This Cho Seung-Hui had it all planned out. After he fired his guns on Virginia Tech classmates, he'd get his face and action-figure persona emblazoned in the consciousness of America via NBC News.
When I first picked up the Sun-Sentinel this morning, I was confronted with three good-sized photos of Cho dominating the top of the fold. In the first, he's pointing a gun at me. In the second, he's pointing two guns in my general direction. In the third, he's pointing a gun at his own head.
I'd seen all three photos, oh, about 40 times each on TV yesterday, so they weren't exactly news. And my first thought was that the Sentinel was playing way too far into this kid's hands. The Palm Beach Post ran the largest photo of the kid in the center of the front page, but I thought it worked best. Because it ran larger than it should have, and because it was behind a gun, the little bastard's face was obscured. That would have been perfect, but then somebody had to add another shot below of it Cho holding the two guns to ruin it. The Miami Herald had one relatively small photo of the two-guns photo above the fold.
So I'll give the Cho Art Award to the Herald. Best headline goes to the Sentinel for "Self-Portrait Of A Killer." (Worst headline to the Herald for it's decision to use "Shooter: I Die Like Christ" -- I'm sure Cho couldn't have been more pleased). The Post gets
shut out this time. Maybe next massacre, guys.
Part of the reason I feel like the newspapers -- and TV -- are exploiting this thing is that there isn't much to find fascinating in this particular killer. We knew who this guy was two days ago. Socially, he was a ghost who didn't talk to anyone. In his head, he had delusions that he was a Jesus Christ figure who was going to get back at rich kids for his own ill-defined problems (torching of his conscience, raping of his soul, vandalizing of his heart, etc.). The blood is on our hands, blah blah blah. Overall, he was just a sick, twisted, self-absorbed shit who should have been put away a while back. He's a bit like Travis Bickle, only without all the sparkling personality (or sharply pointed morality). And with a camera instead of a mirror.
Yes, Cho pulled off the worst shooting massacres in history. But don't compare him to Charles Whitman. That guy, as the Full Metal Jacket drill instructor fawned, shot his victims from atop a 27-story tower in Austin from a distance of up to 400 yards. And he had a tumor pressing against his brain. Whitman was just another sad and pathetic mass killer, but it was a hellacious feat, almost literally. Cho killed his victims in their classrooms like fish in a barrel, with chains on the doors. The boy was determined, but that's about all.
But the cable stations have been wallowing in this story now almost exclusively for four days. Look, I want to know about the victims and I want them to be remembered, but this 24-7 stuff has been ridiculous. Yesterday, more than six times as many people who were killed at V Tech were killed in bombings in Iraq, many of them burned alive. And that blood truly is on our hands. Yet, look at the CNN site right now. All Cho, all the time. No mention of Iraq on the home page. There was no Iraq story on the front page of the three dailies, either.
And you thought Cho was the only one irrationally self-absorbed.