Shame on NBC and the rest of the MSM

I could easily post photographs of Cho Seung-Hui, the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre, but I will do no such thing.

Everyone presumably knows by now that Cho mailed a package containing photos and video of himself, plus written statements, to NBC. The package was mailed between Cho’s first two murders and the thirty others that he carried out two hours later.

NBC broadcast the video on the flimsiest of pretexts:

By showing some of this material, perhaps it will make us understand or answer the question ‘why did it happen?’

An act of public service? That’s such bullshit!

We already knew why this happened: because Cho had a serious mental health problem. There are public policy issues to discuss: whether the university had enough information to recognize in advance that Cho was dangerous; whether more or less gun control might prevent future incidents. But it is not a public service to satisfy people’s morbid curiosity about the irrational crap Cho’s head was full of.

The other mainstream media couldn’t let NBC have this juicy material to itself, so everyone started broadcasting the video. They gave Cho what he wanted:

This is exactly the kind of instant notoriety sought by the disturbed spree killers, from Dunblane through to Columbine and now Virginia Tech. …

In the end, I don’t think news organisations had much choice about showing the material but the implications are quite scary.

News organizations didn’t have much choice? I see: no one at NBC has the authority to decide not to air a video, if there’s a public appetite to see it. Bullshit bullshit!!

But they’re good people, really they are. Now they’re going to exercise laudable self-restraint:

NBC and its MSNBC cable outlet will now “severely limit” use of these pictures, Today cohost Matt Lauer said, a restriction echoed by ABC News. At both CBS News and CNN, producers will need explicit approval from their bosses to use them.

Fox News announced on the air late Thursday morning that it would no longer broadcast Mr. Cho’s material, saying “sometimes you change your mind.”

These decisions came more than 12 hours after the pictures became available, after they already made their impact. The news cycle dictates they would be used less, anyway.

Once a video has broadcast in the internet age, it will circulate forever. A public service indeed! Thanks for that!

I remember the era before tabloid journalism became the universal norm. Once upon a time, there were only three American networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and they were respectable, responsible institutions. They were easily distinguishable from the National Enquirer or True Detective, print media which catered to base human instincts.

NBC, you had the power to keep a lid on this material. The decision you made was self-serving and immoral, and it makes me sick.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Simen
    Apr 20, 2007 @ 13:42:34

    Quick question: does MSM stand for “mainstream media”?

    Anyway, I agree that showing this video was unfortunate and stupid. There are, of course, those who invoke free speech. That’s not what this is about. Nobody that I’ve heard wanted to censor the video. They wanted the networks to voluntarily refrain from showing it on for ethical reasons. No need to make a mass murderer immortal. I can agree with that. It sends the wrong message.


  2. Jamie
    Apr 20, 2007 @ 14:24:47

    I agree, Stephen.

    On one hand, I guess it’s important that people know what happened, and the videos are part of what happened. On the other hand, it seems distorted somehow to keep rehearsing the violence, as it feeds the (very real) human infatuation with the sordid details of obscenity and only serves to make Cho a celebrity. Is that the best we can do in responding to the tragedy?

    Personally, I haven’t seen the videos. I don’t watch TV, and I’m not inclined to make an exception now.


  3. Bill
    Apr 20, 2007 @ 15:30:15

    Totally agree. I can’t conceive of one good reason to air the ramblings of a very sick man. Without seeing the video we all knew Cho was mentally disturbed, by his actions. Freedom of speech does not apply because it pertains to the right to voice one’s opinions. Cho had done so to the networks it was the networks choice to show the material and they could not possibly agree with Cho, so the airing of this stuff was close if not the same as pornography. To the viewers that wanted to see it be honest with yourself it was simply morbid curiosity, not a need to know.


  4. MaryP
    Apr 23, 2007 @ 15:25:55

    The immorality of the decision is only compounded by their pretense that it was grounded in anything other than self-interest. Bah.


  5. 49erDweet
    Apr 25, 2007 @ 02:37:11

    Totally concur. (Is this an omen of something or other)?


  6. Stephen
    Apr 30, 2007 @ 16:32:09

    Unanimity. It’s never happened on this blog before. I think 49er is right … it’s got to be a harbinger of Christ’s return or some such apocalyptic event.


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