Attention Media: Stop Legitimizing Terrorists!

You'll likely remember where you were when you first heard about the Virginia Tech massacre for the rest of your life. I know I will; I was on vacation, visiting my sister in Manhattan when the news of the single deadliest shooting in the history of the United States reached me. It was immediately disturbing to me, certainly, but the tragedy didn't truly become real to me until the next day.

As I sat in the LaGuardia Airport, waiting for my flight home, I watched CNN air stories told by students who had survived, and the dreadful realization finally caught up with me: these were real people. An absurdly obvious revelation intellectually, it wasn't until that moment that the emotional impact moved from abstract and distant into actual and personal for me. The victims could just as easily have been my friends or my family. Even now, their facebook profiles and myspace pages stand silent, providing mute testament to the terrible loss of life.

"Oh Lauren please call someone. We are so worried about you."
-Found on a victim's myspace

The reaction to any crisis of this magnitude is the same: How did this happen? Why did he do it? What can we do to prevent this from happening again? It is the media's role in the latter that I wish to address specifically. As you probably already know, Cho Seung-Hui sent a multimedia manifesto to NBC, containing an 1800 word statement, 27 videos, and dozens of photographs of himself wielding the guns he would use to kill so many.

It is my position that NBC's decision to air these materials constitutes an egregious offense against human decency and journalistic integrity. By allowing his insane, self-indulgent diatribes to receive widespread publicity, the media has legitimized Cho Seung-Hui's actions. He wanted to be heard, and he got it. This sets a terribly dangerous precedent: other killers see this and think "If I kill enough people, then my message will be heard, too."

Once NBC realized what that package contained, they should have immediately turned it over to the police for psychological analysis. Instead, they chose to air it, encouraging potential terrorists with the implicit promise of international notoriety, and for what? Ratings. The media aired the ramblings of a psychotic killer in order to make a few extra bucks. When copycat incidents result in more death, the media executives will have a share of that blood on their hands.

Cho Seung-Hui's words should never have been given an audience.

-Eric

These cries, this agony, injustices, suffering


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