Was It Right to Show Killer's Videos?

Seung-hui Cho gained a face -- beyond the old ID or yearbook photos we'd seen -- when he mailed his "manifesto" to NBC, and when news outlets played its contents around the world.

But was airing it the right thing to do -- especially when clips were played over and over?

In the rush of Wednesday's news, television viewers seemed to vote yes -- at least at first. "NBC Nightly News" had unusually strong ratings Wednesday.

But officials at Virginia Tech, where Cho killed 32 students and professors before killing himself, said they were "disappointed" to see the pictures and videos broadcast.

"While there was some marginal value to the package that we received," said Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, "the fact of the matter is we already had most all of this information and most all of this evidence among the evidence that we've recovered to date.

"The package simply contained what we already knew," he said.

A Killer, in His Own Words

In the videos -- mailed between the first and second shootings on the Virginia Tech campus Monday -- Cho rants, often in profane language, sometimes less than coherently, against his wealthy schoolmates, Christianity and "you" who "made me do this."

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, a South Korean immigrant whose parents are dry cleaners in suburban Washington. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

On the Virginia Tech campus, there was widespread disgust that the material ever aired.

"I think it was a terrible idea," said one woman who said she had driven from Massachusetts to pick up her daughter. "I think it re-traumatizes everyone."

"I don't find it appropriate to show something like that to everybody after we've all gone through so much," said a freshman who identified himself as Mike. "It doesn't give us any rest or peace with anything. It just kind of brings out more anger and hate, which none of us need more of."

Doctors Weigh In

Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and consultant to ABC News, said on "Good Morning America" that the video did not help the public understand what motivated Cho.

"This is not him," he said. "These videos do not help us understand him. They distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character."

Mark I. Singer, a professor of family and child welfare at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, worried what effect the saturation coverage would have on other young people.

"Large front-page pictures of the Virginia Tech shooter holding two guns Western style, black baseball hat on backward and dressed in a khaki vest, will undoubtedly become emblematic for many angry, disconnected youth," he told ABC News.

"It is possible to cover these events more responsibly with a less shocking tone," he said. "One could argue that responsible journalism requires such reasoned coverage. By failing to do so, the media may become unwitting accomplices to future similar acts of violence."

Networks Respond, Promise Restraint

Major news organizations said they were in a difficult position -- the package, for better or for worse, was news. But in response to the backlash, they promised restraint from today on.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...