"We are sensitive to how this will be seen by those affected," said a somber Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News. "And we know we are in effect airing the words of a murderer here tonight."
What followed was an in-depth report, detailing the gunman in the Virginia Tech killings, Cho Seung Hui, and his last recorded words. Cho compiled what the anchor described as a 'multimedia manifesto' and, during the middle of his rampage, went to the post office and mailed it to NBC News in New York, where it was received today.
NBC made copies of the package's contents and released the originals to the FBI. Then, during its evening newscast, proceeded to share some of the details with the world.
I'm not going into some great detail about the package contents, if that's what you're after, visit MSNBC.com or turn on your television. My impetus for this article is that Cho's 'manifesto' should not have been broadcast to millions of Americans... at least so soon after his killings... maybe ever.
What information do we glean from the final thoughts of a madman? Well, we know he was deeply disturbed, but we already knew that because he killed 32 innocent people, most of which were just entering the prime of their life. Perhaps psychologists will gain some greater understanding of what pushes men like Cho over the brink, and how we can better treat future cases before they reach a tragic conclusion.
But are the cons of releasing a killer's manifesto not self-evident?
I hate to bring up Columbine, I do, but in this instance a comparison is valid (Cho even likened himself to the Columbine 'martyrs'). It took seven years for the bulk of the material Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold created leading up to their shooting to be released. There remain videos the pair made to this day that have not been released to the public, and likely never will. Not only can such information serve as training and/or encouragement to someone equally disturbed... if a copycat killer sees that his words will live on after his assault, it will only motivate him more and validate his belief that he will become a martyr.
Cho was able to manipulate the media just as he intended. By sending his final thoughts to a network news channel (it could have been any, they all would have ran with it, it just happened to be NBC), he insured that his tortured and disturbed thoughts would be made public just in time for dinner. Now, every other news organization in America is repeating it. The only thing we can hope for at this point is that networks show restraint in repeating the footage over and over to sensational levels.
I say without exaggeration or hyperbole that I am sick to my stomach that our media has obliged a murderer by giving him his final request. I am further sickened that I played role in it by watching along with millions of other Americans. A killer got exactly what he wanted, the last word... and we helped give it to him.