There is something particularly terrible about young people dying violently because they have been deprived of everything—the husbands and wives they never married, the kids they never had, and the contributions they might have made to society. Their lives are gone before they have really begun.
They are dead because a tormented kid with a gun decided to copy what other tormented kids have done. They are dead because any number of institutions and people failed them. Seung Hui-Cho bounced around in the Virginia Tech system like a lethal pinball. The only people who saw how dangerous he was worked in the English department. Aside from those few teachers, everyone failed, including a legal system that is so concerned with the protection of an individual’s rights that it puts the rest of society at risk. Apparently, administration officials at Virginia Tech would have been unable to expel Mr. Cho or do anything else effective even if someone had the brains and the initiative to tell them they had an authentically dangerous student on their hands.
A few news sources have recalled the first campus massacre, which took place in Austin, Texas, in August, 1966. A deranged gunman named Charles Whitman took up a firing position in the University of Texas tower, and began killing people. But when it was revealed where the sniper was, off-duty law enforcement officers and civilians put down a hail of gunfire on the tower and in doing so, probably saved lives. However, it is politically incorrect to recall this part of the story.
The Usual Suspects in Congress have been strangely silent about the need for new gun laws as the result of the massacre. This is probably because it’s an election year, but it may be because there is plenty of blame to go around in this one and it has nothing to do with guns.
Most of the parties involved were simply incompetent. The only really reprehensible group is the media, and in particular, NBC-TV News. The same organization that found Don Imus intolerable has had no problem in granting a mass murder’s last wishes by giving prime air time to his recorded ravings. Since they aired the tapes and it blew up in their faces, we have heard from NBC that there was considerable and agonized debate over whether to air them. But in the name of journalism, and bringing you the news, etc., etc., they felt they had to.
To quote the much-despised Bill Maher, “NBC debated for seven hours whether to broadcast the tapes and then opted to make a s**tload of money.”
The news media wallow in these tragedies, milking them for the last drop of blood, the last tear, the last ratings point. And what they practically guarantee is that it will happen again. In some dormitory room, some twisted geek who doesn’t care if he lives or dies is watching this stuff, thinking, “Why not?”
And sooner or later, he will.