As I was growing up and yes I am a boomer, we only had the six and eleven o’clock news as well as the print medium to keep us informed. I feel that those of us who grew up in that time almost wish we could go back in time. Why do I say that? When cable news came into our lives it created a 24/7 news cycle in which every nuance of a major story could be stretched at length. In essence became voyeurs to human tragedy. Have we become voyeurs to this human tragedy through the Virginia Tech massacre and now with the Houston tragedy? It is not only those tragedies I speak of but anyone tragedy that the media feels will draw us in.
It used to be if there was a major news story, the networks would break into regular programs with breaking news. They did straight reporting of the facts and did not look to dissect the story similar to a science student dissecting a frog in class. When they had nothing else to offer us, they would say, “We now resume normal broadcasting” and only break in if new events occurred. Do you want to know a secret? I used to hate that. Hey, I was a kid back then and did not like the news interrupting my favorite shows. Ah, the innocence of childhood.
Not to dismiss the tragedy in both cases, but what happened at Virginia Tech had every cable news outlet interviewing every forensic expert they could find, every security expert they could find and every psychologist and psychiatrist they could find. They lured us all into a psychosis in which we had to know every little detail of the story. Do I feel it is healthy? Not really. But, yet, I too watched and became increasingly agitated. It was when they started to cover the Houston tragedy; I had to turn the channel. Again, they were luring us all into another tragic story.
The week before it was the Don Imus story that was also stretched to the limit and they invited on their various programs every expert they could find. Meanwhile other stories were occurring and not being brought to our attention. A few weeks before that it was the Anna Nicole Smith story.
During the summer of 1998 when Andrew Cunanan who the media erroneously labeled a serial killer -- went on a spree killing, the media terrified a nation. Cunanan murdered Gianni Versace, yet the media did a bang-up job stating that we all were targets where clearly we were not. That is an unwarranted fear. During this time, a man by the name of Gavin De Becker came out stating the difference between warranted fear and an unwarranted one. He even wrote the book, “The Gift of Fear” in which he comforted this nation by telling us all the difference.
During these past five years in the aftermath of 9/11, I have not seen him on any news program. I think we could have used him during the Virginia Tech massacre and the subsequent copy-cat events that took place. He could have put our minds at ease and maybe telling us all to go on living our lives. Then again, would the media want us doing just that? That is for you to judge.
I would have to say that this is the best advice coming from Gavin DeBecker in his book mentioned above, “We all know there are plenty of reasons to fear people from time to time. The question is what are those times? Far too many people are walking around in a constant state of vigilance, their intuition misinformed about what really poses a danger. It needn’t be so. When you honor accurate intuitive signals and evaluate them without denial (believing that either the favorable or the unfavorable outcome is possible), you need not be wary, for you will come to trust that you’ll be notified if there is something worthy of your attention. Fear will gain credibility because it won’t be applied wastefully.”
After the Houston tragedy became the breaking news, I then turned to my local news and they were reporting of local news events. One of the most remarkable stories was of a little girl who was abducted in front of her own home. She used the tools she had learned in school. She screamed all the way as this man that abducted her sped off. As reported by Eyewitness News (An ABC affiliate in NYC) she gave the abductor a headache and he released her. So, the training she received saved her life. She was also able to give law enforcement a description of her abductor which can save the lives of many more. That is when I feel the news is at its best.
But, getting back to NBC’s airing of Cho Seung-Hui’s words, it is almost a double edge sword. While it let us into the world of a deranged killer which caused a backlash against NBC; could that lend others to mimic his behavior and actions? While the other cable news stations were blasting NBC for airing that tape; what were they doing? They were airing it as well. Did we really need to see his video tape? At this point, I do not know. It used to be when I was growing up; we did not witness such words of rage coming into our living rooms from a killer.The ones that I care more of are the victims as they viewed this broadcast in which some relived that moment in time. They have their own minds that will replay the events of that day for years to come. Will the tape act as a trigger to relive that event? In a feed called Why We Fight you will hear from a man who lost his son in the Twin Towers. He angrily called up NBC saying, why must you keep showing the towers falling over and over? Is the release of Cho’s tape similar to the events of that horrific day? Does viewing this real-life violence better us? I am beginning to wonder that. I feel it desensitizes us if viewed over and over.
In an email from a reader he asked; shouldn’t we be entitled to see the complete package received by NBC? My answer to him was no. Not everything is meant to be shared with the public especially when it comes to on-going investigations. In many murder cases pertinent information is held back from all of us by law enforcement and the media so as not to impede the investigation. In a murder investigation in which the killer is alive, they leave certain facts out of what is told to us and only known to the killer. It is one of their best investigative tools.
Now thanks to the Internet, Cho’s words from beyond the grave are on YouTube.com and Google.com for eons to come. In this piece I choose not to link these feeds, but relay to all of you that they are already up on both sites. One YouTube.com feed which is titled with Cho’s name and has nothing to do with his words or the massacre itself has been seen by 42,602 viewers. Its content is of people doing dumb things. I call that opportunistic behavior and disrespect to the victims.
Another YouTube.com feed that is 2:01 in length titled “Cho Seung-Hui is Responsible. So Are” tries to explain that we are all responsible through our violent nature has been seen by 51,961 viewers. I did not bother to watch that one or any of them for that matter. In fact once was enough for me when NBC aired it the first time.
On Google.com a video broadcasted by Fox News reporting on NBC’s presentation has received 21,892 hits. In this feed they mention the Columbine murderers and martyr syndrome. In yet another Google.com feed that someone uploaded from the NBC broadcast it received an astonishing 286,588 hits. Why are that many people watching that feed?
There can be multiple reasons as to why people are choosing to log on and view these feeds. But one thought does bother me is that maybe, just maybe there is an angry person or persons who are also suffering any number of mental illnesses that are drinking up the words of Cho Seung-Hui. Within the hundreds of thousands that have already viewed these feeds; how many have become ticking time bombs as a result?