You know you live in a media savvy world when a psychotic gunman takes time out during his massacre to mail a parcel to NBC. Cho probably knew this would be big news. He wanted to be painted as an angry young man and it seems he did not want any confusion as to his motives. So his package had a letter that rambled on against rich kids and their debaucheries. His pictures – some chilling – showed him off in these angry poses, armed with guns and knives. Think about it, he probably put the self timer on, chose his poses, made his little clips, because he knew after he killed himself/was killed/ was caught – this way he would be in charge of the discourse in the media, not the other way around. And Harry Shearer (of the Huffington Post) is right – displaying this crap he sent to NBC is feeding into other psychotics who will invariably want to copy him when they decide to go on a spree. After all, according to his writings, he considered the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacres ‘martyrs’. And what is worse is that despite this latest tragedy, John McCain, even Rudy, is still not backing tighter gun control. McCain’s statement is appalling -- that its not guns, but better ways of identifying these psychos. Seriously now, Cho was known as a loner. A woman even complained about him. He used to take pictures of women from under tables. His writing screamed psycho. But he did not have a criminal record and so he could buy a gun. So how does McCain explain this? How the hell would anyone have known what he was going to do? But the fact that guns are so available, that they lose children every year, how is that not causing a policy shift? Actually, Bob Herbert makes an interesting argument in NYT. He says that if you look at the history of these massacres in the US, there is some amount of consistency. They are most white males, quite disturbed yadayadaydada, and feel the need to prove their masculinity and superiority. Unfortunately, in a country that glorifies violence and most especially one that equates violence with masculinity, this need to assert themselves takes a violence turn. Couple that with lax gun laws and this is just an open invitation to a world of trouble.
But back to the media -- the problem with encouraging aspirational lifestyles on TV is that the line between the haves and have-nots is so sharp that jealousy, frustration, poverty can lead to tragedy. It’s happened with the young blacks too. Every time you see one of those 50 Cent etc videos, even Snoop, all they are doing is glorifying money and bitches. When this Imus controversy happened (Don Imus called some women’s basketball team names, people were aghast, he was fired) there was an interesting point raised. That deprecatory slang has become so regular now that even a white 50 year old man has started using the same words on the street. And we need to be careful about how we talk about ourselves, and this goes without saying, about others. The culture of money has spun so out of control that it’s a religion in itself. And the need to be famous is another. Everyone wants to be seen – from Youtube to blogs to your more traditional news (which was clearly Cho’s chosen outlet). Anyway as far as I know, serial killers, and big time massacre-ists (?) want people to know about them. Feelings of inadequacy are only going to go away when they force people to be scared of them, after they violently conquer the enemy. And making it to the headlines is icing on the cake. Perhaps we shouldn’t give Cho so much screen time. Instead use this as fodder to ask the question the real question: How do we control guns. Psychos won’t stop existing. But we can stop guns. And we should. The media spotlight needs to readjust itself.