I wannabe a star

April 19, 2007 by barbara

Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and ABC consultant, says it is a "social catastrophe" to air the videos of Seung-Hui Cho. Though I haven't seen them myself, I could not agree more wholeheartedly. What is this morbid obsession we have in this country (and elsewhere, perhaps) with graphic focus on aberrant, violent behavior and its grisly aftermath? Click here to continue reading.

Welner says Cho's photos, video clips and letters are in no way instructive and serve only to "offer validation of delusional behavior." No kidding. The media is fueling voyeurism at the expense of the victims and their families, and in so doing, are making some kind of bizarre anti-hero out of this desperately deranged young killer. But it goes beyond that.

Welner also said that he believed showing the video just gave fodder to people who were already isolated and disaffected.

"I promise you the disaffected will watch him the way they watched 'Natural Born Killers.' I know. I examine these people," he said. "I've examined mass shooters who have told me they've watched it 20 times. You cannot saturate the American public with this kind of message."

Welner maintained, however, that he was not blaming the media for airing the footage.

"It's not an issue of blame. It's an appeal. Please stop now. That's all," he said. "If you can take [talk show host Don] Imus off the air, you can certainly keep [Cho] from having his own morning show."
"They turn themselves into icons. They get articles written about themselves in The New York Times. This is perversion. We have to send a message to alienated people, you know what? You hate everybody around you? You're paranoid. You're sad. You're depressed. But these people are perverts," Welner said.

"They're ' not powerful. He's a weak link. He needs to create and produce his own picture in order to give himself a sense of power. Nobody saw him that way. He didn't see himself that way and that's why he set this up and he did this to achieve immortality. We have to stop giving him that and we can do it now."

I think the Imus parallel is brilliant. The MSM are making/have already made Cho into a media star.

Meanwhile, Iraqis continue to die in droves with little notice. Same old, same old.

Is this indecent? You tell me.

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Comments

susan | April 19, 2007 - 11:27am

YES! It's like we feed our young a toxic meal; they get sick, vomit, and die. So then we scoop up the vomit and feed them that too. Sorry, an inelegant metaphor I know. Don't tell me my sour mood is weather related. It's gorgeous out there. And I've already had a bike ride, so, done the fresh air and exercise thing and I still feel rotten. Can't imagine why.

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leftymn (not verified) | April 19, 2007 - 5:13pm

when I saw the first of the reports last night I watched only 10 seconds and had to leave, it was obviously lurid and horrible, a victory for the shooter, giving him the fame he wanted.

I had to take a walk, and could only think about our media and our culture , and wondering why they could air those images on TV and they cannot show pornography or say certain 4 letter words on network TV? Pornography would be more socially redeeming.

I am ashamed of this country.

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Mark Gisleson (not verified) | April 19, 2007 - 5:23pm

It is very helpful to see these things. For some, it helps provide closure to see them, but mostly, these tapes instruct us as to what dangerously crazy people look and act like.

Growing up on a farm, I have seen plenty of rabid animals. When city friends tell me they have not, I always say, don't worry, you'll know when you see one. But they respond, yeah, but I won't really know that until after I have.

If you don't understand what really crazy people sound like, watch the videos and learn. It could save your life someday, which is better than sitting around watching someone like Seung-Hui Cho and wondering if they're dangerous.

But no, I didn't watch the clips because I already know all too well what crazy people look and sound like.

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MLS (not verified) | April 19, 2007 - 9:12pm

to Mark:
My thought is that releasing parts of the tape on national television was extremely poor judgment by the media that participated. It's mind boggling enough that this atrocity happened. No, I don't have to listen/watch a video that Cho created to realize that this young man was crazy before he followed through with the crime. I get the point without seeing 'his' actions and explanations on national television. In Cho's very disturbed mind, the creation of this tape was 'his' final glory. Shamefully the media fed into it as he knew it would.

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Barbara aka Babs (not verified) | April 20, 2007 - 9:54am

I'm not sure seeing Cho's ravings brings anything close to closure. If anything, it fuels fear, of which we've had a bellyfull in this country since the Coming of George.

I urge everyone to consider substituting "crazy" with "people with mental illness." There's so much stigma attached to the "crazy" label. It ranks right up there with calling people who have mental retardation "retards." As I keep saying, there is immense power in language and labels that can perpetuate intolerance.

As for Cho specifically, it is painful and disprespectful to promote him to media stardom, however negative the context, don't you think? For all of us to some extent, but especially to the families and friends of the Virginia Tech victims. The media feeding frenzy is really pretty disgusting.

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mls (not verified) | April 20, 2007 - 1:54pm

Your absolutely right, Barbara, and although I was only attempting to respond to another's term with my reply I, myself, should have been more sensitive with my choice of words. My apologies.

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Barbara aka Babs (not verified) | April 20, 2007 - 2:21pm

Oh, crikey, I wasn't throwing stones at you, MLS. Not at Mark either, really. Intended to comment on the ways of our culture. So. Easy. To. Describe. Someone. As. Bats*** Crazy. I probably have done so myself. So it was much a lecture from Barbara to Barbara as to the cosmos. That old speck/log thing circles around yet again.

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Anonymous (not verified) | April 20, 2007 - 8:18pm

I didn't watch the TV feed on this video - I hated the newspaper photos. BUT I do think it's naive to think that these images wouldn't've made it into the national cyber consciousness. NBC DID take this horrible cyberinfo and moved it into the national/international cyberstream. So we all have this information in common, for good or ill. I'm not defending the decision, but it does seem to me that without the network decision, all this information inevitably would become available on youtube or any of those servers that are now so ordinary.

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susan | April 21, 2007 - 1:22pm

Mark writes, "If you don't understand what really crazy people sound like, watch the videos and learn. It could save your life someday, which is better than sitting around watching someone like Seung-Hui Cho and wondering if they're dangerous."

Well, this sounds a little facile to me. First of all, the Seung-Hui Cho seen in those videos is probably nothing like the non-speaking loner who was seen around the VT campus. Seems likely that the grandiosity all surfaced in those last horrifying and painful rants. But I have absolutely no background in psychology to know if that's true, just guessing.
My point is that you don't need to see these videos to know the portrait of a deeply disturbed soul.
I bring it up because I know someone who worries me and many others, yet we are at a loss as to what to do. So far he's the quiet 20-something kid, the slightly over-weight loner, who works as a security guard by night, lifts weights by day, is said to have pictures of Hitler on his bedroom walls -- and owns a perfectly legal gun collection. He lives at home with his parents, who seem oblivious -- they once joked to me about his gun collection -- and are simply not approachable for many reasons.
The small police force in the tiny community where this family lives are very close-knit and there are no secrets. Before the job as the security guard, this young guy worked as the police dispatcher. Anything any of us brings up to the police will surely get back to him and his parents, and that makes us very afraid. We worry that reporting him, even anonymously, will trigger his rage and set off the sort of attack we all fear. And, as we know, until the law is broken, the police can do nothing. Do we really want cops arresting people for "weird" behavior? Who determines what's weird? Your neighbor? It's a dilemna.

We've talked to his employer and suggested that someone keep an eye on him and make note of any changes in his behavior, but there are liability issues for them as well. We know of one incident where he lost his temper on the job (because we know the woman who he yelled at, another employee who was going out the "wrong" door) but at this point there's nothing the employer can do. Besides, how many times are work-place shootings triggered by a firing?

I am somewhat worried for my own safety and that of my family, but just as worried for the safety of others. I imagine waking up someday to terrible headlines and wondering why I didn't do more. But I ask myself over and over, what can we do? Other than one arrest for shooting out stop signs from his car, he's broken no law. He's quiet. He hasn't hurt anyone. Yet.
What would you do?

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