Tuesday, April 17, 2007

BRIEF THOUGHTS ON THE LATEST NEWS

It's obvious that the Virginia Tech shooting will be the big news story this week, and perhaps throughout the rest of the month. The tragedy goes without saying. It's a horrible, horrible story.

But I'm also disturbed because I know we're gonna get all manner of hand-wringing and quasi-concerned punditry from all sides for the next few weeks: pro-gun, anti-gun, anti-immigration (because early reports seem to indicate that the gunman was a Chinese man, in America on a student VISA; if I'm wrong, I apologize. But that's what I've read), pro-immigration, comparisons to terrorism, arguments that it has nothing to do with terror, analogies to Iraq, etc.

It's gonna make me sick.

I'm not naive. I know that's how it goes, and while everyone surely will be saddened and/or shocked by the event, the entire population doesn't owe anything to the grieving families and friends. Nevertheless, it'll be difficult to see people draw all sorts of attenuated links from this random & senseless event to whatever cause or issue means something to them.

Terrible things happen because there are terrible people in the world. There isn't much more of a lesson we can draw. As humans, we want to know "why?" But there's really no answer.

Labels: ,

18 Comments:

Anonymous Applesaucer said...

I agree with you.

Applesaucer

8:25 AM  
Blogger Shane Rollins said...

agreed Mike, I worry about a copy cat of sorts this Friday though seeing as it is the anniversary of something.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

I agree. I also hate how the media swoops in and sensationalizes everything. I understand how reporters are supposed to get the story NOW but I always hate the interviewing of witnesses/victims in the hours after tragedies occur. The need to shove someone talking on the air just gives me a sick feeling... it doesn't feel like news, it feels more macabre. On that note, I can't help but notice that one side of the blogosphere seems to take a higher interest in screaming out the details of these things than the other.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous wfta said...

Sometimes terrible things happen because of mental illness.

What bothers me, aside from the act(s) of course, was the immediate rush by onlookers and the news media to question (to the verge of blame) the security procedures of the university and local law enforcement. From what little I know, the shootings in the dorm would not hint to anyone the likelihood of the later shootings in the classroom(s.)

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Yep.

12:05 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Agreed, Mike.

On Friday, Lieberman was on the phone with one of the state's "morning shows" and they were talking about Imus. He was asked how long he thought that Imus and the topic of racism was going to discussed in all the news media. He replied that it would all be over on Monday. Sure enough, in the wake of what's happened, it's gone.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Ben Varkentine said...

Korean, not Chinese.

http://www.king5.com/topstories/stories/NW_041707NABvatechgunman_seun-huiJM.1a97c413.html

3:28 PM  
Blogger Comandante AgĂ­ said...

my local conservative news organ has already tackled the racial aspects. check out the readers' comments at the end of the article, if you can stomach them.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

WFTA - Yeah, this guy, as you'd expect, seems to have teetered on the edge of major depression, if not full-blown insanity. We'll find out more in the coming days, I'm sure.

And the move to blame security is typical: we want to "be protected" from everything at all times, including insane people. And we'll blame someone when we're not protected.

Marked - Yeah, the immediate interviews are outrageous, but I expect nothing other at this point.

Ben - Yeah, my mistake. Sometime yesterday morning I saw a piece that said he was a Chinese student from Shanghai, here on a student VISA. Not sure where they got that info.

Agi - Whoa. Hard to read that shit on an emprty stomach. And with a Korean wife, not really the kind of thing I ever want to read.

She's worried about anti-Korean backlash somewhere (as are many other Koreans in the US and in S.Korea). I suspect nothing terrible will happen in NY, LA, etc. But some poor Asian kid (probably not even Korean) is likely to get his as kicked by idiots somewhere in the US this week.

Anyhow, in general, the gun control aspects are all over the news, as I suspected. I expect the immigration arguments to kick in later today or tomorrow, as grief turns to anger.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

I tend to doubt that there'll be anti-Korean or anti-Asian backlash at any appreciable level over this. I'd agree with you, on the other hand, if the shooter had been Middle Eastern or, maybe, Latino.

Maybe I'm hopelessly naive.

If this happens -- "But some poor Asian kid (probably not even Korean) is likely to get his as kicked by idiots somewhere in the US this week" -- I think it'll be more a matter of idiots using this incident as an excuse. No solace to the victims, of course.

Also, I'm not so sure that you're instinct is right about this: "I suspect nothing terrible will happen in NY, LA, etc."

But WTFDIK?

Applesaucer

6:53 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

it'll be more a matter of idiots using this incident as an excuse

Of course. I don't know that the perpetrators of these sorts of "revenge attacks" ever have any other motivation.

But to repeat what you said, WTFDIK?

7:22 AM  
Blogger noh said...

It's utterly implausible to deny that there are broader social implications to the mass-murder of 32 members of our community, for whatever reason (or lack thereof). To simply respond by throwing our collective arms up and sighing "shit happens" is an absurd response. Who in their right mind can confidently declare that examining this incident, debating its causes and implications, won't yield answers as to how similar ones can be prevented in the future? Who can seriously proclaim that there are no legal or policy responses that may be necessary. Yes, it's a big, bad, ugly world. Boo hoo for us. The chief means by which we have historically trekked away from that ugliness and limited its impact is by accepting collective responsibility for responding to tragedies on a mass scale. Of course crass "exploitation" of these situations, for whatever purpose, is nauseating. Again, boo hoo for us. Thinking people will move beyond the exploitation and engage in the entirely appropriate search for appropriate responses. To do so is a moral and democratic imperative. To do otherwise is moral cowardice.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Unfortunatly your right -- it's already started. This sounds so bad to say, but I was secretly hoping the shooter would be a white guy -- perferably a conservative white guy.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Noh-

legal or policy responses that may be necessary

Such as? Quarentining "weird" kids away from the others in the future? Throwing students out of college for writing "disturbing" poems in writing classes? Committing suicidal young men to mental institutions? Kicking them out of school so they can go postal in post offices, rather than the classroom?

The chief means by which we have historically trekked away from that ugliness and limited its impact is by accepting collective responsibility for responding to tragedies on a mass scale

With all due respect, Noh, what are you talking about? We've contended with mass murderers for millennia, and I see no evidence whatsoever we made one inch of headway in that regard. The problem is simple: "normal" people are completely unable to fathom the capabilities of the tiny minority we know as "crazy." For instance, everyone carps about the 2 hour lull between Cho's first round of killings and the second (when he MAILED the package).

But what should have been done? Who the hell imagined he'd go back, enter a school building, and kill 30 more people??? What "normal" person can even make such an assumption?

To do so is a moral and democratic imperative. To do otherwise is moral cowardice.

On whose part? The government? Volunteer groups? You?

Wendy-

Hopefully most people will see this for what it is: one crazy guy, and that's it. The videos show him to be an American, period. A crazy one, to be sure, but the "immigrant" or "Asian" factors are obviously irrelevent when you see him.

6:15 AM  
Blogger DED said...

I was secretly hoping the shooter would be a white guy -- perferably a conservative white guy.

I'm sure that there were people who wanted him to be an Islamic terrorist.

10:11 AM  
Blogger noh said...

Mike -

You've done an able job summarizing the questions that need to be asked.

Should we quarantine the weird kids?

Possibly. Especially if, as here, a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation a couple of years ago found the kid to be "an imminent danger to himself." What are/should be the implications of such a finding? Were they followed in this instance? Could he have / should he have been committed or somehow forced into treatment? Medicated? Should a person like that be able to buy a gun? Or two guns? (In fairness here, the great state of Virginia did make him wait one month between purchases. I guess that bought some kids a little extra time on this planet).

Throwing kids out of college for writing weird poems?

Well, that's probably a bit extreme. On the other hand, if there's a correlation between persistently writing and sharing ultra-violent tracts that are vehicles for conveying little more than gruesome imagery of torture, murder and maiming and subsequent violent behaviour, well, yes, I'd probably want to know. Let's not forget he shared these pieces - he wanted them to be read. If they are a predictor of some kind, then he offered the opportunity to predict (shorthand for the opportunity to prevent).

What should we have done about the 2-hour lull?

Another good question. I can't even begin to suggest a possible answer though, as the technical aspects of institutional security, crowd management, tactical response, emergency communications systems and so on are beyond me. But it is a good issue to flag and one that will obviously have to be examined as we sift through the ashes of this mess.

On whose part is it cowardice?

On the part of anyone who says the the proper response is to do nothing, to ask no questions, to avoid even attempting to probe this savagery to see if there aren't things to be learned.

What's that line in the poem about the best lacking all conviction and the worst being full of passionate intensity?

11:18 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Noh-

I'd probably want to know. Let's not forget he shared these pieces - he wanted them to be read. If they are a predictor of some kind, then he offered the opportunity to predict

So, what does that mean? If someone writes poems with extremely violent imagery, he should be kicked out of the class? Told to stop? Forced to seek counseling? Imagine if Tarantino wrote Reservoir Dogs for a college screenwriting class. People getting shot all over the place, a guy cuts of another's ear and tries to burn him alive. Isn't this the sort of violent imagery you're talking about?

anyone who says the the proper response is to do nothing, to ask no questions, to avoid even attempting to probe this savagery to see if there aren't things to be learned

What can we learn that we don't already know? There are crazy people in the world. There have always been crazy people. We keep thinking we can "understand" people like Cho.

We can't.

6:53 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Actually he wrote two screenplays so the comparison to Tarantino is right on the money. One's a geeky film buff who makes violent, messy films but in reality wouldn't hurt anyone while the other's a mass murderer.

A court found Cho "an imminent danger to himself or others" but had him get help through an outpatient clinic rather than commit him to a psychiatric hospital. I won't second guess the judge on that decision.

As the mentally ill are not permitted to own guns, somewhere along the way, someone was supposed to notify the state of Virginia and the federal gov't of this determination of mental illness. However, Cho slipped through the cracks.

Of course, if the latest news invalidates what I just wrote, feel free to ignore it.

2:22 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home