Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Killer (updated)

Awful. And we now get a portrait of a dude who exhibited tell-tale signs of a would-be psycho killer.
“He was always really, really quiet and kind of weird, keeping to himself all the time,” he said. “Just of anti-social, didn’t talk to anybody. I tried to make conversation with him in August or so and he would just give one word answers and not try and carry on the conversation.”
Then there's this:
Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service...
I'm sure we'll soon be hearing about him skinning cats for fun.

Whenever something crazy and catastrophic like this happens, demagogues of all stripes use the incident to beat the drum for their own cause. Gun zealots are already crying foul. And in our nativist climate, I'm rather curious about how Cho's national origins would play. By way of background, the Post identifies Cho as a Centreville, VA man who immigrated from South Korea to the United States as a child. The emphasis seems right. Having immigrated as a pre-schooler to the United States myself, I would certainly think it's more accurate to describe me first as someone from Alhambra, CA rather than "an immigrant from Taiwan" . The AP on the other hand, leads with the guy's national origins and immigration status, as if he were an exchange student. The guy grew up in the U.S.; he was majoring in English lit. He's not a fob. It'll be interesting to see if the media continues to emphasize Cho's weirdness and alienation (which may partially be attributed to the immigrant experience but obviously not entirely) as the story plays out, or if they start playing up his foreign origins.

Lastly, did he go by his surname first? If not (and I can't imagine why he would), why is the media calling him Cho Sueng-Hui? Weird.

Update: A Counterstrike fanatic! Mercy as we go through another cycle of hand-wringing about violent video games.

Update 2: Obviously, his ethnic background should be mentioned. But it's not his defining characteristic (I'd suggest "sociopathic"), unlike, say, the 9/11 attackers, whose motivation is religious tribalism. To AP 's credit, the story discussed up top eventually had the headline altered to "English Major blamed for massacre," though I'm not sure being an English major is all that germane either. Last note on this: I still think the Asian American's Journalism Association's advisory, imploring the press to not identify Cho's race unless "germane to the story" is an overreaction, but reading these kinds of exchanges between right-wing nutjobs gives me some pause (Via Daily Dish (and House Next Door). Now, it's entirely expected that some whites, especially in economically distressed times, would scapegoat minorities for their problems, especially the illegal immigrants perceived to be taking their jobs. What's disturbing is the large number of whites who think of themselves as besieged on all quarters by minorities and "liberals" -- two classes that don't actually wield a whole lot of power in this country. You can find the sentiment underlying the grievances aired during the two big media stories last week, the Imus brouhaha and the Duke lacrosse team botch-job. It's hard to say what's most pathetic about these people: their bottomless self-pity, the total lack of self-awareness, or their unshakable sense of white entitlement.

Oh, and Jo, the throwaway comment about Old Boy? Check this photo out. What. A. Fucking. Basketcase.