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 V.16 No.17 | April 26 - May 2, 2007 

Thin Line

Killer Press Kit—He got everything right. From the handguns to the black T-shirt to the vest to the black, backward baseball cap. He posed. He spoke in short sentences--perfect for sound bites and pull quotes. Cho Seung-Hui made a press kit, a video and nearly 50 head shots and sent it off to NBC. It was accurate. He knew what a killer is supposed to look like, and he crafted his image carefully to match.

People send press kits and releases for all kinds of things: events and projects and art or potential story ideas. Everyone's looking for an edge to get exposure. Only a small percentage do, especially from a big network like NBC.

The executives and newshounds, in all their lip-smacking ratings lust, must have jumped for joy when they discovered Cho not only send them a tape, he sent it to them exclusively. Of course they ran it. Of course they aired his "manifesto," the one in which Cho creepily refers to the Columbine killers as fellow martyrs. Cho saw them as heroes, and that, too, is the result of a past media celebritizing gone wrong.

NBC News Chief Steve Capus defended the decision with this reasoning: "[Relatives of the victims] also may say, 'We want to know why. We need to know what was in his head, what drove him to do this.' This is a portrait of a killer." A portrait. The one Cho created. A tribute to his lunacy. A symbol in a string of symbols. Something for the next mass shooter to use as a template.

Even our little Albuquerque Journal, along with every other paper in the country, I'm sure, ran the two-guns angry-faced Cho pic on the front page.

Further, no one really needed to know why Cho did what he did. There is only one reason: He was crazy. More than just your usual crazy, too. I know plenty of folks who are certifiable but would never harm another human being.

As the national media quest for a "Why?" begins, as "Dateline" prepares its special on how to see warning signs of depression in your own kids, there's another victim in all of this aftermath of media gorging. (Aside from the shooting victims' families and mourning school confronted with idiot Cho's press kit at every turn). It's the weird kids, the "Asian" kids, the people who write violent poetry and screenplays, who release their dark sides in verse. A paranoid America, flush and fat off the contrived image of a scary killer, will now be looking at every lonely, troubled face with suspicion.


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