If You Don’t Want to Watch the Cho Video, Don’t Watch

April 19, 2007

Hugh Hewitt works up some righteous indignation about NBC’s decision to broadcast the Virginia Tech killer’s photos and video:

Instantly their decision to air the video and publish the pictures revolted vast numbers of ordinary Americans of all political opinions. (My sister-in-law, a very, very liberal individual, just said to me that “I don’t recall ever hearing of anything so irresponsible.”) I heard an outraged clinical psychiatrist from NYU University denouncing the decision in the harshest terms on Los Angeles radio station KNX. The airing of the pictures and video is obviously a hurtful and destructive act, one that will prime many killing pumps in the years ahead, and one obviously made on the fly by individuals of almost no experience with or curiosity about the deranged mind. Would it have killed Capus et al to ask around a bit about what to do? Of course not, but their decision could indeed kill others down the road. They acted as their own guides, because that is the way the business works. In their very, very closed world, it made sense. To the vast majority of Americans it was an appalling, horrific decision, far worse than what Don Imus had to say last week.

Granted, seeing a mass murderer’s deranged ranting, weapons in hand, before he went off to kill a ton of people, is disturbing. But so are lots of other things on the news. There is also a ton of public curiosity about this event, and had NBC not released this, lots of people would be demanding that they do so. It’s also worth mentioning that CNN, Fox, and all the rest have replayed the video many times, not just NBC.

If people really want to avoid seeing this because it offends their sensibilities, they should feel free to change the channel or turn off the TV. I agree with Jeff Jarvis that “media is no longer a pasteurized and packaged version of life,” nor should it be.

If someone sees the Cho video and decides to go do something similar, then there was probably something wrong with that person to begin with. I have a hard time laying that at NBC’s feet. Jarvis continues:

I do think there may be a benefit to these tapes being out there: The guy was clearly insane and dangerous and what’s most shocking about this story is that people around him knew it and tried to both get him help and stop him from doing something dangerous and yet our laws even prevented his parents from being notified because of overzealous laws governing privacy. Perhaps this will motivate us to change those laws and our attitude about insanity and its dangers.

I agree that generally more information coming out is better. In that spirit, here’s a YouTube clip of Cho’s rant — only click on it if it’s something you want to see though.

UPDATE: Good Jack Shafer column on this.