NPR logo Blogosphere debates airing of Cho video

Blogosphere debates airing of Cho video

Almost as soon as NBC aired the video sent to it by Virginia Tech killer Sueng-hui Cho the blogosphere was responding. And not everything it was saying was particularly kind to NBC.

At the Webloggin blog the site's editor said that by airing the video Cho had "won."

Don't get me wrong here; I think the video and manifesto are newsworthy. I just think there are perhaps better ways to handle their release. I am opposed to the piecemeal release that NBC is already subjecting us to. It seems to me that NBC will be making this the story as opposed to the tragic and needless death of the innocent victims of Cho.

I truly want to understand what may have triggered the planned methodical killing but I don't want to do anything that would validate his actions. He was clearly mentally ill and the signs were there for many to see.

Not everyone, however, was so quick to condemn NBC's actions. Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing (and a contibutor to NPR's Day to Day) has created a comprehensive package about the video as well as commentary from other blogs about Cho's actions.

Here is a breakdown of what NBC received from Cho, courtesy of The Watcher blog at the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press also offers an extended version of the video that was shown by MSNBC.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

This smacks of those videos made by suicide bombers. It only feeds their ego and encourages them if they know that they have found a way to make people listen to them by killing people around them.

Sent by Tahir Naim | 2:31 AM | 4-19-2007

While I hate the idea of giving this little %$#* the podium, I have to confess some morbid curiosity myself. I'm not proud of it, but I don't think I'm unusual either. I don't think NBC could reasonably be expected NOT to broadcast it, under the circumstances.

I watched the video, at least long enough to conclude to my own satisfaction what was already obvious - he was one sick puppy. Curiosity satisfied, I have no further interest in his rantings.

Whenever we societally get past the blame assesment stage (which is always good sport but, in the end, of little real utility and for the most part is a profligate waste of energy) and get on to the "where do we go from here" stage, which is much more useful, here's my input:

We need a more coercive mechanism for ensuring that obviously troubled individuals in large institutions of young people receive help. I did not say "are offered help," I said RECEIVE help. I'm not impressed that Cho (or Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris) WANTED help, hence it may have to be forced upon them. Such mechanisms are likely to be intrusive and offensive, but so were Cho's actions of 16 April 2007.


Sent by Thos | 8:58 AM | 4-19-2007

I think the video & manifesto clearly shows that this person was mentally ill. I don't think the video needs to be broadcast even though it is news. Most news entities have posted links to the video online. I think that is a much better way to present the video because those that wish to see it can without forcing the public at large to endure it.

Sent by Michael | 9:00 AM | 4-19-2007

I think it was against the news media's own better judgment to air at length sections of the video tv and websites. They just played into Cho's hands and every would-be assasin and killer waiting and watching how America responds to this. They have assaulted the victims yet again. There should have been MUCH more discretion and reluctance to be so open and free with this information. Every person in America didn't need to be bombarded with this killer's plans and rantings.

We just had a close call near our area yesterday with a student who pointed a gun at some students and then drove off campus only to shoot himself when police surrounded his car.

Kids are watching. They are learning from what the adult media chooses to do.

When my 4 yr old has tantrums, I have learned that "ignoring them" is the best prevention in the world. Any attention at all, whether negative or positive, is sometimes all kids and adults want.

How revolting for those in the media to not pick up on this postmortum hijacking. It's as if someone actually busted through the doors of NBC to yell into a camera for the whole world to hear.

Sent by Jessi | 10:36 AM | 4-19-2007

There was no value in releasing the video, except to encourage others with similar mind set to do the same for their time in the limelight. Wasn't it a comfort to Cho before he shot himself to know that we have enough irresponsible people in the media willing to show the garbage that he spouted? He didn't send that stuff to NBC because he wanted law enforcement to stop people like him in the future.

The video has merit, to help experts analyze and hopefully develop profiles and tools that can help stop future incidents. That information would be valuable for the public to know. Stop giving killers a podium.

We will never comprehend the insanity of some but I don't think it was necessary or right to inflict additional pain on the family, friends, students and faculty of Virginia Tech. Thanks NBC! You should receive top honors for your tabloid style because what you did wasn't news. I didn't watch you that often before but I absolutely won't now.

In general comments about the coverage of the massacre, I think all news outlets should restrain themselves from speculation at the beginning of breaking news. Don't give me what you think has happened or your expert's opinion on the psychology of someone they've never seen before. I don't care. I just want to know more accurate information as its available. Speculation from all the "experts" you call in doesn't make what you report more accurate.

Sent by Tina | 11:22 AM | 4-19-2007

The current state of treatment of mental illness is based upon Freud's conclusion that our thoughts and emotions are automatic and uncontrollable. That's like saying when we pull out onto a freeway, we will automatically and uncontrollably let go of the steering wheel and a wreck is inevitable. Thankfully he was wrong. To be sure, we all have crazy stuff in our minds and memories, but the most important thing is HOW we choose to use it, not just that it's there.
"HOW" we think is vastly more important than what we think. Human thought processes are very mechanical in nature and can be controlled.
Successful people, be it in their work, relationships or parenting, are using six thought processes that not only keep them from doing something insane like Cho, but assure a successful outcome in their endeavors.
The thought processes successful people use are:
1. They choose what they think about.
2. They watch what they are thinking. If it doesn???t make sense, it isn't used as part of their decision making process.
3. They control their negative emotions, at least in the successful part of their lives.
4. They keep their problems and failures in perspective.
5. They use their energy to find solutions.
6. They are almost always engaged in what I call goal oriented imagination. They are dreaming, thinking and planning about the future they want to create.
The solution to almost all mental illness, including people like Cho, is to start teaching young children HOW to think clearly. They will then grow up seeing thoughts as tools, not as absolute imperatives.
Douglas McKee
Author of Mental Mechanics: A Repair Manual

Sent by Douglas McKee | 11:53 AM | 4-19-2007

What a mistake NBC made when airing Cho's video. This is exactly what Mr. Cho wanted - attention. What does this say about the ethics of America's media? Will they do anything to get ratings - even at the expense of our children's mental health. Isn't there enough violence is this world. Shame on NBC you sold out. I WAS a viewer for 25 yrs. I think I'll choose another news station from now on.

Sent by Doreene Carr | 1:05 PM | 4-19-2007

I think it's pointless to even discuss whether the media SHOULD do anything. As long as they've got a 24 hour news cycle to fill, they're going to grab at anything that will keep them on the air. SHOULD they have had 24 hour "breaking news" coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's funeral? Of course not.
Should they show this killer's manifesto? Probably not, but as long as they have the right to do it, they certainly will.

Sent by Mel | 1:27 PM | 4-19-2007

The students had a right to know, immediately, that there had been a shooting on campus, so that they could protect themselves by leaving the campus, if they chose to do so. The students were not given the choice to flee, because they were not informed in a timely manner. Shame on the authorities who knew about the first shooting, and failed to inform in a timely manner.

Sent by C. N. | 3:06 PM | 4-19-2007


I believe images and recordings from Cho's so-called "manifesto" should not have been aired, for the following reasons:

I have heard at least one news outlet claim the images are "iconic", and that makes them worth broadcast. If so, why? Icons are powerful, and should be used judiciously. If anything, Cho's images are icons of mental illness, hate, fear, or death, take your pick. Where is the value in sharing this purported "icon"?
I've heard from the same (not to be identified) news outlet that "other news stations where going to put it out there anyway" thus leading them to the conclusion they needed to put it out there...this is simply poor reasoning, a classic fallacy.
Airing the killer's "message" simply lends him the power and prestige he clearly felt he lacked in life.
His "message" appears simply to be the work of a deranged mind with little meaning or value. I am convinced there is little there save one deranged man's despair.
Can't we all agree that more images of hate and death are simply counter productive to us as individuals and as a society, not to mention unfair to the victims and their families?
If there really is a good reason to put it out there...then what is the constructive outcome news outlets are trying to reach? Does their responsibility end with slow-motion video of a killer waving his guns around?

Sent by Ryan Jones | 6:17 PM | 4-19-2007

My Opinion(for what it's worth):
i have questions regarding cho that do not have anything to do with the airing of videos by any news agencies. the first is in regards to his parents. it is probably an obvious statement,to say that he could not have begun exibiting bizzare behaviour upon walking through the doors of the college campus. being painfully shy during my childhood, i understand what it's like to be ostricized by one's peers, and believe me, it's no square dance. children can be increditably cruel, and i think cho was tormented for a long time and chose not to tell his parents everything, or just kept it to himself.(i never used the bathroom as a child up to the ninth grade and hid this from my mother who was very attuned to the fact that i was dreadfully shy), i finally told her this one day and she said "i always thought so". so i think cho's parents were not attentive enough to his needs, or he was a master of deception. given the accounts of his fellow students i think the latter scenario is unlikely. the second is in regards to the authorities at the school itself. it seems to me(and i may be feeling a little ready to look for someone to blame here, but please do be the judge in some measure)...that the school administrators, not the students or teachers, took every thing that happened up to around nine o'clock as a matter of happenstance, and did'nt follow through with their end of things. in time the preparations that cho had the opportunity to go through with, i believe, will be the institution's undoing and as such...a testament to the fact that we have learned little, if any thing ,since columbine.

Sent by Jeffrey Young | 7:58 PM | 4-19-2007

I am not surprized by the fact that NBC aired the shooter's videos, it is exactly what i expected, it is also pathetic. It is obvious that we live in a society that will air anything (no matter who it harms) for ratings. It is sad that we do not live in a world where honor surpasses all ratings and reviews. It is sad that the hearts of those in pain was not respected. As an American, i take much pride in our other strengths and accomplishments but honor and respect seem to end up on the short end of the stick. While NBC did what any other station would have done, aired his video (and let him win by the way) it does not discredit the fact that NBC made a conscious choice, there was still the choice to be made and it was not the right one. I find it humerous that a 23 year old deranged boy won and has control over a multi-billion dollar television station. NBC you are a made the wrong decision in the long-run.

Sent by L. Porter | 9:33 PM | 4-19-2007

NBC did the right thing! The news is there to inform. Some news is ugly, disturbing, and frightening, however it is not the job of the news media to soft pedal reality for us. This same kind of mollycoddling has warped our views of the war in Iraq and Afganistan. After four years we still have no clue as to what is really going on over there because Americans prefer their news sanitized.

Sent by Frank Partida | 10:03 PM | 4-19-2007

We played the "911" attack on all the national networks and no change came from that lesson?? In a nation which thrives on "knowing to the minute", I don't think you could not have aired some of the edited video.

Sent by Jon Smith | 6:37 AM | 4-20-2007

Airing Cho's video was poor judgement...or rather judgement driven my dollar signs. I can't imagine how horrified it would be to watch as a parent of one of the victims. We have the freedom of speech...but we also have to freedom to know when not to. My family and I are banning news in our house until they stop airing that garbage. I don't need to be "coddled" but my heart and the hearts of our children and teenagers need to be guarded.

Sent by Lisa | 10:33 AM | 4-20-2007

We may want to stick our heads in the sand because the images and what they represent offend our sensibilities. I understand that many are in excruciating pain from the loss of loved ones and cannot bear the thought of looking at the person who inflicted this heartache. On the surface this appears to be a clear case of a mentally disturbed individual venting his rage on innocent lives and therefore, our habit is to dismiss it in our minds as an abnormality, a deviation from the norm, but in actuality this is indicative of a very complex phenomenon exemplifying the direction we are going in as a country and ultimately, a species. Our modern culture has seen an over abundance of violent TV shows & movies, violent lyrics in music, cruel and angry reality shows, portrayal of mean-ness as the ultimate form of entertainment. Psychology 101: Children live what they learn. There is no one thing that causes an individual to reach breaking point, instead it is the culmination of everything he has ever experienced in his life and the impressions left upon his psyche, lest we forget all those children who endure physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse. These experiences are assimilated and ultimately create a toxic fusion of energies and emotions. Children today are feeling more alienated and dis-jointed than ever, as parents are caught up in the "fight for survival" spending more time and energy at work ultimately leaving less and less time for raising their children in a balanced and harmonious manner. Needless to say, the horse is already out the gate and it will take awareness from the majority to recognize it is heading in the wrong direction. I pray that we wake up before many more are unnecessarily slaughtered by these mostly affected minds who in the midst of their darkness, are screaming for us to heed the call....

Sent by nerakami | 12:10 PM | 4-20-2007

Airing the murderer's video was tasteless and insensitive. Without seeing those violent images, it was still clear that he was mentally ill, so no, it was not necessary. Would it be naive to hope for the media to show some discretion? I think NBC answered this....Absolutely.

Sent by Elizabeth | 2:30 PM | 4-20-2007

A transcript of his ramblings could have been released, or perhaps the audio (neither was flattering to the author); you could have provided descriptions of his photos. But the actual photos of his video-game-style poses with his guns are of NO public value: to air those photos only fulfilled the wishes of the killer and gave the message to aspiring psycho killers that you will receive your craved attention if you commit some large-scale atrocity.

News shows don't air videos of terrorist beheadings, etc. A network news program is not a YouTube site for psychos to air their manifestos. The only likely reason NBC received the DVD is because it has the most famous address ("30 Rock") of the major networks.

This incident came not long after the Don Imus flap, which opened a discussion about what content is appropriate on our public airwaves. This garbage was not appropriate.

Sent by tom bailer | 2:43 PM | 4-20-2007

What happened at V.Tech is sad and horrible.
I need to say however, I would like to hear people STOP demonizing Cho S.H.
The whole situation is sad. He did terrible, totally wrong things, but I think some empathy is in order. The man was obviously suffering tremendously. Not to justify his actions, but HE is no longer alive either.
Language like "by showing the video clips on tv he is getting his way, or he is winning" is complete and utter nonsense. The man is no longer alive, and his parents lost their child as well. Who has won in that?

Sent by Mia LaMorena | 3:10 PM | 4-24-2007

I take two sides regarding the issue of the release of this video. First, is that the media shouldn't have to worry about stepping on people's toes by airing "insensitive material". The idea of what is insensitive is mostly subjective, some of the victims and families may be offended, some may not, and its not really the news' job to decide that. If they want to air something that opens relatively fresh wounds, they should be able to do so.
There is, however, another aspect to Cho's video, and in fact the whole shooting, that makes it unsuitable for such large coverage; copycats.
Consider the mentality of a school shooter. These are people who have trouble relating to other people. In general, they don't understand how to relate to others well, and become isolated, not necessarily through any fault of their own.
But because these people recieve little or no attention, they crave it. Everyone does. People will resort to almost any method to gain attention when they don't get it, and shooting up a school is one of those methods. Cho has become infamous now, he has achieved that part of his goal, and thus been "rewarded" in a sense. Every person out there like him, craving attention, and willing to kill a lot of people to gain it, now know that they can become veritable celebrities by doing so. Therefor the media is simply encouraging more shootings.
There are more of them out there, more of those people who think of the Columbine boys and Cho as martyrs for some sort of cause, especially if they have heard certain parts of Cho's video. There aren't many ways to prevent these things from happening, but one very obvious way is to stop rewarding this sort of tragedy.
In his mind, Cho would believe he has won.

Sent by James Gemperline | 5:20 PM | 4-25-2007