in “V for Vendetta” who acts all outraged and rightous just to play on people’s emotions the way he wants. It sounds so scripted and rehearsed that it’s like listening to a robot say it.

    Regarding airing the clip, I especially like how the NBC branding is on the clip now when stations like Fox show it. It’s like having a basketball player wearing Nikes. This demented dead murderer is now basically doing endoresments for NBC. Way to go NBC; you’re now on your way to being worse than Fox. Keep aiming low.

  2. April 21, 2007 3:21 am

    Consider all the airtime and column space given to the villain of the Virginia tragedy, his statements and his sickening photographs. Now compare it with the references one needs to search for two heroes who gave their own lives to save others’.

    Do NBC and others find no meaning and educational value to highlight the sacrifice made?

    I hope that media will suspend repeatedly playing the killer’s tapes and videos and dedicate some space to honor examples of bravery like Liviu Librescu, the 76-year-old maths professor who held shut the door of his classroom while his pupils scrambled to safety, and was then shot dead .

    Another fallen hero is Virginia Tech student Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, who was hit by three bullets, including one in the head, in an attempt to save a fellow student.

    Shaalan, 32, had been at Virginia Tech since August studying for a Ph.D. in civil engineering. He was ambitious, saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1999, said his father, Mohammed Shaalan, 65.

    The day before Monday’s massacre, Shaalan called home and said he intended to visit Egypt next month and then return to Virginia with his wife and 15-month-old son who had been living in Egypt, his parents said Thursday. The family got another call two days later. The Egyptian Embassy in Washington told them Shaalan had been one of the 32 victims.

    See his 2005 wedding photo at
    http://www.tri-cityherald.com/24hour/world/story/3603061p-12883822c.html

  3. Carmen permalink
    April 25, 2007 11:28 am

    I was aghast to see the video, but I think there is an even bigger issue that I have heard no one talk about: whether the media should even release the names of these killers.

    From my perspective, it serves no purpose (as the killer is dead and no longer a threat), and, if anything, it encourages other Narcisists to play out their fantasies of killing people and becoming famous for doing so. Fame is what they are seeking. They want to be known for their atrocities. That is their end game. Refusing to publicise their names would at a minimum deprive them of what they sought when they killed others.

    Even more important, if others knew that their names would not be linked to any mass atrocity they committed, they might not feel that there was any sense in committing the act in the first place.

    In Canada, we have a media ban on publishing the names of young offenders. Surely we could have one (in Canada and the U.S.) for publishing the names of these killers.

    I do not buy the media’s lines that by broadcasting the names and videos of these lunatics, that we are informing people so that we will know how to respond to such an event in the near future. There is no understanding these people. They are sick, and they will strike with impunity when and how they wish. And – if anything – making their names known and giving them a pedastal to rant from (as NBC did) only enourages others with similar narcisistic tendencies. The media is not preventing future atrocities – instead they are unintentionally contributing to them.

    I am calling for a ban on the name of these individuals in the media. I have no trouble with the victim’s family learning the name of the killer, but the mass media should be banned from publishing it. Whether the ban be voluntary or imposed, it is in the public’s best interest to cease to give these wacko’s the infamy they seek.

  4. April 25, 2007 8:05 pm

    The ban would have to be self-imposed, due to the USA’s First Amendment rights to free press.

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  1. NBC affiliate yanks Cho's manifesto for good « Hard Drive Life

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