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Apr 23

The Explainer: Point and click

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking at the Memorial Service for the victims Following the 9/11 tragedy, quoted these lines from the novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”. These same lines were the ending for the film based on Thornton Wilder’s novel.

When those students and teachers were shot to death in Virginia Tech, the world recoiled in horror. Then the questions began. Why did the killer, Seung-Hui Cho, do it? And could there be others like him not only in America, but elsewhere?

What drives a young person to commit mass murder? This is our topic for tonight.

I’m Manolo Quezon. The Explainer.

 

I.

 

In Thornton Wilder’s novel, Five people die in a freak accident when a famous rope bridge they’re crossing snaps and breaks. The novel then describes the inquiry by Brother Juniper who asks if the tragedy represented divine intervention or simply random chance.

When Seung-Hui Cho murdered 33 and seriously wounded a dozen more, he achieved a record of sorts as a mass killer. And people began to look for things that might explain why he took so many lives, and then his own.

[http://clearblogs.com/SusieQsViews/46548/ ]

Blogger Suzie Q pointed out that John Thompson, a long-time critic of violent video games, came out in American media pointing to a story in the Washington Post. According to Thomson, who’s argued that games like Doom and Counterstrike inspire kids to kill in real life, the Washington Post article said Seung-Hui Cho was a Counterstrike fan during high school.

[http://www.washingtonpost.com/…AR2007041700563_3.html?hpid=topnews]

But soon after Thompson tried to connect the Virginia Tech mass murder with the simulated mass murder that regularly entertains gamers, the Washington Post article disappeared.

[http://www.joystiq.com/2007/04/18/wapo-writer-talks-vt-shooter-counter-strike-connection-removal/]

The Joystiq blog looked at that story within a story –the disappearance of the Post story- and wrote about what the Post people told him:

Cho said there was no solid indication either way whether or not Hui continued to play during three-and-a-half years at college. Hui’s college roommates reportedly saw Hui on the computer constantly, but said he was usually writing, not playing games. Cho said a group of Virginia Tech Counter-Strike players he talked to had never heard of Hui, and that Hui hadn’t attended a recent Counter-Strike tournament held on campus.

As for the removal, Cho said it was standard practice to replace a rougher online version of a story with the polished print version when it was available. The Counter-Strike connection was removed, Cho said, to make room for more recent, more relevant information. Still, the fact is on file at the Post, Cho said, and it’s possible it could make it into a future story.

[http://www.joystiq.com/2007/04/19/no-video-games-found-in-vt-shooters-dorm/]

The blogger then  and wrote about the implications of the possibility Cho was a gamer. Explainee, can you read what the blogger wrote?

To the general public if Cho even looked at a video game, it’s case-closed.

After police searched Cho’s dorm room, however, it seems he didn’t own any video games at all. No murder simulators or gun training programs, not even a copy of Tetris. If video games didn’t teach him these skills, where did they come from?! Oh noes!

 

Oh noes, indeed! For a time it seemed as if there was a handy scapegoat, and that scapegoat would be violent video games. But when no games were found, the search to discover Cho’s motivations, even inspirations, went off in different directions.

[http://blog.washingtonpost.com/virginia-tech-shootings/2007/04/website_posts_play_allegedly_w.html ]

 

News reports like this one continued to mention the gaming angle, but focused more on the supposedly disturbing stuff Cho was wrote.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/18/AR2007041800162.html

 

This article boils down the problem: Cho was a loner, he didn’t talk to anyone, he wrote violent stuff, his parents worried he was suicidal and his teachers were worried about him; he’d been ordered to undergo psychiatric observation, and he’d done things like set a fire in his dorm and stalk girls. But as the article says, “Student Wrote About Death and Spoke in Whispers, But No One Imagined What Cho Seung Hui Would Do.”

[http://www.slate.com/id/2164649/]

 

But Cho’s behavior and his crimes have gotten people talking and asking questions. Besides understanding, prevention has been the focus of many questions being asked.

These questions actually began to be asked some time ago. The US Secret Service had actually put together a report, as part of the “Safe School Initative” that gathered steam after the Columbine killings in ____. That had been the latest, and most morbidly spectacular, of the kind of school shootings that first took place in the USA in 1974.

 

We love looking into the depths, and seeing evil stare back at us. But there is a kind of horror that trumps even the murderous serial killer, and that’s when evil takes a shotgun and shoots schoolmates and teachers in the face.

THE FINAL REPORT AND

FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE:

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF SCHOOL ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES has ten key findings.

 

They are:

 

•Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely were sudden, impulsive acts.

• Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or

plan to attack.

• Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the

attack.

• There is no accurate or useful “profile” of students who engaged in targeted

school violence.

• Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused

others concern or indicated a need for help.

• Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal

failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide.

• Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the

attack.

• Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.

• In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity.

• Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were

stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.

 

And so, Cho wasn’t the first student to go berserk and embark on a murderous rampage. But in retrospect, knowing what we know now, the whole situation to have fit quite well into similar situations in the past.

 

When we return, other famous student mass murderers and what drove them to their evil deeds.

II.

 

[Bowling for Columbine]

 

That was a scene from “Bowling for Columbine,” …

The Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, spent a year planning murder and mayhem on a spectacular scale. David Cullen, who covered the case extensively and wrote a book about it, says the FBI convened a summit of investigators, psychiatrists and psychologists, and their findings were as follows:

 

[http://www.slate.com/id/2099203/ ]

 

Columbine was intended not primarily as a shooting at all, but as a bombing on a massive scale. If they hadn’t been so bad at wiring the timers, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria would have wiped out 600 people. After those bombs went off, they planned to gun down fleeing survivors. An explosive third act would follow, when their cars, packed with still more bombs, would rip through still more crowds, presumably of survivors, rescue workers, and reporters. The climax would be captured on live television. It wasn’t just “fame” they were after—Agent Fuselier bristles at that trivializing term—they were gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale of an Attila the Hun. Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would shudder at their power.

 

SeungHui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, idolized the Columbine killers. He said so clearly enough. Less clear what what he himself hoped to accomplish and what drove him to kill 33 people in cold blood.

He was, apparently, hurt. Would you like to read part of his ramblings for posterity?

“You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscience. … You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. And you want to inject as much misery in our lives because you can, just because you can.”

And he was apparently, angry at his peers. Would you like to read more of his ramblings?

 

“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats… Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs… you had everything.”

Now at this point, I’d like to step back from focusing on homicide, and the negative heroism Cho believed in, and focus on something related.

The killer Cho, I think, has made every adult wonder if there aren’t more Chos out there, and whether there are youths running around, whose idea of someone worth emulating is a mass murderer.

Our explainee, Emman Nazareno is part of a group that conducts seminars on heroism in our very own college campuses.

Part of their Heroes workshop is a survey in which the students are asked who their own heroes are.  So far, five schools have had these workshops and the findings are quite interesting. The surveys, you see, poll the students on who their heroes are.

Emman lets take a look at the give schools you’ve polled.

In Jose Rizal University, the students who came from different local high schools said their heroes were as follows:

 

Slide:

 

Parents

2

Mother only

8

Father only

5

God/Jesus Christ

4

Grandparents

1

Grandfather

1

Grandmother

2

Jose Rizal

1

Ninoy Aquino

2

 

In Far Eastern University, from the 70 students there all from FEU, their choices were:

 

Slide:

 

Parents

10

Mother only

13

Father only

8

God

3

Bestfriend/Friend

4

Grandfather

1

Grandmother

2

Jose Rizal

3

Ninoy Aquino

1

Bob Marley

1

Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

1

Wizard

1

Mother Teresa

1

Apolinario Mabini

1

Andres Bonifacio

1

Teacher

1

Dante Sparda

1

Crimefighter

1

Sister

1

Don’t know yet

1

Unnamed hero who helped

2

Myself

3

Volunteer facilitators

1

 

 

In Feati University, the 56 FEATI students who participated picked:

 

Slide:

 

Parents

15

Mother only

12

Father only

5

Grandfather

2

Sister

1

Aunt

1

Chiz Escudero

1

Teacher

1

Jack Baver

1

People in the EDSA Revolution

1

Jose Rizal

1

 

 

In Bulacan State University, 90 out of 95 participants were from BSU, and these were their choices:

 

Slide:

 

Parents

17

Mother only

24

Father only

11

God/Jesus Christ

4

Grandfather

2

Sister

3

Aunt, Uncle (1), Relatives (1)

3

Filipino People

1

Classmate/ Friend

2

Jose Maria Sison

1

Chikoy Para (The Jerks) – Musical Band

1

Jose Rizal

2

Andres Bonifacio

1

Mentors/ Leaders of Orgs (Kristiyanong Kabataan para sa Bayan Movement – KKB, Student Leader – Paul de Vera)

4

Public Servant/ Politicians (Gov. Josie M. dela Cruz)

3

Teachers (Rodel M. Fronda – Folkdance instructor, Spiritual master, Bro. Felix G. Manah) 

3

Cartoon Characters (Sailormoon and Wonderwoman)

1

 

 

In De La Salle University Dasmarinas, the 56 students who took part presented their choices as follows:

 

Slide:

 

Parents

10

Mother only

15

Father only

6

Guardian Mom

1

Nanay Belen (domestic helper)

1

None

1

Cousin

1

God

5

Mother Teresa

1

Teacher

2

Niece

1

Jesus Christ

5

Grandfather

4

Movie character – Mila (Maricel Soriano)

1

Foster parent

1

Brother

1

Bob Ong (writer)

1

Grandmother

1

People around me

1

Family

1

Sister

1

Ely Buendia

1

Mentor

1

Dean

1

School administrator

1

 

Now as you’ve seen, the findings are interesting. First of all, overwhelmingly, the choice of students for heroes are their parents. And more often than not, if both parents aren’t the heroes, then moms seem more admired than dads. But I also pointed out some of the more unusual choices made by these kids. Some picked themselves. Others picked traditional heroes. Still others picked non-traditional heroes, and a couple picked fictional characters from film and anime.

 

But on the whole, in terms of rolemodels, the choices seem pretty wholesome and healthy to me, and perhaps the opinions of these students should be a cause for good cheer.

 

When we return, though, we’ll return to people like Cho –what they do, who they are, and perhaps, if we can do anything about it.

 

 

III. Interview

http://www.slate.com/id/2164757/

Dr. Banaag, that’s an article by Dave Cullen who wrote an authoritative book on the Columbine killers, comparing them to Cho.

The article makes reference to terms we often hear but may not fully, or precisely, understand. Can we start with them?

Depression

Psychopathy

Psychosis -psychopath

 

Most argue:

anger fused with depression

 

Some:

believe psychopathic traits

 

Some say:

psychotic –paranoia, schizophrenia

 

IV. My view

 

Thornton Wilder described one of the characters in his novel in this manner: “”Like all the cultivated he believed that only the widely read could be said to know that they were unhappy.” As adults we suffer from a similar delusion when it comes to the turmoil surrounding every adolescent’s life:  everything can be solved, if only there’s counseling.

Teenagers like to think that no one understands them. But they try to be understood, and to understand, anyway. Maybe clumsily, maybe melodramatically,

As a troubled teenager –but then again, what teenager isn’t troubled, in one way or another?-  I never found value in counseling from adults. Like many other teenagers, I sought counsel from my peers. And yet in retrospect perhaps it mattered less that I shunned adult advice and attention, and sought it from people my age. The important thing, I’ve come to conclude, is that I not only looked for people to listen, but that I thought I could find someone willing to listen to me at all.

Isolation and alienation are occupational hazards for adolescents and young adults. Left unattended, they can be to our mental health what cancer is to our physical health: all-consuming, destructive, tragic, fatal. There remains a stigma in our society, to approaching professionals to help our mental health or that of our loved ones. We should not cause anyone literally die for shame. If you have a problem, talk –and if someone wants to talk to you, don’t turn them away.

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