As the world was still holding its breath from shock at the Virginia Tech massacre, the public received another round of unwanted news. Sickening pictures of the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, were first released Thursday by NBC News.The pictures showed Cho in violent, outraged poses: arms outstretched and guns in hand. Only certain photos were released, but the package contained an array of media including “rambling, hate-filled video and written messages, with several pictures of him posing with a gun,” according to an April 19 Associated Press article.
After receiving backlash from viewers and family members canceling network visits, NBC and MSNBC decided to “severely limit” their use of the photographs, according to the Associated Press article.
Why all the drama? The photographs released Thursday certainly did not help to heighten the public’s impression of Cho – not that it was remarkably high to start. And for people who have not yet been exposed to the horrors of society, or at least those of this recent tragedy, it is unnecessary to see photographs of the most hated man of the hour, in a pose that is all too reflective of April 16.
With all ground-breaking events, especially those which involve death, the media quickly latch on to the negative angles and exposes viewers to the most violent of images and stories. In some respect, we have to appreciate that they want to inform us about the extremes of society, because at times we should be aware of how bad it can be. But only three days after what is now known as the deadliest shooting in U.S. history we don’t need to see and hear all the gunman’s violent thoughts.
The fact that even ranting was included in the assorted media is further proof the massacre could have likely been prevented, because it made it obvious that the incident was probably planned.
The release of the photographs was clearly intended as a shock factor for viewers, which unfortunately is an entertainment value and not a journalistic one. Even though most networks have decided to either end all use of the photos or severely limit their use, exposure is irreparable. They cannot take back the damage done to victims, survivors and their families. They cannot prevent the mass Internet circulation and availability of the photographs now that they have been released.
In an April 21 Associated Press article, it was released that Cho bought two ammunition clips on eBay last month, just another insight into the possible motivation of the Virginia Tech shooter. In the same article, investigators stressed the importance of computers and technology in helping to solve cases. Especially with a “loner like Cho,” they can be a valuable source of information.
Mark Rasch of FTI consulting, a computer and electronic investigation firm, commented that it should not be hard to find valuable information considering Cho’s careful record-keeping through videos, photographs and documents.
“This guy wanted to leave a trail. He wasn’t trying to conceal what he did,” Rasch said.
And by releasing all the photos Cho sent to NBC, how do the media not realize they are affirming his goals? By giving a cold-hearted killer so much attention, the media serves to glamorize the role of a disturbed, suicidal young man. If anything, they need to switch focus to the survivors of the tragic incident, rather than harp on the finished life of a man who decided to take his own.
Anahita Kalianivala is a freshman English and psychology major from Fort Worth. Her column appears Tuesdays.