Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oprah on NBC's airing of the VPI materials


Today, April 24 2007, The Oprah Winfrey (in ABC – Disney) show discussed the controversy over NBC ‘s (Universal) airing portions of the “multimedia manifesto” of Seung Hui Cho. The link is here. Brian Williams and Steve Capus explained that they showed only a small portion of the material and agonized for many hours before deciding to show any material at all. Other networks quickly announced, late last Wed (Apr 18) that they would not continue showing any of the material.

A forensic psychiatrist called the airing of materials like this a “social catastrophe” and claimed that it (through progressive and repeated desensitizing exposure) incites sociopaths who want to get fame with their notorious deaths, taking others with them. Frankly, it seems to me that this is the same mentality (both narcissistic and quasi-spiritual or fanatical) that goes on with Palestinian attacks and with 9-11. The psychiatrist said that there is a big difference between schizophrenia and the kind of narcissistic sociopathy seen with attacks like this.

But a parent of one of the victims in the Columbine tragedy insisted that some of the materials were useful and could help prevent future incidents. The show indicated that the Columbine materials have never been aired (although I think some were included in Michael Moore’s film).

Back in the 1990s, there had been considerable controversy over publication by The Washington Post (and I believe The New York Times) of the screed-like manifesto by Theodore Kaczynski.

Media reports describe the text portion of Cho’s mailing as an incoherent “rant,” with no identifiable pattern of intellectual reasoning or ideology as is normally studied. There were a few passages about hatred of rich people and of Christianity, as reported or played by the media. A couple of sentences sounded like the rage against hedonism that he wear about from radical Islam. The material in at least one of the short “screenplays” by Cho suggest that he might have been abused before or early in adolescence.

I recall the broadcast by Osama bin Laden on October 7, 2001, when President Bush announced actions in Afghanistan, long before the controversial war in Iraq. This sounded like a rant. Even more objectionable was video of bin Laden broadcast on December 13, 2001, when he gloats about the falling of the World Trade Center. (That was the day that I was laid off.)

Of course, people do have “grievances” against those “better off’ than them, and often these “complaints” reflect personal shame that the speaker feels has been forced on him or her. I recall repeatedly hearing this sort of raging indignation from radical people (usually on the far Left, such as the Peoples Party of New Jersey) early in my adulthood. One cannot take one’s “lifestyle” for granted or remain smug when one hears these things repeatedly. It is well to pay attention to what is going on (even ancient historical grievances such as those from radical Islam, or especially the concern over the confiscation of property in Palestine).

For that reason, I was at least concerned to know what Cho had said, however objectionable it seems. (The same, sad to say, goes for Osama bin Laden.) If he had mentioned my own domain name (doaskdotell.com, discussed elsewhere in blogs) and somehow been disturbed (however irrationally) by the innuendo of anything I write and put in public on the Internet, I would want to know about it.

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