Thursday, April 19, 2007

Psychopaths We Have Known

All of this second-guessing of Cho and his motivations reminds me of our experiences when Jeff Dahmer was finally apprehended. Dahmer was a high school classmate of Paul's and Bill's in Akron, and both had hung out with him and visited his home. Now we were getting calls from Oprah (which Paul refused to take) and others, hoping that Paul might explain to Americans how to recognize a psychopath. But both Bill and Paul agree that out of their high school population, Dahmer would not even have been in the top ten "most likely to be a serial killer."

The point is that for all our desire to separate good from evil in understandable, visible ways, there's no real way to tell whether the guy next to you is likely to eat human flesh or take a handgun to school. It does appear that, unlike Dahmer, Cho tried pretty hard to get people to stop him.

LATER: Phil set the following thought.
I was appalled that NBC chose to air the video of the deranged Virginia Tech killer on network news. Cho was clearly insane, but, ironically, he was shrewd and lucid enough to understand that a major network would be sufficiently profit-driven to promulgate his diatribe against the world, no matter what civic dangers this might entail. By taking the bait, NBC has not only fulfilled a murderer's messianic fantasies (essentially rewarding him) but also gave hundreds of other mentally unstable, aggrieved young men a hero to imitate. I'm sure that the broadcast legitimized him their eyes, much as the Columbine killers seem to have inspired and legitimized his own rampage. I can't think of a more glaring instance of media irresponsiblity than this. NBC should be held responsible when (not if) copy cats begin making and carrying out threats in colleges and high schools around the country. It was sickening enough to watch Brian Williams emote on national television as he interviewed campus survivors (the self-appointed senstive guy who feels for the nation), but this kind of self-indulgant bathos seems peculiarly hypocritical when the same newscast tries to so cyncially to boost its ratings by with a "multi-media" video that panders to America's morbid fascination with violent pathologies. I hope that NBC will be held accountable by those portions of the journalistic establishment that still hold their profession to ethical scrutiny.

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