Psychiatrist: Showing Video Is 'Social Catastrophe'

ByABC News via logo

April 19, 2007 — -- The videos of Seung-hui Cho, the man who fatally shot 32 people at Virginia Tech on Monday and then killed himself, shouldn't have been released because they don't offer the public any greater understanding of the gruesome crime, said Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist and ABC News consultant, on "Good Morning America" today.

"If anybody cares about the victims in Blacksburg and if anybody cares about their children, stop showing this video now. Take it off the Internet. Let it be relegated to YouTube," Welner said. "This is a social catastrophe. Showing the video is a social catastrophe."

During a pause in his killing spree Monday, Cho sent a package that included 43 photos, video clips and a letter to NBC. NBC received the package Wednesday.

The videos included Cho's rants on the reasoning behind the crimes he was presumably about to commit.

"Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and impaled on a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain in your whole lives. You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience," Cho said in the videos.

Welner believes that instead of offering insight, these videos merely offer validation of delusional behavior.

"I think that's very important for the viewing audience to understand. This is not him.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," Welner said. "This is precisely why this should not be released. Parents, you should cut the pictures out of the newspaper. Do not let your children see it. Take them out of the room when these videos are shown. Because he's paranoid and his agenda of blaming the rest of the world is unedited."

"There's nothing to learn from this except giving it validation. If this rambling showed up in an emergency room, my colleagues and I would listen carefully and, when we reflected that it was delusional, would go see the next patient and start the medication," he said. "This makes it sound like he was tormented. He wasn't."

Although the school and authorities have been criticized in recent days about reports of Cho's mental states and past run-ins with students, Welner said that unless someone appeared to be high risk there was little medical professionals could do.

"In an emergency room, again, unless someone is at high risk, then there's nothing you can do. [Cho] presented to mental health authorities. He's certainly capable of presenting himself quietly," Welner said.

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."

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