Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cho Seung Hui and NBC, Cellmates in Hell

I will predict today that some time in the next six months, there will be at
least one more mass murder and the killer will have sent his media guide and
accompanying video to NBC, or other major television news outlet. I also predict
that NBC will not acknowledge that it bears the slightest responsibility when it
happens. Already psychopathic creeps are composing and recording the
“manifestoes” that will guarantee an immortality that they know they could never
gain otherwise. This morning, I set a reminder in my calendar for October 28th,
2007, just so that I remember to check my prediction.
I find it ironic that the same network that paved the way for Don Imus’s exile
by canceling the simulcast of the radio show chose to turn its airwaves over to
a mass murderer. And I cannot believe that the network did not at least consider
the consequences of its decision. Surely during the deliberations, somebody at
NBC considered the likelihood of copycats. After all, NBC Sports knows better
than to turn its cameras on the occasional drunk who runs out onto the field
during the course of a game that it is broadcasting. To do so only encourages
the next idiot to seek his moment in the limelight. If the jock division is
savvy enough to grasp this, then it’s a cinch that the news division understands
it as well. But NBC took the decision to broadcast Cho Seung Hui’s video even
though they had to know that their decision is likely to cost lives.
I sincerely hope that that some sharp-knived lawyers are preparing to represent
the survivors of next mass-murderer’s victims. I think that the courts will
likely decide that crying “fire” in a crowded theater is not the only exception
to First Amendment free speech protection.
Of course, the news media is notoriously indifferent to the damage that results
from their irresponsibility. Newsweek published an inaccurate report that
American soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war facility had thrown a
copy of the Koran down a toilet. The report was eventually retracted, but only
after deadly riots took at least 16 lives.
Newsweek shrugged.
The next time that someone in the mainstream media claim that George Bush has
done irreparable harm to the image of the United States in the world, he or she
should be reminded of the damage that shabby reporting has done.
The New York Times exposed a perfectly legal secret program that allowed the
United States to track and disrupt financial transactions among terrorist
groups. Doing this enabled terrorists to circumvent the program. The Times did
this even though its home city suffered the most from the September 11th
attacks. It did this even though the program was specifically called for in an
editorial a couple of years earlier. Someday, people will die because the New
York Times chose to assist terrorists who would otherwise have been caught or at
least had their resources denied will have had their task simplified by the
The Times brushed us off.
But, in their own perverse ways, Hui and NBC did us a favor. By justifying his
actions in his own words, he preempted the political ventriloquists who would
have used his actions to advance their own causes. Were it not for the NBC
broadcast, a parade of politicians would even now be identifying some government
deficiency that his or her legislation will correct. Instead, we are free to
decide for ourselves who might have filled his head with despair over America’s
social injustice or fanned his hatred for the rich.
It is not hard to divine NBC’s motivations of late. In the Imus affair it was
fear of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Principled people would not have needed
the threat of economic boycotts to remind them to uphold standards of taste and
decorum. And in the case of Hui’s tapes, it was the holy grail of Nielson
Ratings that drove NBC to do the wrong thing. The news value of the tapes could
have been served by having forensic psychologists watch, read and interpret the
psychopath’s words. But, forensic psychologists do not attract the highly sought
after sadistic voyeur demographic that is so prized by television news’
advertising division.
Cho Seung Hui will surely greet them in a specially prepared corner of Hell.



Blogger Veritas said...

Hi, I'm kinda new to blogging, so forgive me if it's not the done thing to argue using comments.

You mention that the media must balance freedom of speech with responsible reporting, so I can see that you might judge the situation differently to me, but surely your argument is weak because the possibility of copycats and riots exists for every possible disaster? One could use your argument to say that no-one should report terrorist incidents anywhere. In that case, the masses would never know about the extent of terrorist activity; it would not concern itself with domestic foreign policy; and it would not have to think about gun laws. Surely the principles of an informed libertarian government require that the truth be disseminated where possible, regardless of the collateral damage it would cause.

My own interest in the case of Cho Seung Hui means that I also think we need to examine the contents of his manifesto. Clearly, he took great care to try and publicise it - he must have felt it was the only way to make his views heard. Silencing people like him by silencing the media isn't going to help reduce the problem.

9:03 AM  

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