I wasn’t going to comment on the killings in Virginia because I don’t think the event has much meaning outside of the local tragedy that transpired. A mad young man who fell through the cracks bought a gun and went berserk. But the horrendous way that television “news” is mining this tragedy for ratings is beyond venal — it’s dangerous. It’s near midnight as I write this and Nightline on ABC — a once respectable show — has just shown extensive clips of the rambling videos created by the madman. Provided to them for a fee, I’m sure, by NBC (how they must have danced at Rockefeller Center when that package arrived!). In them, Cho refers explicitly to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine killers, who clearly were heroes to this deluded creature. As I watched it I yelled out at the TV “STOP SHOWING IT!” How many sociopaths are watching this completely unnecessary orgy of necrophilia and adding Cho to their list of heroes to emulate, as he adopted Harris and Klebold? I’m afraid we’ll probably find out.
Slate’s [Jack Shafer offered an apology] for the sensationalist coverage, but he’s missing the bigger point: all the attention in the world will not wring any non-obvious insights out of this tragedy. And you will wait until hell freezes over before one of the pious and soulless talking heads on TV figure out why these massacres are happening more and more often — it’s because, thanks to relentless coverage, they are becoming a genre, a way for some disturbed young men to achieve greatness. The ravenous media are not just profiting from this horror, they are enabling it. Unforgivable.