Friday, April 20, 2007

Doing the right thing.

UPDATE: My step-daughter's middle school is under lock-down right now because a kid brought a gun to school today. Her dad is there to get her out, so she's okay. As far as I know, the gun wasn't fired. I don't know anymore details, but I'd venture to say it's helping to make the case of this post.

NBC shit-cans Imus, claiming to have done so because of his insensitivity.

Then they air the package of photos, videos and writings that Cho Seung-Hui sent them between killings, claiming to have done so because it was important for us to understand why this disturbed young man did what he did.

Excuse me while I throw up for a while.

NBC fired Imus because of money. NBC aired Cho's stuff because of ratings, which equal money.

That's it. Their bottom line is the bottom line of all of this. Period.

Imus got what he deserved, what he's spent years all but asking for. But NBC made the decision out of fear of loss of revenue from sponsors.

Their decision to air the Cho footage, and make it available to other media outlets, was reprehensible. It was exactly what Cho wanted; he's a celebrity now, immortalized not by what he did, but by the exposure he received after he did it.

Cho's dead, so it doesn't mean shit to him.

But it means a shitload to all the other psychos out there who want to be immortalized too. The message to them is quite simple:

Wanna go out in a blaze of glory? Wanna be immortalized?

We'll help you.

There is absolutely no redeaming value to broadcasting that stuff throughout the world. None.

You turn it over to the authorities, you report that Cho left behind a whole mess of disturbing self-produced materials that further show he was deeply fucked up, and you leave it at that. You don't sate the morbid curiosity of the masses for your fucking ratings. You know, I bet there was even some pride felt at NBC because Cho chose them.

I would like to point out that while almost every other media outlet showed the stuff, CBS did not. And get this: They're taking heat for not showing it.

I'm so sick of the media showing people wondering how someone can get that messed up, blaming guns, blaming a lack of guns, screaming about warning signs, screaming about what the proper response should have been, blah blah blah, and not actually stopping to consider that YOU'RE HELPING TO CREATE THE FUCKING PROBLEM.

It's indefensible.


Wiggy said...

It's indefensible.

I'm with you. "Next on the news: the making of a copycat killer. Oh - oops - uh - nevermind."

When a tragedy like this happens, I always wonder, too, how the family and friends deall with the relentlessly repetitive broadcasting of the tragedy - the pictures, video footage, letters, "experts" opinions et all.

I hope they all have a safe place to hide from all of that insensitivity.

fringes said...

Well written post.

PJ said...

Very well written, and spot on. I'm ashamed to admit that when I read it in last night's newspaper, I didn't have this sort of negative reaction. If I would have given it the thought you did, I'd have arrived at the same conclusion. You made me think.

Joe the Troll said...

Sigh. I guess I'll have to be the gadfly again, because I disagree.

In fact, it's all there in your penultimate paragraph. People don't want others getting on the soapbox pushing the same anti/pro gun agenda they had before the disaster. They want to address the REAL problem. The thing is, unless all the details are out in public discussion, how do we know what the real problem is?

People talk about "warning signs", and how folks should be more alert to them. Then when the things that should have been "warning signs" are aired, it's bad because it hurts the feelings of people who evidently don't know how to use the remote button labeled "power". So when the next tragedy happens, and people don't recognise that there was a "warning sign" just like the "warning sign" we weren't supposed to discuss on TV, then the finger-pointing begins anew.

What we DON'T need is TV stations prolonging the story with truly senseless shit like this morning's story about how the VT vollyball team wants to finish the season. Who gives a fuck? That isn't pertinent. Cho's frame of mind IS pertinent. You don't want him to have a "platform?" He got that by killing those people. They're already dead. How is trying to understand why he did it going to make things worse? How COULD it? We're going on and on and on about how to prevent another occurance, and ignoring the mental processes of the perpatrator is somehow going to HELP?

As far as copycats go, isn't the news of what happened enough to start that? Are you suggesting that people will watch the news about what Cho did, how, when and where he did it, and the furor he caused, but they won't think of copying it unless they read his manifesto? THAT is the tipping point that causes copycats, not the fact that he was on the news at all?The kid who brought the gun to your step-daughter's school was influenced by the video ramblings, and NOT by the events of Monday through Wednesday?

Are you also suggesting that protecting people's feelings is more important than fostering a public discussion about what happened and why, hopefully with the aim of understanding and avoiding future incidences? I would think that those who lost loved ones on that campus would have enough grief already that this wouldn't even hit thier radar.

And yes, they are looking at their bottom line, AS WE ALL DO. Do you only advertise for companies that produce products you use and approve of? Or do you perhaps work to sell some products only because the company that makes them writes you a check? Do you ask yourself what effect this purchasing decision could make on a family before coming up with a slogan? Do youu refuse to advertise a product simply because SOME people MIGHT be offended?

Finally, I have to say that information does not cause nearly as many problems as ignorance does. Of course, there will always be those people who want to blame the media for what happens, because they need someone to blame and don't have anyone to shoot but the messenger. From experience, though, I think you're smarter and more honest than that, Koz.

I don't mind any PERTINENT information being aired. That's their job. It's up to us what we do with it. If we choose to ignore that which we find discomforting, then we are stuck with the old ban guns/guns for everone "debate" which never gets solved, and we'll be stuck holding our dicks and wondering who to point our fingers at the next time it happens.

Jeff Kos said...

I only have a second, and I'll definitely come back and address more of your comment, Joe, but quickly, my point is this:

The point of my post had nothing to do with sensitivity to the victims or their families. That's a common complaint people are making, but I intentionally didn't make this post about that. My point was that showing Cho's videos does nothing to further our understanding of warning signs. He wasn't broadcasting this stuff. He created them and sent them to NBC in hopes that they'd air them to the world. And they did just that. I see nothing gained from showing the videos or his "look at me, I'm a tough guy with guns" pictures. I haven't learned anything that's going to help me protect my family. They played right into his hands, just like they did with Klebold and Harris, whom Cho cited in his shit. I just don't see any value whatsoever in airing that stuff.

Jeff Kos said...

"I would think that those who lost loved ones on that campus would have enough grief already that this wouldn't even hit thier radar."

Not even close. After all this stuff started airing, the students and family, up until now cooperative with the media, abruptly stopped talking to the media and issued a joint statement telling the media to leave them the hell alone.

PJ said...

"What we DON'T need is TV stations prolonging the story with truly senseless shit like this morning's story about how the VT vollyball team wants to finish the season. Who gives a fuck? That isn't pertinent."

Who decides that, Joe? I think a story with a positive ring to it, such as one that says yes, these kids are hurting like hell but they're not going to let a murderer make them crawl into a hole and quit living IS pertinent. It sends a message that those who are left behind are getting on with their lives, as they should. I'd sure as hell rather see that on the news than the ravings of a madman who, as Jeff points out, is getting exactly the media splash he wanted before he turned a college into carnage.

Joe the Troll said...

"Who decides that, Joe?"

I guess it's the same people who decide for all of us that the rantings of the actual perp are NOT pertinent. The guy was a "loner" by all accounts. Why should we be more interested in what everyone who met him, but didn't really know him, has to say about this guy they couldn't get to know?

I mean, are today's attempts at genocide in Africa the direct result of some greedy publisher putting "Mein Kampf" on paper?
Shouldn't we stop giving Hitler the attention he craved? Would ignoring his point of view help us avoid that happening ever again, or is FORGETTING his point of view the larger danger?

And the people on the campus have stopped talking to the media? Good. They've already milked more than their 15 minutes out of this, I'd say. Except the vollyball team, that is. They need to get their pat on the back for doing what they should, instead of crawling into a hole. They're news because they were having a good season, and wouldn't want this thing to stand between them and a chance for a trophy.

In some way, tragedy strikes every life. We all have to get over something and move on. We don't all need to be the focus of a news story because we choose to keep living our lives.

This was a harsh reality, and it has harsh details. It won't be understood, or avoided in the future, by ignoring what we don't like and sticking to the touchy-feely stuff. That's what we always do. And that could be part of why it will happen again.

Jeff Kos said...

"They've already milked more than their 15 minutes out of this, I'd say."

Ouch. By the way you describe it, you'd almost think the reporters are sitting at their desks and the kids on campus are calling them up begging to be put on air.

Joe the Troll said...

No, Koz, but how many, Monday through Thursday, said "no, this is too personal and painful"? There was no dearth of people who were willing to go on the air and tell the world how little they knew about him. If they don't want to continue standing in front of a camera and telling us the same thing over and over because they don't control the dialog, then too bad. We KNOW he was a loner, and we KNOW that these people didn't really know what he was about. They have no more to contribute.Then we hear from the ONLY, evidently, person who knew anything about the whys and wherefores, and that ISN'T supposed to be on the air? I'm sorry, Koz. I respect your opinion, I really do, but I have to see this as simply more finger-pointing, and I don't see how that helps.

As I said, I know I'm coming off a bit harsh, but this situation is harsh, through and through.

Joe the Troll said...

I'd like to add that LISTENING to what nutjob had to say is not the same as agreeing with it, and airing it is not the same as justifying it, just as reading Mein Kampf is not the same as agreeing with it, and publishing it is not the same as saying "Go kill Jews."

This is kind of like many people's approach to the war. Many folks like to ascribe an attitude to the enemy, and don't want anyone going and talking to them because it might contradict what they've already decided. Remember Giuliani? "They didn't attack us because of anything we did that they didn't like, they attacked us because THEY HATE FREEDOM!" That was his excuse for ignoring the words of Arabs that don't hate us, and wanted to give us a clue about the cause of the attack. This is just a smaller situation, but the same response. "We're comfortable with our contentions that this is a gun/lack of gun/ media problem. We don't want to hear anything that might point a finger where we don't want it. We want to hear from everyone AROUND the attacker/nutjob, not he himself. Listening to HIM might hit too close to home."

This is a very discomforting situation. Nothing about it can be solved by staying within our comfort zones. Healing hurts. But avoiding that hurt can lead to a lot more hurt later on.

Don said...

Today I read one article on the subject, and it named Cho's uncle and sister and said where they worked. I thought that was pretty irresponsible. Those poor folk. What more harassment will they now get from ghouls and nutjobs? And the uncle said he ASSUMED Cho's parents were doing all right. Not a chance. I hope I am way out of line to predict an as yet undetected murder-suicide. Their pain to me is incomprehensible -- as is their ignoring their son's problems.

Joe the Troll said...

"it named Cho's uncle and sister and said where they worked."

Now THAT is not pertinent, and is, as you say, very irresponsible.

Pillock said...

Love the new look.

Madness! Madness!

Don said...

My step-daughter's middle is under lock-down right now

Boy are you strict!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's school. I hope she and the other students are okay.

I'm perpetuating the practice, because I watched the videos (on and I read the stuff. I've been compiling research on school shootings for the past 8 years and when I saw this out there, I clicked on it without hesitating. I'm not related to any victim and don't work in law enforcement or psychology or any other related profession, unless you count writer. Maybe the answer then is to tell me and everyone else who wants to research such things in less than a professional capacity to piss off. Personally I'd perfer to see this sort of evidence a matter of public record, so people who want to access it can request it (and maybe be of a certain age to get it?), but not see it broadcast on public airwaves, which at the very least is tasteless and disrespectful to the victims, and at worst may, as you suggest, aggravate the matter of copycats.

Lucyp said...

Although i can see Jeffs and others point of view, the bottom line is the whole media game is about ratings and this was a once in a lifetime (hopefully) opportunity landing in the lap of NBC.
It doesn't make it right, but it is understandable.

Jodie K said...

Let me put on my hip boots and wade into the shit storm...then start by saying I appreciate and respect all views here.

There's been some public outcry in Colorado (a good deal of it and the most vocal coming from victim’s families) regarding the FBI's decision to seal what are called the Columbine killers "Basement Tapes" for the next 20 years. The FBI claims the videotaped tirade made by Harris and Klebold prior to the shootings is a "call to arms" for others; the FBI believes the materials, along with interviews done with the killer’s parents, must be closed to the public for fear of copy cat killings. Still, Cho called out Harris and Klebold in his taped message. BTW, you can read in detail what is contained on the tapes given "Time Magazine" provided a detailed description of their contents in a cover story some years back.

Today is the eighth anniversary of the killings at Columbine and I just watched the parent of one of the young victims shake and sob as he recalled that day and the events of the past week. His question, why aren’t we doing all we can to understand why young people kill. Will it take 60 more dead? 600? Why? We'll continue to ask it about Va. Tech, and again when the next event occurs. Will we have learned anything?

I admit I was intensely curious to see the Cho tapes and photos, but after one viewing, I’m done. I choose, I choose, not to engage any more of my time, memory or energy to what this pathetic piss had to say. You cannot hide from the reality of mental illness, pain and violence; sadly victims (and survivors) cannot be protected from it either.

Paula said...

Ooh, everyone's made such good points that my head's spinning. I'll admit I don't know what to do about psychos or media gluttony. Hope Jeff's step-daughter is okay.

Joe the Troll said...

Jodie - You hit on it. All that is required for a copycat crime is to know what happened, the "how". Then you can copy it. You don't need to copy the "why" at all.

Don said...

I don't know how to articulate my thought in less than about ten thousand words, so I'm just going to say I don't think this youthful madness is anything new, only that our society (global) has changed and the releases / effects / consequences are therefore appearing more out of balance. I think they seek these people out in the Middle East and use them to bomb restaurants. In the past, all countries took them into their armed forces. Now we must identify and treat them, yet respect their right to refuse treatment (up to a point). Argh. Has the world always looked so complicated and messed up no matter who / where / when you are? Or are we just lucky?

radical mama said...

I think your point is compelling, Jeff.

To this: "The kid who brought the gun to your step-daughter's school was influenced by the video ramblings, and NOT by the events of Monday through Wednesday?" I think yes, in general. Cho knew very well that he would be dead when the videos aired. I don't think it is just the act of murdering, but the accompanying sense of immortality that appeals to people who do this. And that's what they are witnessing with the constant airing of the videos.

And I don't think the Mein Kampf comparison is fair. One can easily ignore Hitler's writings or any other written call to arms. You have to actually seek it out. With the constant talk of the VT shootings, you would have to crawl into a cave to ignore it.

This does come down to money. Is that always a bad thing? No. But sometimes the ethical thing should be done even when it is not the most profitable. And if that is not course taken, we (the consumers) have the right to demand better.

I hope your daughter is doing okay Jeff. That must have been very traumatic for her to experience.

O' Tim said...

I don’t believe there was any possible way for NBC to have made a 100% right decision on this, and I don't believe there was any giddiness involved with what they ended up doing.

Yes, revenue was the primary reason for Imus’ dismissal. But I think that's an apple to the orange of why they decided to air the Cho stuff (which I have yet to view and don't know that I will. And I don't live in a cave, in case anyone is wondering). The latter was not, "Ohmigod we'll lose revenue if we don't do this" as it was with Imus. As I understand it, NBC gave Cho's package to law enforcement, who basically dismissed it as "nothing we didn't know already." Now they seem pissed off that NBC decided that maybe the public should get a chance to be the judge of that as well (This attitude toward public information is typical with law enforcement authorities. Near me there is a missing person case of a woman who was last seen a month ago. Her husband, a cop, has been named as a person of interest, aka "suspect-lite," and the investigators have shared precious little with the family and the media, including details about the husband's timeline/alibi and, get this, the nature of false statements made to investigators by a friend and co-worker of the husband, who has been charged with the related felony. Of course I'm no investigator, and I respect the need to keep certain salient details classified while a case is open, but as I see it some of this information could be useful for gathering leads, or at least it might have three weeks ago). Specifically I think the release of the Cho info will get people to want more answers as to how/why this freak slipped through the cracks of the mental health treatment community. He had complaints against him from female students that in the end were dismissed with "there's nothing we can do." He had instructors who read his writing and were scared shitless, and yet the best determination mental health authorities were willing to come to was that Cho was a potential threat just to himself. They were one checked box away from having this asshole locked up, and yet the media is being accused of actions reprehensible. What about the inaction of the law enforcement, school and MH people? I agree with Joe - information does not cause nearly as many problems as ignorance does.

Media coverage is driven by what the public wants, and because we live in a capitalist society, the connection between the two starts with advertising, which is connected to consumers/viewers which is where the money comes from. Sad but true, and if you don’t want to support that then kill your television or at least stick with the 100% bias-free news coverage of public broadcasting. It’s not a perfect system, and I can think of plenty worse things for the media to be excoriated for (saturation and overkill/duplication in this case being especially heinous. To me it's pathetic that every news outlet has to get their representation, thus the overwhelmed students, etc. Couldn't they do like in courtrooms and have a pool camera and reporter for the day?).

On the surface I see a whole bunch of people ranting about the travesty of what NBC has done, and yet my gut tells me the vast majority leaned in a little closer on their living room chairs after Brian Williams said, “What you are about to see is disturbing…”

Considering your current (and as I recall, past) profession, Jeff, I think that you more than most people understand how it works.

Wiggy said...

All that is required for a copycat crime is to know what happened, the "how". Then you can copy it. You don't need to copy the "why" at all.

Sure - one doesn't need to know the "why" of it to copycat it.

What we need to anazlyse, though, is whether or not there is a direct relationship between copycatting and the sheer *number* of times a tragedy like this is aired - especially when it is the same sequence of tidbits.

Sure - we all need to know about the tragedy and discuss and analyze, but when the media reports the same tragic story over and over and over again, day after day after day after day, the same information aired again and again - is that not what could raise the likelihood of another copycatting? Some disgruntled person sitting in front of his tube day after day after day sayin' - yeah man - I know how that dude felt - yeah man... until he says - yeah man, me too... yeah.

And tell me, is that really newsworthy? Is it really newsworthy to air the same gosh darn story over and over and over again? What? Is the media afraid too many people won't hear about it?

Yeah right. I'm sure that must be the media's primary concern...

Lucyp said...

If the worry is about people watching the cho video and 'copycating', how does it affect the argument that some people are not influenced by what they see on the screen?
The idea being mooted by police is that Cho continually watched the violent film Oldboy and he posed in a few pictures in that films style.

Jeff Kos said...

Thanks for all the good wishes for my step-daughter. She's fine, all the kids are fine. The kid with the gun was not on, but near, school grounds. Given the recent events, the school officials made the obvious choice of better safe than sorry.

Thanks also to everyone for the great debate. I'm big enough to admit, like Paula, that some great points have been made on both sides of the coin. Let me unequivocally state, however, that I don't support a complete suppression of the stuff, and I think my post insinuates that I do. It was the constant international airing of it that I objected to. I still do, to be honest. At my very core, I object to immortalizing someone like Cho. Perhaps there's not a ton of rational thought in that, but to know that he got EXACTLY what he so desired makes my skin crawl.

PJ said...

What makes me sick right now is the hell his family is going through. I wonder if he even gave that one iota of thought before he went on his violent rampage.

Roy said...

Media coverage is driven by what the public wants, and because we live in a capitalist society...
We are not the only people complaining about the way this was covered. Note that OJ's book and TV special were canceled due to this sort of thing. This is perhaps one way the networks find out what the public wants. The sad thing is it looks like the media judges these things based only on money, and any ethics, morals, or common sense is second-hand, or coincidental .

Joe the Troll said...

"you would have to crawl into a cave to ignore it. "

Or do the absolutely unthinkable.... that is, turn the TV off.

PJ - I doubt he gave it a thought. I'm no psychiatrist, but think that "sociopath" is a good bet. He didn't care about anyone's feelings but his own.

Koz - I don't think he's "immortalized". It take more than a week on TV to do that these days. I'll bet most people, like myself, don't remember the names of the Columbine kids, or the one on the reservation.

Natsthename said...

I agree with you in principal, but isn't it NBC's job to make money? It's part of show business, isn't it, or it would be PBS? I'm not necessarily defending it, but that's the way it works in our capitalistic, free market society. Making money is the goal, and sometimes we all get so uppity about that, as if it's such a gawdawful bad thing.

Perhaps news outlets out to be not for profit, so it would be a lot less like pimping the suffering of others. (That is what is usually seems like to me.)

I am sick of hearing every angle of the story...from "how the volleyball team will finish the season" to "inside the mind of a killer." This is what pisses me off...the story has to be done to death, until the next, possibly more horrific act is commited by some other horribly troubled person.

Nobody heard of Cho before one week ago, and apparently even his roommates didn't really know him. He knew he was a "nobody," and he left his ranting, rambling videos and writings in desperate hope of finally being a "somebody." And he got what he wanted, at such a very high price. Very sad.

Looney said...

Hey, Kos? Didja get my email?

Aunty Christ said...

CBS fired Imus, not NBC.

JennyJinx said...

You know, it was completely possible for NBC to get Cho's "message" out without giving his image airtime. They could've provided a transcript, summarized it, etc. The fact that they chose to air his insane ramblings goes straight to ratings and nothing else- the more shocking the footage the better.

Our Channel 8 (Fox) refused to air the footage and actually admonished other outlets who did show it. Our Channel 19 (CBS) is crass and likes to "shock" so they showed it at 5,6, and 11 as well as bits and pieces during other shows. GAH! There was nothing pertinent in putting Cho's video on air, at all. Maybe some of his message was pertinent, but the video itself was nothing more than fodder for the gawkers, imo.

Oh, and Auntie Christ, NBC fired Imus from MSNBC and CBS fired him from their radio network. By the way, both firings were due to the bottom line. Make no mistake.

Joe the Troll said...

ABC PRE-fired him, just in case. They wanted in on the story.

Joe the Troll said...

ABC PRE-fired him, just in case. They wanted in on the story.

Jeff Kos said...

"Hey, Kos? Didja get my email?"

No! When did you send it?

PJ said...

Joe, you're repeating yourself.

PJ said...

Joe, you're repeating yourself.

Joe the Troll said...

Watch out for those "deja vu" jokes, PJ.... they can backfire on you!! :-)

Aunty Christ said...

Jenny: Oh, okay ... I guess the word I had heard wrt NBC was "dropped," and "fired" wrt CBS. Anyhow, I think what I wanted to say before (but was too tired to at the time) was that I am absolutely sickened by the networks' ongoing effort to predigest my news for me, vomiting it into my throat as if I were a baby bird. Why does everyone want to be babysat by NBC, of all things? Look: Cho went out "in a blaze of glory," "memorialized," regardless of NBC's decision to air this footage. By showing the footage, they allowed the public the chance to see for ourselves that this was not, per se, a gun-control issue, or something that putting stricter ratings on video games would have stopped, no matter what the mama bird pundits would have us believe.

Joe the Troll said...

"By showing the footage, they allowed the public the chance to see for ourselves that this was not, per se, a gun-control issue, or something that putting stricter ratings on video games would have stopped, no matter what the mama bird pundits would have us believe. "

Wow, auntie christ, that is an excellent point.

Looney said...

About four days ago, I think? I sent it to your regular addy, not your spamex one, but maybe I'll resend to that one just in case...

JennyJinx said...

Aunty Christ,

You do make a good point. Still, I think they could've performed that service without actually airing his face. Plus I don't honestly believe that they had such good intentions. Would that they did..:)

O' Tim said...

I just came across this article by Richard Gizbert on HuffPo that is definitely worth a read. It's had me reconsidering some things along the old adage of "I'll change my mind when you change the facts."

An interesting excerpt:

"I don't buy the slippery slope argument that journalists rely on too often; that censoring this kind of material brings us one step closer to censorship, full stop. That's a self serving canard that media use in order to avoid the kind of criticism all institutions can benefit from."

Good point, though with gun fetishists and the NRA, that's two self serving canards.