Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Mind of Cho Seung-Hui

Captain Ed has a long running commentary on Cho Seung-Hui's video package for MSNBC.

Tucker Carlson -- "This is like pornography. Should we even air this?" FBI expert: "We're going to live this guy's fantasy for him. I don't like it."

NBC reports that none of the images or videos are of the earlier shooting, and only contains vague references to them -- "this didn't have to happen," and so on. It's mostly a rambling, profanity-laced manifesto about how Cho hated the world.

The return address name was "Ismail" or "Ishmael".

He started compiling this package last week. It makes it clear that he premeditated this, and he didn't just freak out after the first shooting. Cho also apparently hated Christianity, and that makes the Ismail Ax reference more likely to be the James Fennimore Cooper theory that Hot Air noted.


Captain Ed's observations are like a coda you can hear behind the main theme. Cho may be the first serial killer to fully understand that the media must always form part of the calculation of the crime. During a trip to Basilan some months ago, the counterterrorist cops told me that Jihadis always took video of their attacks. It didn't matter if they did any damage, as long as they got good visuals.

Today we get visuals from the dead. Part of the package of those who set out to be shaheeds is they get free complimentary video coverage of their farewells to friends, before they embark on the sweet and gory passage to Paradise. In Cho's case, Islam does not seem to be involved -- so far -- but the same kind of psychological dynamic appears to be in play. He lived in his own conspiracy world, the kind that that Bill Whittle wrote against. It was peopled with figures, not necessarily from the Koran, but of all the detritus of popular culture.

There are those who will argue that "guns kill people"; likely the same people who are going to air Cho's video over and over on prime time. Well alright. After all, nobody was to blame. Cho did everything but construct a neon sign outside his dorm announcing he was a psycho but fell through every crack in a system curiously full of rules but empty of responsibility. Everyone did his bit, but nobody put it all together. Even now, putting things together is altogether unsafe.


Blogger wretchard said...

In the end he was talking to himself on his own video. The star in a show with no ratings, trying to upstage the "hedonists" on campus he hated -- with their trust funds, champagne and Mercedes Benzes. Become more famous than all the golden boys he wanted to see lying in their own blood. I overheard someone say that if only Cho had a good orthodontist this whole tragedy wouldn't have happened. Would have fixed his bird chin, made him better looking. That sounded just bizarre enough to contain a grain of truth. Maybe today image is reality; image is all that matters, what we have instead of God and in place of love. Perhaps the one valid argument for not airing Cho's video would be to frustrate him at this last, seeing as no one stopped him before. But maybe he beat the system even there.

4/18/2007 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The Islamic theory is dead, dead, dead because the envelope says "Ishmael", and there was never a reason to believe it anyway.

I am not ready to say that society missed the signs of his illness. There is a timing problem, and evidence which still hasn't been released. All the problems before the shooting happened in late 2005. That's why Cho was reported twice for stalking, was thrown out of a class, and when he was suicidal and made to go to a mental institution for an exam. As CNN reported, the court order only said that Cho was a danger to himself, and the box about danger to others wasn't checked. So far the only exam to be released was the one BEFORE the court order, and that showed Cho's only problems were depression and "flat affect" (emotionless).

Until a judge approves the warrant police requested, we won't know what happened in the next step, when Cho was taken to the mental hospital.

However, after Cho was released he went the 16 months until the shootings without being reported to the university police for anything. None of his teacher's complaints were said to be after the mental hospital. His roommates had no idea of the hate he was carrying.

So I'm not ready to jump at the idea that society missed something. Cho was insane and evil, but he appears to have possessed enough remaining sanity and discipline to pretend otherwise.

4/18/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Our killer suffered from self importance delusion. Little did he know how soon we'd forget him and we'd never lament his death. What a maroon.

4/18/2007 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

We deserved it for Iraq. Counterpunch says "The same parents who weep for their children might consider that they and their neighbors are also spending a half trillion dollars a year so that the Pentagon, just over the horizon from Virginia Tech, can wage a war that is snuffing out the lives of children of other parents just like their own".

Let the healing begin.

4/18/2007 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I would think that the intimate, close-to-home example of the Va Tech massacre would, out of empathy, motivate Americans to support our nation's mission to stop the terrorist mass murderers killing so many Iraqis and help Iraq establish a nation that can prevent future attacks by these killers.

4/18/2007 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

re: "Let the healing begin."

The incomparable Dr. Sanity is equally skeptical of the so-called “healing” process now in play at VT.

“I believe that this early healing talk is both foolish and immoral.

It is foolish because one does not speak about healing the same day (or week or perhaps even month) that one is traumatized -- especially by evil. One must be allowed time for anger and grief. To speak of healing and "closure" before one goes through those other emotions is to speak not of healing but of suppression.

Not to allow people time to experience their natural, and noble, instincts to feel rage and grief actually deprives them of the ability to heal in the long run. After all, if there is no rage and grief, what is there to heal from?”
___Dennis Praeger

“These well-meant but ultimately invalidating pressures to "begin the healing process" actually hinder the natural expression of normal grief, which can only come about after painful reflection and the resolution of a variety of conflicting emotions, including anger, sadness, hopelessness, outrage and regret (to name just a few).”

“[L]ike Praeger, I feel it is simply wrong --though not necessarily immoral, just extremely narcissistic and rather borderline--to focus so steadfastly on personal "healing", which is actually the final stage of grief, and not the first.”

A Nation of Borderlines?

4/18/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

w, seriously en fuego, continues:

"Cho did everything but construct a neon sign outside his dorm announcing he was a psycho but fell through every crack in a system curiously full of rules but empty of responsibility."

4/18/2007 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"Cho may be the first serial killer to fully understand that the media must always form part of the calculation of the crime."

I have to disagree with that. Though, Cho is probably 2 or 3; #1 and #2 are Ayman al Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, IMO.

4/18/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

I am Ishmael? Moby Dick?

4/18/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> Cho: Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people. <

> Cho: Jesus loves crucifying me <

Did he respect Christianity or hate it?

Neither, he is nuts.

4/18/2007 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Cho and Global Warming:

Not knowing what their situation was they should have alerted the campus to take appropriate security precautions to limit the damage as much as possible. Cancelling classes and asking people to stay indoors would have limited the exposure to the gunman. There would have been fewer groups for him to corner.

There is a dark side to optimism when you assume the best and therefore fail to take the steps needed to prevent the worst.

As a society we are making both of these mistakes in dealing with global warming. We know something is happening but we are waiting for absolute proof in order to take actions. We are also assuming a best case scenario of limited maneageable warming rather than fearing that the scientists may be wrong and it could get far worse. We need to take steps to prevent the worst outcome.

— Posted by Jane

4/18/2007 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I know there is some debate over whether Cho's craziness could have been fully anticipated. However, a university stands in loco parentis, in place of the parents. It is fully committed, by its own avowal, to creating a safe environment for its students.

Any parent understands that when you are hosting a group of children in your house, when you are in loco parentis one of the variables you control is the quality of the company. And when one of the kids acts in a menacing way like Cho, most parents would probably send him home. There was no need to lock Cho up, but is not reasonable to think that the University might have suspended him or expelled him for his behavior, which apparently stalking, voyeurism and setting fire to his dorm, by some accounts? After all they were willing to expel students who carried licensed guns to school, even when they could not be prosecurted; so it is established the university was perfectly willing to toss people out on their ear to create their environment of safety.

The intention may have been laudable, but they forgot one thing. The threat is the man, not the thing. The hijackers who killed 3,000 people accomplished their deed only with boxcutters. They were looking for guns, which is neither here nor there, but they were oblivious to the flaming psychopath who broadcast his existence continuously, like some dark beacon in their idyllic sea.

It may not be productive to indulge in recriminations, but surely it is reasonable to recall that in a creating any security screen, any safe environment it is the man above of all whom we must watch. Maybe they forgot that. I hope they remember it now.

4/18/2007 06:41:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

Seriously, I think he's identifying with Ishmael from Moby Dick. Check the wiki


under Ishmael:

"The name has come to symbolize orphans, exiles, and social outcasts—in the opening paragraph of Moby-Dick, Ishmael tells the reader that he has turned to the sea out of a feeling of alienation from human society."

It seems to me that he's making that connection...Who knows?

4/18/2007 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

The guy obviously wanted to go down in history since he was not going to make a splash any other way. His writings were bizarre and his social behaviors as bad. He couldn't accept that he was not "in" or important.

That is all that mattered to him.

Pretty ironic considering he spent almost his entire manifesto talking about all the rich, materialistic and hedonistic behaviors of his peers. The entire reason he killed them is because he could not be them.

4/18/2007 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger flanok said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/18/2007 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Isn't "Bird Chin"
Hate Speech?

4/18/2007 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I think the best bet for "Ishmael's Ax" is the book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. It is non-fiction about a boy growing up in a civil war.

Some reader descriptions:

But rebel forces destroyed his childhood innocence when they hit his village, driving him to leave his home and travel the arid deserts and jungles of Africa. After several months of struggle, he was recruited by the national army, made a full soldier and learned to shoot an AK-47, and hated everyone who came up against the rebels. The first two thirds of his memoir are frightening: how easy it is for a normal boy to transform into someone as addicted to killing as he is to the cocaine that the army makes readily available.

This book is about the truely grotesque ugliness of man and a boy who through no fault of his own became a monster

Eventually Beah found himself in a village controlled by the national army. He thought he was safe here, but they soon compelled him to fight for them, despite his young age. Fueled by hatred towards those who had harmed his family and driven him from his home, he readily joined the cause. For over two years he fought for this army, participating in countless battles and skirmishes. He became a cold-blooded killer, killing, torturing and maiming. He was supplied with endless amounts of marijuana and cocaine and lived these years in a constant drug-induced haze. Though he began fighting on what he felt was the good side, he soon found himself descending further and further into moral decay so that he felt nothing, even when he looked into the eyes of men whose throats he was cutting.

4/18/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I posted the following comment at The Gates of Vienna, but I thought you might appreciate it getting repeated here.

It is rather interesting how Cho Seung-hui is being proclaimed by the mainstream media as insane, as a paranoid young man driven by delusion, hatred, and violence. Such misogyny, such paranoia, such violence, such an Oedipus Complex a mile wide, and such a desire for fame to send his manifesto to a news organization before he murders innocent people on an industrial scale. We are told how such a mentality is so difficult to imagine, that no sane person could ever act like that reclusive student in Virginia.

Other men act just like Cho Seung-hui and they aren’t regarded as insane at all. Instead, these same acts are portrayed as acts of Muslim religious expression. For the rest of us, the actions of Cho Seung-hui are declared to be insane. Yet when Muslim fanatics act exactly the same way, any criticism of the insanity of such people is swept under the rug and declared to be “Islamophobia”. Were the mentality and actions of Cho Seung-hui really more insane than the rambling manifestos of Osama bin Laden or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Am I supposed to believe that when a man becomes a suicidal mass murderer, it means he is insane unless he is a Muslim? Must I regard such misbehavior as insane only when non-Muslims are doing it?

Either Cho Seung-hui is not quite so insane as the media portrays him to be, or there is something seriously wrong with Islam.

4/18/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The Islamic connection looks increasingly unlikely, in light of the available evidence and I never advanced it. However, I was aware of the history of the paintball Jihad, which involved a South Korean engineering student at Virginia Tech who was being recruited into the Taliban.

Kwon, one of nine men convicted last year in the so-called "paintball jihad" network, told a chilling tale of the birth of an American jihad. ... Dressed in a dark-green prison jumpsuit, the tall, bearded Kwon told jurors how he first heard Al-Timimi speak in 1997 at an Islamic Assembly of North America conference in Chicago.

Born to Christian parents, Kwon converted to Islam in 1997 and quickly found scholar Al-Timimi lecturing regularly near his Northern Virginia home.

But so far, there is no convincing link between Cho and any organized conspiracy. My own guess is that his "ideology", when we unravel it, will consist of an eclectic hodgepodge of ideas pulled from video games, Internet sites, classroom lectures and what have you -- in large part the garbage the passes for education and attitude nowadays. And many of his radical concepts will probably be completely unremarkable but for the fact that unlike most students, who have enough common sense to treat these ideas theoretically, he was willing to carry them out.

4/18/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger K. Pablo said...

His diction is most like Napoleon Dynamite's.

4/18/2007 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The barn door is being bolted.

Officials at Virginia Tech University are facing tough questions over why they failed to keep check on a South Korean student with known mental problems who went on a rampage that left at least 30 people dead.

The officials have struggled to answer how 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui was allowed to remain free and able to buy the guns used in the murderous rampage despite having been investigated for stalking coeds and being admitted to a mental hospital. ...

"Why he slipped through the net is a very valid question.

"The review will teach us what happened and what we need to know."

This should be interesting.

4/18/2007 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> The barn door is being bolted.

What barn door? This could be a worse case scenario, ending up like the Soviet Union, where everyone who disagrees with the government is obviously insane, and so ends up in a mental hospital.

What did Cho do in the last 16 month before the shooting which should have prevented him from being free and buying guns?

This is the typical 20-20 hindsight that ruins America. No one back then could have possibly known the problem, but we see it now, so we blame them.

4/18/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

In another forum someone complained that there wasn't a fast enough response to 9/11.

Whether or not that's true, eventually the speed of the first responders will slow down as the best of them quit, and the rest of them consult their lawyers before doing each step. That's because whenever a criminal kills someone, society spends 1% of the time blaming the criminal, and 99% of the time second guessing the authorities and first responders for how they could have prevented the crime. Every action the authorities take will be drawn out on a time line minute by minute to be second guessed by an independent commission. Like they were the criminals instead of the psycho.

4/18/2007 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

The media would not rest until it could tie Cho into the Iraq operation.

Gunman’s Sister Works on Iraq Reconstruction Team

Since irrelevant personal information is so vital to understanding a murderer, quickly, someone give me the name of Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife.

The AP and Fox have done themselves proud.

LGF has the tale of another concerned American, who sees the connection of the VT mass murder and Iraq.

“The American people, including the families of the murdered Virginia Tech innocents, have collective blood-guilt on their hands.”

“How many of those parents in the audience had also voted for legislators who backed the president’s illegal invasion of Iraq?”

“Who is responsible for the killings in Iraq except the same now bereaved parents of the murdered students at Virginia Tech?”
“All across America, people who attend church and regard themselves as “good” people, such as the bereaved at Virginia Tech, are working in the plants that make atomic bombs and warplanes and napalm and cluster bombs and are creating new, demonical designs of germ warfare and space-based weapons so vile and horrible they defy description.”
The Worst Left-Wing Article Ever

4/18/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think we should distinguish between the minimum standard of behavior required to stay free and those needed for memebership in selected institutions. Possibly nothing that Cho did was sufficient to incarcerate him but he may have done more than enough to merit a suspension or expulsion from the school.

This would not necessarily have prevented a massacre. Nothing Virginia Tech could have done with respect to Cho would have any bearing on stopping an external attacker -- a subject that is implicit in all this. If one kid with a couple of handguns could do this, what could a trained terrorist team do? This is something within the realm of possibility and we have Beslan to remind us.

One of the goals of Virginia Tech, and a laudable one, was to create a "safe environment" for the students. And to do this, they may enforce a more stringent standard than society as a whole. They already attempted to do this, by creating their "gun free zone". But as everyone who tries to keep standards in a club knows, the key factor in maintaining quality is to control the membership. To carry the analogy further, they controlled the "dress code" by determining that you could not wear your gun to school but VT didn't control the membership as well as they might have. You can be on any side of the gun issue that you want, on any side of the "dress code" debate at all and not necessarily be against being more careful who you let into the club.

I don't think people should be taken away for mental illness. But people who behave in a certain menacing way ought to be expelled or suspended until they straighten out.

4/18/2007 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

I believe Soung Cho was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was delusional, he had delusions of grandeur, he used a nom de guerre, Ismail's Ax, just like Son of Sam, The Zodiac, and others. His "manifesto" is just the ramblings of a deluded man, sprinkled with hatred and paranoia caused by his illness. It's not the writings of an angry young man with legitimate grievances.

Schizophrenics slip in and out of their delusional state. It's not likely that someone who was completely delusional could have advanced to be a senior in college. His illness must have increased in the past couple months.

Perhaps we'll find out that there was a psychiatrist treating him. There was mention of unspecified psychiatric medicine found near the body.

This is essentially a serial killer, whose first and last act was a mass killing event.

4/18/2007 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Utopia Parkway,

Maybe one of the conclusions we will come to is that nothing could have reasonably been done to screen out a timebomb like Cho. As you say, mentally ill people can go on and off like a Christmas blinker.

Recently, a kid called Hinrichs tried to blow himself up at a football without manifesting the symptoms of Cho. Had Hinrichs gone off inside the bleachers, he might have given Cho a run for his money in the casualty sweepstakes. Could one have predicted Hinrichs? And Hinrichs didn't even use a gun.

Still, questions will be asked. I wonder if the questions will be the right ones.

4/18/2007 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I am concerned that too much focus on weird or eccentric people may create a witch hunt atmosphere. An accusation of insanity can be a form of abuse wielded by politically connected people against deviant individuals, and can be used within families much as accusations of disloyalty were used in totalitarian regimes. Although serious cases like Cho's should be causes for concern, it would be sad if the mental health and pharmaceutical industries capitalized on this massacre as a pretext to incarcerate those who are sane yet deviant and massively increase the levels of medication for people who don't need it.

4/18/2007 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

There is a strong tendency in Korean society for young men to fantasize about being the greatest at whatever it is they do. Given how Mr. Cho decided to become a murderer, the rest of what he did made perfect sense in terms of Korean fantasies of grandiosity. Also, I suspect that Mr. Cho killed other students at least partly as a means to attack his father, as his behavior has clearly shamed his family’s honor in the eyes of other Koreans.

4/18/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

utopia parkway:

What's it called when a political or religious leader is a paranoid schizophrenic...?

4/18/2007 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> he may have done more than enough to merit a suspension or expulsion from the school.

I agree with that. It should be fairly easily for them to kick someone out of a university. (With some consideration since everyone pays taxes for public universities.) Some of the instructors complained there was nothing they could do about him. There's no reason they should be a baby sitter.

4/18/2007 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

"In Cho's case, Islam does not seem to be involved"

"In favour of Sara and her son Isaac, agar and Ismael were expelled from the household of Abraham and consequently, from the heritage and lineage of the decendants of Isaac (Genesis: 21,10). The Arabian nations (the desert dwellers) are descendants of Ismael but not of Isaac."

In the old testament...God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son...Abraham offer up Isaac(he was the first legitmate born) on the alter and as Abraham was about to lop off Isaacs head with a knife god stopped him.

In the Koran...Ismael was offered up to god(he was the first born, illegitimate)..and as Abraham was about to lop off Ismaels head with an Axe...god stopped him.

Agar was Abrahams slave, Sara was Abrahams wife.

4/18/2007 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

It's usually not hard to realize someone is a schizophrenic after doing a mental status exam, which is what Roy Crouse did for the Temp Detention order. The ABC report that quoted parts of the detention order described some of the parts of that exam when it mentioned that his affect was flat, his mood was depressed, he denied SI, he did not acknowledge sxs of a thought d/o, and his insight and judgment was normal. This is not the whole MSE, but if he was schizophrenic, Dr. Crouse probaby would have picked up on it.

Unfortunately, the MSE is like a psychiatrist's physical exam - it's only the objective data. What I would like to see is what Dr. Crouse's Assessment and Plan were for him.

4/18/2007 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> Schizophrenics slip in and out of their delusional state.

That's the part I wonder about. He was falling about in December 2005. Two stalking incidents. Other students refuse to be in the class with him and one professor to teach him. He goes suicidal and the university police "talk" him into checking into getting an examination, which results in a court order to check into a mental hospital for an exam.

Yet for the next 15 months, until he buys the first gun in March, we aren't told of anything bad happening. The university police have no complaints. His roommates have noticed nothing bad, and in fact in sometime like January he starts doing what are normally good things like going to a gym and trying to clear up his acne.

So I think what we're going to find out is that this guy is very, very evil and very, very controlled. Maybe back in December 2005 he got a hold of himself and stopped showing the external signs of his insanity.

4/18/2007 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I meant to say: he was falling APART in December 2005

4/18/2007 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Correction- according to that same article, Dr. Crouse was a psychologist not a psychiatrist, but the mental status exam probably wasn't very different and the most interesting thing to see would be his assessment of Cho.

4/18/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

In those videos he looks like some 8 year olds I know in a gang town near where I live, trying to imitate their older brothers. His words are just gibberish.

It is so sad that people just lay there on the floor and let themselves be shot by him like he was superman and couldn't be beat.

4/18/2007 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> I believe Soung Cho was a paranoid schizophrenic.

And if he was wouldn't it have been easy for three or four guys to disarm him?

His words on the video and letter were gibberish. People said it took him 20 seconds to respond to a question. He looks slow on the video.

So would he have responded quickly in a fist fight?

4/18/2007 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

One of the witnesses talked about how slowly and deliberately the killer fired. Was that because his brain was so bad he could not move any quicker? Meaning that the reason people died was because they didn't resist?

4/18/2007 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Apparently, Mr. Cho referred to the Columbine murderers as "martyrs". So, what we have here is a classic "martyrdom operation". In Mr. Cho, suicide bombing has made the conceptual leap out of Islam. Also, his video theater of wielding a hammer appears to be based upon a lowbrow movie called Oldboy out of South Korean cinema. So, Hollywood doesn't appear to be at fault this time around.

4/18/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger J.B. said...

Wretchard, do you have a handle on the completely frustrating legal factors at play on a university campus with these competing "duties" ??? -- [1] a university's duty to protect its students from other students conflicting with [2] its legal mandates to give due process to the students posing the threat. Volokh has a good thread on this.

This perhaps *SHOULD* have been a simple matter of expelling this kid but in reality it was anything but.

It also seems odd to me to quibble about "healing" at a time like this. Leave it be.

4/18/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

wretchard wrote:
This would not necessarily have prevented a massacre. Nothing Virginia Tech could have done with respect to Cho would have any bearing on stopping an external attacker -- a subject that is implicit in all this. If one kid with a couple of handguns could do this, what could a trained terrorist team do? This is something within the realm of possibility and we have Beslan to remind us.

I believe there is a little bit of damage control going on both sides of the gun control issue, as evidenced by unwillingness of the MSM to address the obvious you mentioned. Yes, our schools aren't safe and it happened to Russia.

The anti-gun crowd knows that much of America can see the idiocy of banning guns and the hopelessness of waiting for the cops to arrive. The pro-gun crowd knows that there is segment of America, reacting emotionally and not rationally, that will be receptive for more gun-control laws. Lost in all the postering is any meaningful change to make schools safer.

What made you safer on an airliner? Banning pocket knives or putting a lock on the cockpit door? Just as some will fail to answer my question correctly, so will some not see the true vunerability exposed by the Virginia Tech massacre.

4/18/2007 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


No I don't. All I know is that back when I was in school, it would have taken a lot less than what Cho did to get me expelled. Maybe things have changed. I'm behind the times now.

4/18/2007 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

The Chicago Tribune cites this essay on J.F.Cooper by William H. Goetzmann. It contain's the phrase "spoiler's axe", wielded by the frightening Ishmael Bush.

The possible connection, at least in my mind, is that Goetzmann, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967. This is just a year after the mass murder at Goetzmann's university. I'm thinking that Cho, as an English student, might have been interested in both the essay by Goetzmann and the mass murder incident.

4/18/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

When I say that I believe Seung Cho was paranoid schizophrenic it isn't to somehow absolve him of his actions. I think that if he had been examined by a psychiatrist a week ago he would have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Whether it would have been obvious that he was planning a shooting spree I don't know. I'm not a psychiatrist and I don't play one on TV so this is merely IMO.

If the guy was merely evil he would have had an exit strategy. He would have had legitimate grievances. He would have had something to gain by his actions. Notoriety isn't enough, and he doesn't really talk so much about that in his video, compaisons to Jesus Christ excepted. I don't discount revenge as a motivator but we haven't heard anything that suggests he had a reason for revenge.

The only thing I"ve read that might be a reason for revenge is that one of the plays he wrote has as its premise a boy molested by a pedophile. If this subject is relevant then perhaps Cho had a reason to be close to the edge and to seek revenge. At this point there's not enough evidence to say and the general muddiness of the manifest suggests to me that he was insane.

The photos and video he sent to NBC are eerily like the videos produced by jihadis before suicide attacks. I think though that Cho's video is derivative. He made his video to look like a jihadi video because it gave him some power. It made him think that he was like them; a mass murderer. It's a copycat. The name Ismail's Ax is also a Muslim reference but is also probably a copycat reference.

BTW, Hagar was a concubine, not a slave. See Wikipedia.

Alexis, I don't believe that any US "political or religious leader is, or has been, a paranoid schizophrenic". Not even RN. I don't know why you ask this question.

However, It's my opinion that the Muslim culture is so foreign to our Western culture that some of its people could be considered insane by our definition of the term. People like Saddam Husein and his two sons would probably have been considered insane if analysed by Western psychiatrists. In fact they weren't insane. They were normal products of their own culture, in which honor and shame and killing thine enemies is normal. They were perhaps extreme examples of their cultural norms but cutting people's tounges out and dropping them into wood chippers isn't abnormal in that society. To put it another way, psychiatric drugs would have altered Cho's behavior and if not curing him would have at least reduced his paranoid and violent tendencies. I don't think that these same drugs would have fixed up Husein and his two psychopathic sons at all.

4/18/2007 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

utopia parkway:

Alexis, I don't believe that any US "political or religious leader is, or has been, a paranoid schizophrenic". Not even RN. I don't know why you ask this question.

Surely you jest. Does Jim Jones with his "revolutionary suicide" not count as paranoid or schizophrenic? And he was a major power broker in the San Francisco Democratic Party during the 1970's.

How do you know whether Mr. Cho is insane within a Korean context? If you can make excuses for Arab behavior as acting within their culture, I can make excuses for Mr. Cho's behavior as acting within a Korean cultural context. Other than the fact that Mr. Cho decided to murder innocent people, his behavior comes across to me to be quite normal within a Korean context.

One of the key problems we face is trying to facilitate a transition from a straitjacketed culture (where the extended family is responsible for the behavior of its members) to a free society (that is dependent upon the self control of individual citizens).

4/18/2007 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

"The photos and video he sent to NBC are eerily like the videos produced by jihadis before suicide attacks."

Bingo. I thought the same thing.

The Suicide Bomber meme has mutated into a social prion free of its polical roots and floats about waiting for the right host.

I am reminded of the portraint of Mao in "Mao: The Unknown Story" - we see much of Cho in Mao.

4/18/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

"Mao rejected morality at a young age and discovered in himself a love of violence - especially violence that smashed the social order. After witnessing atrocities on a tour of the Hunan countryside in the 1920's he said he felt "a kind of ecstasy never experienced before." He was particularly fond of public executions, and would organize rallies making murder a spectacle to terrorize the masses into submission. In Peking alone millions of inhabitants witnessed some 30,000 execution rallies during the early 1950's. Victims were paraded and then shot in the head so that their brains splattered out onto the bystanders. During the Cultural Revolution (which vaporized another 3 million lives) he would enjoy watching films of his foes being humiliated, tortured and killed."

4/18/2007 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

These people are easy to spot in Middle School and High School.

Counselling and drugs help the vast majority.

They cause most of the violent crimes.

Once diagnosed, they should never be allowed to own weapons.

4/18/2007 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Some of the things he was saying about these individuals, it was unheard of," says Dr. Steven Stein, a psychologist and ceo of Multi-Health Systems in Toronto, the publisher of the Psychopathy Checklist. "Nobody believed him thirty years ago, but Bob hasn't wavered, and now everyone's where he is. Everyone's come full circle, except a small group who believe it's bad upbringing, family poverty, those kinds of factors, even though scientific evidence has shown that's not the case. There are wealthy psychopaths who've done horrendous things, and they were brought up in wonderful families."

4/18/2007 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

'So what? Psychopathy is a mythological construct.' They have political and social agendas: 'People are inherently good,' they say. 'Just give them a hug, a puppy dog, and a musical instrument and they're all going to be okay.' "

4/18/2007 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Those who think a hug will fix these people are as dangerous as the psychopaths.

4/18/2007 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...


OK I take it back. I don't believe that any US "political leader is, or has been, a paranoid schizophrenic". Not even RN. I still don't know what Jim Jones has to do with this issue.

How do you know whether Mr. Cho is insane within a Korean context? ... Other than the fact that Mr. Cho decided to murder innocent people, his behavior comes across to me to be quite normal within a Korean context.

So you think that Koreans frequently decide to murder thirty-odd people at a time, just not innocent people? Or you think something else?

I won't deny that Korean culture might be an honor-shame society, because I really don't know much about Korean culture. I do know that Cho is the first Korean Jihadi, if he is a jihadi.

If you listen to Arab jihadis they have grievances that have a wide view. They have been humiliated by life and by history and they yearn for a yesteryear where they were on top. They want al-andaulus back. They want Palestine back. They want US out of their backyard. I can understand their issues, although obvously not agree. Individual Arab Jihadis are part of a large group of similar-minded people.

If you listen to Cho-jihadi he has been humiliated by someone else's Mercedes Benz. He has been humiliated by someone else's trust fund. He rambles and mumbles on about how he was forced to his actions but doesn't tell us by whom or by what. This is, in a word, insane, both in American culture and in Korean culture.

This guy should have been in pajamas in the state mental hospital where they would have made him take his meds. Unfortunately, and for reasons that will be discussed for a long time, that didn't happen.

4/18/2007 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Insane, but not uncontrolled.

He shot at the closed door and moved on.

4/18/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger j willie said...


Wretchard, do you have a handle on the completely frustrating legal factors at play on a university campus with these competing "duties" ??? -- [1] a university's duty to protect its students from other students conflicting with [2] its legal mandates to give due process to the students posing the threat.

One would think that university presidents, paid on par w/ corporate CEO's (500k annually at a minimum at a state university), would have proven capable of sound judgment in spite of such frustrations. The competing interests you cite are no different than those inherent in any other large organization with tens of thousands of constituents.

4/18/2007 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger betsybounds said...

Well, "paranoid schizophrenic" is being thrown around here as though this diagnosis of Cho were settled and uncontestable. I'm no psychiatrist and so don't know how valid, in a clinical sense, it is. I will point out, though, that Charles Krauthammer (a credentialed psychiatrist) said tonight on Fox that Cho did not display the appropriate actions for that diagnosis to apply. For starters, schizophrenics do not behave in anything like the same well-planned, tightly focused fashion as Cho did--they're far too scattered in their mental processes, and the scattering is then evident in their actions. In fact, I'm unpersuaded by the evident rush to label him as being any type of psychotic. At the very least it strikes me as an attempt to declare him as not responsible for his own actions. I think we are far too quick to fall to ascribing mental illness to people who act like this, since it doesn't matter in any real way. Consider that, had he lived and been brought to trial, the defense would almost certainly have pled "not guilty by reason of insanity." I've never understood why insanity should be exculpatory rather than explanatory anyway. The civilizing tendencies of societies seem now to move towards the notion that no one is finally responsible for any of his own actions--usually we incline to think that someone or something made them do it (Flip Wilson, call your office!). Given that, I question whether we are really more civilized than societies that are motivated by simple vengeance in matters like this. Is there no point at which vengeance can be considered a species of justice? If so, where's the improvement in moving beyond it?

4/19/2007 02:25:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Cho murdered to glorify his victimhood. Those 32 students and professors are nothing but currency to be spent for air time and newspaper print.

Cho was the director and the star of this media event, but he has many co-producers. The girl from Seattle who wrote that it is understandable that Palestinian children kill Israeli children because the Palestinians don't have planes and tanks. The New York Times editor who said that Why Do They Hate Us was a legitimate story line. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes because the story is more important than the truth. Naiphong and the Duke 88 because white men are guilty of oppressing black women notwithstanding the facts. Al Sharpton who murdered a reputation for recognition and fame. Nancy Pelosi because all about her is more important than the consequences of legitimizing our enemies.

My feelings, my opinions, my aggrandizement are more important than your children and your life. That is what the Cho movie is all about. The story line is promoted every day in Washington, in the MSM, and on almost every college campus. We will continue to pay to see the sequels until the day that recognition of objective truth, personal responsibility, and respect for the individual are woven tightly into our social fabric.

4/19/2007 04:14:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The Boston Globe:

School authorities sought yesterday to counter increasing concerns on campus that they mismanaged Cho and failed to act on multiple signs that he might harm others. Administrators and campus police said they lacked enough evidence to expel or institutionalize Cho, and could do nothing more to prevent him from continuing at Virginia Tech after the string of incidents in 2005. The campus police chief said yesterday that police had no contact with Cho after December 2005.

4/19/2007 04:27:00 AM  
Blogger MaineMan said...

I think I can clarify a bit of this. I'm a psychodiagnostician and have been working in psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment settings for over 20 years.

I'm with Charles K. This kid wasn't schizophrenic. From everything I've seen, he was a delusional narcissist. Fragile identity and low self-esteem, prone to primitive defenses that lend themselves to projection, i.e. blaming others instead of accepting responsibility, and to seeing oneself as a victim. They also lend themselves to dangerous behavior because such individuals do relatively well when their needs for acknowledgement or support are being met, but when they get fired or dumped by the girlfriend, they have a tendency to crack and go postal, precipitously and dangerously -- unlike someone who's so crazy or so unremittingly suicidal or homicidal that they're always on someone's radar screen.

And these things are really the product of a character disorder, possibly with some information processing problems thrown in. They are not, typically, miraculously cured by modern psychiatric drugs, and it's particularly easy to get someone who gets through life by nurturing an inflated self-value to take such drugs or engage in treatment anyway.

Finally, I see nothing to say that such deficient and dangerous self-constructs can't be contagiously spread through a culture, especially if the culture is uneducated and plagued by a chronic sense of inadequacy. The parallels of Cho to the suicidal, child-sacrificing fanatics bred by Islamic culture is apt. Not that he was connected, or even Islamic, but that he is cut from the same cloth and adopted many of their methods, and probably fancied himself as connected to them in some esoteric way.

As for the question of expelling him, Fred Barnes said that the VA legislature unanimously passed a law, in Jan 07, forbidding state schools from expelling anyone on psychiatric or behavioral grounds. At least, that's what I took him to say.

4/19/2007 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Betsybounds- Exactly, it doesn't take long to realize someone is schizophrenic once you sit down and start talking with them.

Alexis- Jim Jones was most likely NOT paranoid or schizophrenic. He probably had an axis II diagnosis of antisocial behavior (that's the current psych term for sociopath). It's somewhat of a misleading term because in fact these people are very easy to talk to and it takes a long time to diagnose someone with axis II disorders. Their problem is that they have no morality and killing people causes NO remorse with them. They are calculating and very functional usually, and their only worry is whether they will get caught.

It doesn't sound like Cho had cluster B traits from the psych report (similar to antisocial behavior) because he was such a recluse whereas sociopaths usually convince lots of other people to help them with their crazy ideas.

4/19/2007 04:37:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Lost in the deluge of info re: the mass murder at the academic building is detail about the first 2 murders at the dorm.

I do not understand how 2 murders are committed with guns in a "gun-free zone" and the murderer is at large, but the community is not notified in even the barest sense. Has the media pursued the 911 tapes at the VT police department after the dorm murders and before the mass murder at the academic building?

4/19/2007 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> such individuals do relatively well

I don't buy it. He didn't do relatively well. Cho did horrible. He wasn't able to communicate with anyone because his brain was too fried. Other psych professionals have said he was schizophrenic because of that. They mentioned things like the 20 second delays in responding to questions, the autistic language, basically word salad that we hear on the tape. This is a kid who talked to no one, not his room mates, and had no friends. There was no rejection, no girl friend, no reinforcement because Cho was too brain dead for that to happen.

He spent hours working on his masterpiece, his manifesto, and he still couldn't get it right. His voice is too soft in a lot of it, he looks like a clown instead of being scary, and the language is incorrect all through it. Cho was not superman, super jihadi, super leftist, or whatever super-something someone wants to paint him politically. He was more like Frankenstein in the old movies clumping clumsily down the hallways with half a brain.

4/19/2007 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Here's some background on the difficulties Virginia Tech says it would have had in expelling Cho on psychiatric grounds.

But she said authorities "hit a wall" in terms of what they could do "with a student on campus unless he'd made a very overt threat to himself or others." Cho resisted her repeated suggestion that he undergo counseling, Roy said. ...

Upon return from St. Albans, Cho faced no sanctions from Virginia Tech's disciplinary system. Students can be suspended or expelled by the school alone for academic misconduct, such as plagiarism. The school also can punish or expel them if they're found guilty by a faculty-supervised five-student panel of violating student life rules, such as hazing and drug use. Because the two female students refused to press any charges, the panel could do nothing, said campus officials.

In the same article, it says that one English teacher actually feared for her physical safety while alone with Cho.

After that, Roy taught him one-on-one, and the sessions so frightened her that she devised a code with her assistant to call for help in case she feared for her safety.

And the school's psychiatrist apparently had authority in hand to get around these restrictions if he had known just how dangerous Cho might be.

Dr. Chris Flynn , the center's director, would not discuss his department's dealings with the young man. But he said that he had been prepared to take more serious measures if his staff determined other students' safety were in danger.

It sounds like a fantastic state of affairs. After all this talk about making a campus a place of safety we are told the university was forced to accept the presence of a madman so dangerous his teacher was scared to be alone with him. Yet they were not completely toothless, because the shrinks say that if "only they had known" they had unspecified measures in reserve to protect the studentry.

My own reading between the lines is that the university could have done something if someone had been prepared to take the chance. But would take the chance? The two girls who failed to press charges; the teachers who could have simply flunked him out (you can do that, can't you???); a psychiatrist who was prepared to go out on a limb; or maybe a campus cop willing to rag him for spitting on the sidewalk? I believe that when a university wants to get rid of you, really wants to get rid of you, it normally can. But maybe in this case the responsibility was too diffuse, the danger too inchoate, the system too full of buck-passing, to expect any one hero to step forward and put his or her academic career on the line for it. I don't think the VT staff were bad people, but the incentives were all against doing something and all for kicking the can down the road.

4/19/2007 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The point is that something WAS done. All the bad things (except the shootings) happened in 2005. This is what the school and government did then:

"The alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and treatment were investigated and deemed suitable," Barnett wrote. Barnett ordered Cho to follow "recommended treatments" on an outpatient basis.

"Ordered Cho to follow "recommended treatments" on an outpatient basis." meant that Cho had to take medication and possibly be tested for it.

Why don't we know all the details yet? Because privacy laws say one adult's medical information can't be released to another. Police have asked for warrants for all the information.

But authorities definitely did something. It shows up in the changed behavior over the past 15 months.

4/19/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Killer spews venom

In 2005, Cho was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice, who declared he was "an imminent danger" to himself, a court document states.

Cho was evaluated at a mental health facility after a student rejected his attempts at establishing contact with her, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum told reporters Wednesday.

Authorities had been told Cho might be suicidal, Flinchum said, but in the certification and order for involuntary admission to a mental health facility, Special Justice Paul Barnett wrote that while Cho's mood was "depressed," "he denies suicidal ideation."

"The alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and treatment were investigated and deemed suitable," Barnett wrote. Barnett ordered Cho to follow "recommended treatments" on an outpatient basis.

But that evaluation was the culmination of a fall semester that saw one professor threaten to resign if Cho remained in her class, another alert university authorities about the disturbing nature of his writings and calls to police from women who said Cho was stalking them

4/19/2007 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

How do you get to senior year in an English program without being able to communicate?

In an exchange with CNN, Professor Edward Falco said the 23-year-old could communicate in writing but didn't seem comfortable talking.

"The kid couldn't speak. I did everything I knew to draw him out. I tried to joke with him. I touched his shoulder while asking him a direct question. I put myself in quiet, one-on-one space with him -- and I still could not get articulate speech out of him," Falco said.

What do you have to do to flunk out?

4/19/2007 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Herr Wu Wei,

The point is that something WAS done. All the bad things (except the shootings) happened in 2005. ..
But authorities definitely did something. It shows up in the changed behavior over the past 15 months.

My apologies for being so ambiguous. When I hoped the university authorities would "do something" I meant do something to make things better, not do something to make things worse.

Now in fairness, whatever it is they "did" seems to have driven things underground because the police had "no contact" with Cho for the next 15 months. And they took that to mean their actions had quieted him down. But he was not idle. We now know he was busier than a one armed paper hanger: getting gymed up, making his multimedia video statement and filing down the serial numbers on his pistols as he prepared for the grand finale. I wonder what he meant when he said "you made me do it"? Seems to me that we may be about to find out.

4/19/2007 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

>whatever it is they "did" seems to have driven things underground because the police had "no contact" with Cho for the next 15 months.


#1 - We don't know what yet because the facts haven't been released

#2 - Hindsight is always 20 - 20 and I won't do it.

What the university people and government faced in 2005 & 2006 was a bunch of people with stalking and various mental situations and they had to decide how to handle them. They didn't know one was going to kill 32 people.

So its easy to use hindsight and look back to say "out of those 20 people who took medication and got better I only would have thrown Cho out of college, and only would have locked Cho up", but that's 20 - 20 hind sight.

I don't know all the facts but what I hear from the campus the morning on the web is that everyone is surprised by Cho's tape. Even his roommates are saying Cho never wanted to speak to anyone for the past year.

So the question may be that if an adult showed no improper behavior over the past year should have have been expelled from school and / or put into a mental institution?

Even if the argument was made that Cho was kicked out of the university in 2005, would that have prevented him from coming back on campus to take revenge?

4/19/2007 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

These university rules and responses to a problem remind me of the UN. Lots of toothless rules, and even after the teacher flagged him as unsafe the problem wasn't solved.

Just like how the UN forms committees to discuss the problem of Iran, I wonder whether there was a teacher committee to discuss how he was a threat to the community. Some of the teachers at this committee were genuinely worried that he was going to go on a killing spree, some of the teachers were worried what people might think if they expelled him, and some teachers wanted him to stay because they received cheap prices on pistols from him. During this meeting, it was resolved that he should be talked to some more during his outpatient psych visits.

4/19/2007 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The bottom line is whatever the university did doesn't really matter because its the killer's fault. I reject attempts to blame the killings on the university or the police.

4/19/2007 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Actually the professors did a lot and some of them showed personal courage in working one on one with Cho. Ultimately they hit legal limits on what they could do. At one point it was the police who said "no". Later on the matter went to the courts, and we don't yet know what happened after Cho was sent to the mental hospital.

4/19/2007 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Nick Jeremiah, 34, a graduate student, said: “That’s crazy. He kills two people and then goes to the post office and then he’s ready for round two? It’s creepy."

“He just goes on and on — that’s got to be more than he’s spoken, ever,” Jeremiah told Reuters. “I thought, ‘Well, he does talk.’ ”

Karan Grewall, one of Cho’s roommates, said Cho appeared to have shot the videos in their shared home.

“It looks exactly like our common areas where we hang out every day,” Grewall told MSNBC-TV’s Joe Scarborough. “I can’t be sure, but the walls look exactly like our suite.”

4/19/2007 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Nobody will be arguing that it isn't the killer's fault except the guys who think it is the gun's fault. "Fault" is a poor choice of words. The question ought to be where did the systems fail? Because in the nature of things there are psychos and terrorists out in the world and you rightly point out that VT did not and conceivably could not provide "safety" in any meaningful sense, at least with the what they had. Their "gun free zone" wasn't worth a damn. Their ability to identify a threat fell far short of expectations.

No reasonable person will argue that the VT faculty and administration wanted it to happen. In all probability they sincerely wanted to provide the safety they were unfortunately unable to offer.

But when the sun rises tomorrow it will still be worthwhile to ask how one might do better next time. Because there will be a next time.

4/19/2007 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

w: "The question ought to be where did the systems fail?"

When trying to create fail-safe systems, usually the dissemination of power to do something is broad. So in preventing airplane crashes, everyone in the system (from the pilot on down to the mechanic) has the power to speak up and do something in order to prevent a disaster.

On the other hand, in the university the distribution of power is hierarchical. So even when the teacher threw the flag because she didn't feel safe, nothing could be done without the higher-ups in the administration.

You can color me skeptical that the administration will start to share more power with the teachers though.

4/19/2007 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

If the university did something wrong I'll criticize them. I'm just waiting for the facts.

However I don't see any reason a university can be counted on to provide "safety". It is a community of adults, like a city. I don't expect my city to know that there is a psycho five blocks away from me and protect me.

There is a problem where the more power I as a citizen give the government to lock up people who just SEEM dangerous to me, the greater danger that another citizen could have me locked up for being a danger to them.

This is even more true in the strange university world of political correctness. Not every male who has a stalking complaint filed against him is necessarily evil. Female students are sometimes told by feminist professors to turn the first message they get asking for a date over to the police! The counselor in charge who was interviewed about Cho hinted at this when she said something like "deciding whether what is reported as stalking is really stalking". The creative writing teacher said that lots of students write about murder & suicide. Lots of male students act up in various ways in class, to impress women.

I agree with the self-defense thing. That is the key. The gun control debate is eternal, going back and forth, and in addition I think people need to be aware that unarmed people do have a chance of resisting a mentally ill attacker with a gun. One of the results of the gun control debate is that both sides seem to send the false message that a gun is an unbeatable force, which leads some potential victims like those in Virginia Tech to just lay on the floor passively and wait to be shot.

4/19/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Here are some quotes from an old anthropology textbook, Koreans and Their Culture, by Cornelius Osgood. (1951)

To return to the Korean youth, we find that at puberty he is cut off from most of the few sources of manifest affection which had been available. Typically, and not always unconsciously, he hates his dominating father. He is deprived of the intimacy with the female sex since he cannot even approach the girls who might normally attract and absorb his energy. Physical and ego gratification are both lacking. Without them oen finds violence and sadistic tendencies rising, while rioting and torture seem consistent with this cultural inadequacy for the opportunity to love. With such a background for marriage one would expect sadistic elements in the sexual relations of Koreans. It is almost amusing, therefore, to have had the first informant questioned reply that his sister had left her husband because he pinched her too painfully during intercourse.

The lack of ego gratification shows itself in the frequency with which Koreans demonstrate or verbalize their desire to undertake actions of heroic proportions. They will risk the most cruel punishments for the sake of a religious belief or a political cause. The evidence for this is clear if one only takes into consideration the persecution of Christians or of the supporters of the independence movement. The young Korean approach to the field of finance or art is typically the same. His talk and expectations, irrespective of any evidence of either hard work or genius, set a standard which would be satisfied only by his becoming a Rockefeller or Rachmaninoff. However he may achieve it, the Korean goal is to be a hero.

(pp. 333-334)

A most extraordinary feature of Korean culture has been the practice of large groups of men or boys gathering on opposing sides to hurl stones at each other, with expected fatal consequences. Throwing stones is a trait which has certainly not been limited by ethnic boundaries but certainly no other people ever encouraged it over so long a period as a national pastime. Such violence is clearly neither consistent with Chinese values nor compatible with the manners of the Japanese.

(pp. 328-329)

Hospitality is not in itself a rare trait but the degree to which the Koreans have traditionally carried it has been realistically exaggerated. It has frequently been recorded that a traveler could wander from one end of the kingdom to the other, depending daily on some village stranger to supply him with a roof and meal. For the rich man, a coterie of guests was the necessary and inevitable mark of his position, causing an almost constant competition between his resources and his reputation. This is a frontier pattern, and particularly in the north where the rigors of physical existence habitually demanded the privilege of one man depending upon another when emergency arose. If a stranger was not killed, he was fed and sheltered. The Koreans developed into a civilized nation without losing their hospitableness toward human beings and made a social fetish of this attitude.


The behavior of Korean men in their social relationships to women, excepting kisaeng, has been marked by an aloofness possibly unsurpassed by any other people in the world. Whereas men’s avoidance of females not belonging to the household, or even of particular relatives within it, occurs – and sometimes assumes a major importance – in various societies, Koreans have tended on both sociological and psychological levels to carry the ideal of male superiority to a point of pseudo-isolation even from their wives. The explanation seems apparent. The Koreans, with a suggestion of unconscious embarrassment, have naively carried their conception of Confucian ideals to a heroic level which would surprise the Chinese and astound Confucius himself.


Note: Kisaeng are Korean dancing girls, the equivalent to Japanese geisha.

As an aside, it is rather common for older and powerful Korean men to mentor a younger man, especially if that younger man lacks direction in his life. That is the traditional Korean means to calm a young man down and turn him from a troublemaker into a staunch supporter.

4/19/2007 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The reason why I posted quotes from an old Korean anthropology textbook is to establish a baseline for understanding aspects of Mr. Cho’s behavior that may appear to be strange to an American observer but were in fact quite normal within a Korean context.

4/19/2007 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

After watching his rantings, I keep coming back to the question: who is he addressing? He asks: "Do you know what it feels like" to be impaled, totured etc? Who is he asking that to? From most reports, he didn't have much contact with other people. Is he asking that of himself?

Did he have multiple personalities (now called dissociative identity disorder)? One of his personalities could have been a quiet, reserved, depressed and lonely man who desired companionship but had no idea how to get that.

His other personality could have been a judgmental, revengful, violent killer who thinks he is the bearer of justice. This personality feels superior to other people because he "knows" what things are like. He knows what it's like to be in pain, do you? He didn't want to kill people, but he was forced to do it because of whatever injustice he perceives. Maybe he was addressing himself in that video (the quiet, reserved side), but wanted it televised so that the world could see that he wasn't just killing people for fun, he was doing it because he felt he had to teach his other side "what it's really like."

These are all conjectures, but I'm just trying to figure this thing out.

4/19/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I think he is showing the classic paranoid behavior which some experts have said every killer of this type has. So even though this guy talked to no one, communicated with no one, he thought everyone was hurting him.

4/19/2007 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

I don't think he ever ranted how someone was out to get him though. Usually paranoids rant about how the FBI, mafia, aliens etc. are out to get them and that they did this in "self defense." He seems to have wanted to teach something to someone. Cho said: "You have never felt an ounce of pain your whole life." Somehow, a part of him felt compelled to "teach" this person about pain.

4/19/2007 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Inside murder's mind


One newly disclosed and very important fact about Cho is that he started having speech problems in childhood. This could make a big, big difference in diagnosis, and could be a source of rage, if he had some problem that was untreated. (The article also points out that Cho's relatives in Korea see his behavior as shameful, not normal in any way.)

The shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre had troubled his parents as a child because of speech difficulties, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Cho Seung-hui left South Korea with his family in 1992 to seek a better life in the United States, Cho's grandfather told the Dong-a Ilbo daily. Cho killed himself and 32 others at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Relatives said they had minimal contact with the family after they left South Korea.

"How could he have done such a thing if he had any sympathy for his parents, who went all the way to another country because they couldn't make ends meet and endured hardships," Cho's maternal grandfather, identified only by his last name Kim, was quoted as saying.

The 81-year-old Kim said Cho "troubled his parents a lot when he was young because he couldn't speak well, but was well-behaved," the report said.

Shooter troubled parents as child

4/19/2007 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Cho's great aunt, an elderly woman who lives outside Seoul, told the Associated Press that the shooter never communicated well with his parents. "Normally sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold," said Kim Yang-soon. She said Cho's mother consistently voiced concerns over her son's mental stability. "Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him."

4/19/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Writing hint at demons within

Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui's writings provide an inkling of the monsters that lurked within during the years leading up to the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history...

"I’m beginning to think that he could have been schizophrenic," Dr. Frank Ochberg, chairman emeritus of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, told, ...

Ochberg read two 1995 plays attributed to Cho, "Mr. Brownstown" and "Richard McBeef," and found the imagery suggests mental illness.

"In both of the plays you have the character John who seems to be standing in for Cho and then you have some monster man who is a stepfather or a teacher," Ochberg said. "The monster man ... he prevails, he destroys."

That goes against what one would expect for someone planning to exact revenge on a real-life antagonist.

"I expected John to kill the monster but it went the other way, as though the monster that’s inside Cho is getting ready to kill him," Ochberg said. "And he knows it’s inevitable. He’s dying and he’s taking people out with him because he’s enraged."...

Cho's plays are disturbing, said Gregory Mack, an assistant professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

"There’s a lot of sense of loss or being put down, somewhat neglected," he said.

Cho's case may be a case of a troubled boy trying to fight the demons within.

"If he's schizophrenic, if he's got a major biologically driven illness of the thought process, he doesn't have to be embarrassed by people in his life [to be set off]. It can all be coming up within his mind, out of the material that's in everybody's mind," Ochberg said. "And it doesn't mean that the media is to blame or that he's seen monsters in the movies or in videogames and that's to blame. We've had monsters in our minds since the dawn of time."

Schizophrenia, which affects a half-percent of the U.S. population, is a mental illness that can be difficult to diagnose at its onset, Ochberg said. Those grappling with the early stages may become defensive as they recognize their own mental faculties are failing.

"Along the way it blunts your instinct for social behavior so you look a little like an autistic or Asperger's person," he said.

4/19/2007 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Factors to consider when commenting about Cho Seung-hui.

1. Mr. Cho was a Korean man who neither assimilated to American culture nor conformed to the society around him. He may not have felt any need to shed a xenophobic attitude against the society around him.

2. Within the multicultural setting of the Fairfax County school system, what society was there for him to conform to? Westfield High School is the kind of fractured suburban setting where an isolated student could easily fall through the cracks, much like the atmosphere at Columbine High School. It is sad, yet understandable, that Mr. Cho would feel an emotional attachment to the murderers at Columbine High School.

3. On September 11, 2001, schools in Fairfax County, Virginia closed at noon. This was because Muslim students were celebrating the attacks. These students were never punished by the school system and Mr. Cho could not possibly have failed to notice that. Even if those celebrations occurred in a nearby school rather than his own, the fact that his Muslim classmates got away with celebrating the attacks could not possibly have led him to believe there would be any punishment against his anti-social behavior.

Moreover, this episode would have made the idea of killing fellow students appear quite normal.

4. Concerning psychological intervention, so far as I know, no older and more powerful man offered to mentor Cho Seung-hui. For a man from a patriarchal society, attending special classes run by an older woman with an air of condescension are not a substitute and may very well be regarded as a humiliation. This was a time when a young Korean man would look for a powerful older man to serve as his surrogate father, guru, and social mentor.

4/19/2007 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Herr wu wei: "Schizophrenia, which affects a half-percent of the U.S. population, is a mental illness that can be difficult to diagnose at its onset, Ochberg said. Those grappling with the early stages may become defensive as they recognize their own mental faculties are failing."

He's right that schizophrenia might be missed in its early stages. In fact, you have to have symptoms of schizophrenia for at least 6 months to be diagnosed as such, otherwise it's called schizophreniform if less than 6 months or brief psychotic episode if less than a month.

But Cho's symptoms of mental illness were not new, and this was not the usual case of schizophrenia where someone goes from being a functional person to an unfunctional psychotic in 6 months or so. His mental illness was long standing and possibly acquired in childhood, which also speaks against schizophrenia.

4/19/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Thank you for your diagnosis.


I think you are right about Jim Jones being a sociopath, although his Jonestown episode does appear to an amateur to have elements of paranoia within it.

utopia parkway:

Korea is an honor-shame society to an extreme degree. On a continuum, Arab society would be midway between American and Korean societies in this respect.

One key to understanding Mr. Cho's killing spree is to remember that Korean men, as a rule, aspire to be heroic characters. While another Korean might apply his talents to arts or finance, Cho Seung-hui applied his talents to murder. If he intended to murder at all, the Korean archetype of the hero demanded that he do it in a very big way.

I don't think it is wise to assume that violence is inherently more legitimate or sane if it is attached to a political manifesto. Moreover, Mr. Cho's grievances are not entirely illegitimate. Despite his overall tone as a "Rebel Without a Job", his resentments are not unusual on college campuses. The fact is, there are a lot of college students out there who are complete snots. They are arrogant, they are rich, and they don’t let you forget it. A wise person learns to ignore such people and regard them as not worth one’s attention, let alone one’s ammunition. Apparently, Mr. Cho thought otherwise.

Mr. Cho was proclaiming his killing spree as a jacquerie, and while he sounded like a “Rebel Without a Job”, his motivations weren’t much different from the French Revolution. Just because I can understand the motivation behind a jacquerie doesn’t mean that I approve. One of the principal reasons for the popularity of Communism was the pretext it gave to an institutionalized jacquerie. In this sense, after rich and powerful popinjays like Che Guevara took over the ideology, Communism lost much of its reason for existence (as its original function was to kill rich snots like Che).

4/19/2007 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger EB said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I don't think Cho recorded any video between the killings. I think he was speaking in the past tense because he knew that the tapes would only be seen after he committed the murders.

I agree with Alexis' comments about the sanity issue and Islamists. There have always been cases of violently disturbed young men in society and it seems that radical Islam has found a way to tap into that rage and provide it an outlet with a sense of glory, the very thing that such young men desperately want. That's why you don't hear about many 50 year old suicide bombers.

4/19/2007 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

herr wu wei:

"How could he have done such a thing if he had any sympathy for his parents, who went all the way to another country because they couldn't make ends meet and endured hardships," Cho's maternal grandfather, identified only by his last name Kim, was quoted as saying.

Exactly. Cho Seung-hui hated his father, which was normal. He sought to humiliate his father, which was normal. But his emotional ties to his mother (with the concomitant obligation not to humiliate her in public) were not strong enough to overcome his desire to hurt his father. His maternal grandfather was upset at the behavior of his grandson principally as a source of shame for his extended family.

The fact that Koreans in general and Mr. Cho's family in particular feel ashamed of Cho Seung-hui's behavior is a good sign. This should be contrasted with the shame and disgrace Middle Easterners ought to be feeling when their sons become suicide bombers.

4/19/2007 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I reject all the racist stuff and won't bother to respond to it. The schools were closed because of a state of emergency, not because moslem students were celebrating.

4/19/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The article below mentions Cho's language problems, this time in middle and high school, including some fairly vicious teasing.

In an article not quoted here, a university professor who tutored Cho one on one got him to open open slighly. She said it took him 10 to 20 seconds to answer each question verbally, and he spoke quietly.

The picture then could be of Cho, almost since birth, of having problems with speech. He developed the defense mechanism of avoiding conversation because it would be embarrassing to answer so slowly.

It still remains to be seen how much of this was mental and how much a mechanical speech problem. In later years psych problems may have developed from being unable to speak properly, and independent psych problems may have popped up too.

Cho's alter ego in his stories, John, often faces various forms of abuse. It's unknown whether that happened to Cho. Sometimes boys who have a mental problem or a mechanical speech problem are beaten by their fathers in order to try to get them to "straighten out", based on the assumption that it was behavioral.

Cho's School Years

A portrait of the student gunman has emerged depicting him as a painfully shy and deeply disturbed individual with few, if any, friends.
Cho was born in South Korea and emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 8. He attended Westfield High School in Chantilly, where he graduated in 2003.
At Westfield -- where two of Cho's victims, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, also attended high school -- memories of Cho were hard to come by.
A 2002 yearbook listed him as a member of the science club, but his photo and name were absent from the 2003 edition, his senior year.
"I haven't talked to a single person who knew anything about him," said Rebecca Green, a Westfield senior. "Most of the teachers didn't even know him."
Jason Chesky, who graduated with Cho and had several classes with him, said Cho wouldn't look people in the eye when they spoke to him.
"He was a very depressed kid," said Mr. Chesky, 21. "We felt sorry for him and wondered what was wrong with him."
Stephanie Roberts, who also graduated with Cho, said friends of hers who went to middle school with Cho told her they remembered him getting picked on.
"There were just some people who were really mean to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him," she said. "He didn't speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him."

4/19/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

[Foresnsic Psychologist] Welner believes that instead of offering insight, these videos merely offer validation of delusional behavior.

"I think that's very important for the viewing audience to understand. This is not him [Cho].These videos do not help us understand him. They distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character," Welner said. "This is precisely why this should not be released. Parents, you should cut the pictures out of the newspaper. Do not let your children see it. Take them out of the room when these videos are shown. Because he's paranoid and his agenda of blaming the rest of the world is unedited."

"There's nothing to learn from this except giving it validation. If this rambling showed up in an emergency room, my colleagues and I would listen carefully and, when we reflected that it was delusional, would go see the next patient and start the medication," he said. "This makes it sound like he was tormented. He wasn't."

Ignore the raving

4/19/2007 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/19/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Paranoid Schizophrenic

Renowned forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner has examined some of the most notorious mass shooters of recent years. As details emerge about Seung-Hui Cho, the chairman of the Forensic Panel is following the case for ABC News and sharing his insights from his experience and current medical literature. Using the latest informaton, Welner believes the evidence strongly supports that Cho had paranoid schizophrenia.

4/19/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Relative to the subject of innate Korean attitudes, there was a very interesting article in the Wall Street journal several weeks back that may have bearing on this.

The author of the article, a man with extensive experience studying Korea, said that most of the South Koreans did not share the same degree of alarm as did the U.S. and Japan over North Korea threats. There is a belief in the country that the actions of the North Koreans reflect the oppression and hardships the Korean people had been through. Koreans largely have come to believe that those in the North are not really evil, but are simply reacting to the results of the foreign invasions, oppression, and slavery that has defined so much of Korean history.

So, the killer student was raised in a society where “the others made us do that evil” was a commonly held viewpoint. And that sure sounds like what he is trying to say on that videotape. His parents and sister rose above that view; he did not.

4/19/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Long before he snapped, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he talked when he was a schoolboy in the Washington suburbs, former classmates say.

Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., with Cho in 2003, recalled that the South Korean immigrant almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation.

Once, in English class, the teacher had the students read aloud, and when it was Cho's turn, he just looked down in silence, Davids recalled. Finally, after the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," Davids said.

"As soon as he started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, `Go back to China,"' Davids said.

Killer In High School

4/19/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/19/2007 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Here is an interesting article about how deviant student behavior is not uncommon on college campuses in modern times.

The killer in the lecture hall.

4/19/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

it is a question of sanity and insanity, and the person himself, isn't it?
Once upon a time, when I was at college, I helped out a fellow student. She was off her meds at the time, and in serious trouble what with seeing a man in Fairbanks, when I knew that he was in Anchorage. Anyway, she stayed in my room for a month. She would stare at a glass of water for hours, etc.

What I learned from all this was
a. the college psychology office did not want to admit that she was quite nuts, and needed HELP. Now, if she had had a broken leg, they would have been front and centre. But nuttiness?

b. she was a nice person. And you can be a nice person and quite nuts. You can be a bad person and be quite nuts. Nuttiness does not necessarily mean you are mean and cruel. And mean and cruel people are not necessarily crazy. Crazy and kindliness are in two different parts of the brain.

This girl tried to follow the advice of the "psychologist" and drove around looking for the hospice they had arranged. However, she couldn't find it. Not surprising. Schizophrenics have a hard time with perception.

Finally, she took matters into her own hands. She drove off the road into an apartment building, and just before she hit the wall (she didn't want to hurt anyone else) she put on the brakes, and
BROKE HER LEG. Thus getting help.

I think university types are working in universities because they don't like reality and find their niche in cloud cuckooland.

4/19/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Demosthenes who Cicero centuries later called the world's greatest orator, had a speech impediment as a child. Demosthenes was taunted for his difference - people do not change much in a few thousand years.

Demosthenes did not murder his schoolmates.

4/19/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Cho was diagnosed with autism after coming to U.S. in 1992.

Who would have known he would cause such trouble, the idiot?

Cho's Aunt speaks

Cho's great-aunt, Kim Yang-soon, said Cho was diagnosed with autism after coming to U.S. in 1992. Speaking from her home in South Korea, she described Cho as "very cold" and said her niece was constantly worried about him.

"Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him," Kim said, according to a translation from the AP. "Who would have known he would cause such trouble, the idiot."

4/19/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Thanks for the link Herr wu wei.

I'm still not as convinced that he was a schizo though. From the article, the expert says:

"Actually, the available evidence reflects substantial premeditation and planning to maximize casualties. The medical literature reflects that the more deaths in a mass shooting, the less likely an assailant was psychotic at the time of the crime. The more organized the behavior (in this case, chaining the entries to classroom buildings shut and controlling an entire building, quietly progressing from room to room, armed with changes of clips, Kevlar vest), the less likely a person was acting at the time with psychotic thinking."

So he is saying that Cho was schizophrenic and psychotic, but not at the time that he committed the mass murder. For a schizophrenic not to be psychotic (without meds) all the time is extremely rare, and he didn't display overt psychotic behavior to anyone before this (no psychotic thoughts were identified during his psych eval in 2005).

Still, it was interesting to hear this psychiatrist's thoughts and could be a possibility. Thanks

4/19/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

"Long before he snapped, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he talked when he was a schoolboy in the Washington suburbs, former classmates say."

No, he snapped back in Middle School while this was going on.

Not being verbal and having no way to communicate, when he became adult, capable of self-directed actions, he found finally found another outlet.

He may never have had sympathy for others or what little he had formed, he lost.

4/19/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Autism is often defined as starting by 3 years of age. Cho was diagnosed around 8 years. That matches his grand parent's description that he had speech problems as a child.

4/19/2007 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This section from a classmate of Cho's for years shows it was a complicated story, and Cho wasn't just a victim of some speech problem.

Cho was in advanced placement calculus and he performed acceptably, if relucantly, in Spanish class. He was "picked on", but to the degree of everyone else, and some people tried to support Cho but he didn't accept their help.

There's not necessarily a reason to believe Cho's Korean would be better than English, but if it were, or if there was a lot of racial tension, there were other Korean students in the school.

So Cho seems to have had a rather supportive environment. At least part of his condition was diagnosed at 8 years of age.

Regan Wilder, 21, who attended Virginia Tech, high school and middle school with Cho, said she was in several classes with Cho in high school, including advanced-placement calculus and Spanish. She said he walked around with his head down, and almost never spoke. And when he did, it was "a real low mutter, like a whisper."

As part of an exam in Spanish class, students had to answer questions in Spanish on tape, and other students were so curious to know what Cho sounded like that they waited eagerly for the teacher to play his recording, she said. She said that on the tape, he did not speak confidently but did seem to know Spanish.

Wilder recalled high school teachers trying to get him to participate, but "he would only shrug his shoulders or he'd give like two-word responses, and I think it just got to the point where teachers just gave up because they realized he wasn't going to come out of the shell he was in, so they just kind of passed him over for the most part as time went on."

She said she was sure Cho probably was picked on in middle school, but so was everyone else. And it didn't seem as if English was the problem for him, she said. If he didn't speak English well, there were several other Korean students he could have reached out to for friendship, but he didn't, she said.

Wilder said Cho wasn't any friendlier in college, where "he always had that same damn blank stare, like glare, on his face. And I'd always try to make eye contact with him because I recognized the kid because I'd seen him for six years, but he'd always just look right past you like you weren't there."

Shooter in high school

4/19/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger J. Peden said...

I was going to go out on a limb to suggest that Cho was a paranoid schizophrenic, but I see others have already suggested the same thing.

One critical question is, what med. was he on? I believe one of Cho's room-mates said he took a pill each morning. If true, and if the medication was an antipsychotic, then it is possible that the med. kept Cho functional enough to not be recognized by laypeople - or maybe even by anyone other than his treating physician - as psychotic, and to commit this crime.

If the presumed med. was not an antipsychotic, all bets are off, or are equal at this point, imo.

4/19/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

NBC is coming under considerable fire for having broadcast the Cho tapes. Oddly enough, some of this heat is coming from the same quarters that criticized media’s reluctance to live broadcast the events of 9/11. Hugh Hewitt is one such.

What is the difference?

Unless the public is “allowed” an unedited look at the face of evil and its consequences, will not the public continue to find itself at the mercy of “Truthers” such as Rosie O’Donnell, who stridently makes the claim that 9/11 was orchestrated by the government of the United States?

4/19/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> One critical question is, what med. was he on?

I wondered the same thing. In fact one quote from a roommate seemed to say that that Cho changed his medication at the same time he started other preparations for the shootings like lifting weights, getting up earlier, etc.

We can't know for sure. One thing the public was told is that Cho was ordered to comply with outpatient treatment. The other thing we know is that the university police say that there were no complaints about Cho from the time he left the mental hospital, and none of the teacher's complaint's appear to have come after then.

So I think the conclusion has to be that Cho got medicines when in the mental hospital, and he learned to use those medicines to keep himself from stalking and acting up in the class room.

But those medicines didn't fix the evil that was deep in his soul. As someone here said, it just made it worse. Cho functioned for awhile. Don't know if he planned to kill from the very beginning, from the time he left the mental hospital, or if that came later.

4/19/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger dla said...

Although the mental state of Cho is interesting, I hope folks realize that it is not the important issue to preventing such a tragedy in the future. This discussion has gripped the MSM, which has done the American public a great disservice.

As I asked earlier: Which made you safer, banning pocket knives on airplanes or putting a lock on the cockpit door? The correct answer is "locking the door".

So is the major issue in school safety identifying crazy people? No.

4/19/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> NBC is coming under considerable fire for having broadcast the Cho tapes.

One psych. professional I quoted here said it will encourage copy cats and he mentioned some of his patients who watched another tape 20 times.

But I agree with the decision to play it. There are too many other good reasons to do it. Lives will be saved by seeing that killers like Cho are not supermen, which should encourage victims to resist instead of laying on the ground waiting to be shot.

In general the truth is better.

4/19/2007 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> So is the major issue in school safety identifying crazy people? No.

Very true. What if it had been 10 well trained, mentally stable terrorists instead of a lone nut?

4/19/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

There has been some speculation, especially among online forums, that Cho may have been inspired by the South Korean movie "Oldboy." One of the killer's mailed photos shows him brandishing a hammer — the signature weapon of the protagonist — and in a pose similar to one from the film.

The film won the Grand Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004. It is about a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. After escaping, he goes on a rampage against his captor.

4/19/2007 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Cho spoke so little as a child, his family thought he might be mute, which matches the autism diagnosis.

His family in Korea said Cho and his US family never returned to Korea.

Cho Seung-Hui was a worry to his family because he didn't speak much as a child, his uncle said Thursday, and there were even concerns he might be mute.

But there were no early indications that the South Korean student who killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech had serious problems, said the uncle, who requested to be identified only by his last name, Kim.

Cho "didn't talk much when he was young. He was very quiet, but he didn't display any peculiarities to suggest he may have problems," Kim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We were concerned about him being too quiet and encouraged him to talk more."

Cho left South Korea with his family in 1992 to seek a better life in the United States, Kim said. The family never visited their homeland, and Kim said he did not recognize his nephew when his picture appeared on television as the shooter in the deadliest massacre in U.S. history.

Spoke little as child

4/19/2007 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

herr wu wei

If I wanted a running commentary on the life and times of Cho I would go to a news site. I don't care what he did when he was 7 years old.

4/19/2007 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger J. Peden said...

allen, I don't think anyone has alleged that the Media was reluctant to live broadcast the events of 9/11.

4/19/2007 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger J. Peden said...

"So is the major issue in school safety identifying crazy people? No."

Agreed. I've just got nothing to add to what has already been well said about the delusion's of the gun-controllists and GWOT deniers. Except that they're beginning to border upon the realm of psychosis themselves.

4/19/2007 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Mind of All the Others

What was in the minds of administrative officials, faculty and students who may have felt a little unease with Cho and perhaps a few others on campus, but who were forced to deal with Cho’s murder fantasy brought to life that terrible day? Were they instantly regretful for opportunities missed to help him or remove a threat, sad for the inhumanity/ Biblical evil/ or bio-pathological dysfunction that lay behind his actions, paranoid that they would be next to be shot, delusional that authorities would be able to stop the killing immediately, a little schitzy in believing the most heroic reaction would be to play possum, action-movie clever in responding to mortal danger by evading it, simply frozen-afraid or institution ward-passive, excited or sickened by the danger, angry and looking for a chance to take out the shooter, protective of others, Christian forgiving on the spot, or so forth?

We can’t much control the mindset and actions of others, especially at all times, but we can know and prepare for our own. What makes a Cho tick and blow up is more than academic if it helps identify at-risk personalities, but there is less guarantee in that way than in prepping our own mindsets and learning to deal more effectively with homicidal/ terrorist emergencies as they occur. Perhaps we need more self-examination on our responses to threats than we do a post-mortem on a sick dead man.

4/19/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This topic, as chosen by the host, is "The Mind of Cho Seung-Hui".

4/19/2007 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Understanding people like Cho is important for taking action against them, which is important as some have pointed out.

For example some people may not have resisted Cho because deep down in their minds they believe someone with a gun is invincible, and they picture the shooter as being someone like a soldier, who is professional as well as sane and calm in combat. But now they see Cho as being mentally ill, someone who was untrained and able to make mistakes. He's someone would could have been confused and tricked, as he was stopped by blocking doors with furniture.

Seeing how irrational Cho was, and full of hate, might help people realize that there was no talking to him, and if they encounter a killer like this, only overwhelming force will stop the killer.

Some have said showing the video will hurt people on campus. I don't think so, not in the long term. This has transformed fear of an unknown killer into anger at Cho, a single punk. It would be better if the crime had never happened at all, but now that it has, it is better for the campus and everyone who is following the story to realize that those students were shot by a lone delinquent, not some irresistable force of nature.

4/19/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"...a little schitzy in believing the most heroic reaction would be to play possum, action-movie clever in responding to mortal danger by evading it, simply frozen-afraid or institution ward-passive...."

Well said, jane.

To bring it back to the mind of the murderer Cho...the way it has been explained to me, diagnosing paranoid schizophrenia be fore age 25 is not a certain thing. The delusional narcissism rings with some truth and the reading on the Korean psyche is fascinating. I have a friend since college who is first generation Chinese-American. The mere mention of Korea gets him sputtering along the lines of "We should leave then all alone and let them kill each other. They're all crazy!" He gets so agitated that I have never taken the time to ask his reasons for that opinion.

4/19/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Herr WuWei. Just in a mood and it looks as if it's getting all figured out with the good analysis by people here. But even when we obsess over what happened in football games after the fact, we know those results only came about after a great deal of coaching before and during the event.

In post-killing scenarios, we tend to satisfy our morbid curiosity as to the perp-psycho and where "the system" failed and not near enough as to our own reactions and lack of preparedness as individuals and group members. I think if we mentally embraced preparedness more, no matter from whence the threat, we'd not be as easily targeted. Killers usually like easy pickings and can see and sense them.

4/19/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I didn't want to seem like I was critizing anyone's diagnosis. I don't know anything about psychology, so I can't say. If I understand the very recent information about autism, it means that Cho was "flawed" from birth, had an organic problem. It will probably take the experts weeks of debate to sort this one out.

I focus mostly on the practical side, an idea I have that all killers of this type are a mix of "evil" and "insane". Evil is moral choices, while sanity is understanding the world, communicating, behaving, etc. in normal fashion (except for immoral choices).

So there was a female mass killer in Illinois who rode elevators up and down for hours and who dressed up in a garbage bag and laid out in the bin with the other garbage sacks. She left rotting steaks in holes she slit in the furniture. That's pretty much 100% insane.

From what I know of Columbine, those killers were nearly 100% evil, spoiled brats who acted like they were possessed by demons.

I still don't know what Cho was. Definitely evil, but a controlled insanity? The only time in his life we know he serious got in trouble is the last two months of 2005.

I guess the bottom line is what everyone should already know, that the person next to them could be more dangerous than they look, maybe even lethally dangerous.

4/19/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

j. peden,

re: allen, I don't think anyone has alleged that the Media was reluctant to live broadcast the events of 9/11.

Among others, see Esquire, 1 September 2003, to wit:

“All over the world, people saw the human stream debouch from the top of the North Tower, but here in the United States, we saw these images only until the networks decided not to allow such a harrowing view, out of respect for the families of those so publicly dying. At CNN, the footage was shown live, before people working in the newsroom knew what was happening; then, after what Walter Isaacson, who was then chairman of the network's news bureau, calls ‘agonized discussions’ with the ‘standards guy,’ it was shown only if people in it were blurred and unidentifiable; then it was not shown at all.”
The Falling Man

If you decide to read this lengthy piece, try to recall beforehand how many people you recall seeing jump. The size of the probable total may surprise you.

4/19/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger wildiris said...

I ran across the following story. It appears that this was not the first shooting on a Virginia campus. But there had been one earlier, in 2002, that had been stopped by two students who just happen to have their guns in their cars, went back and got them and were able to stop the shooter. Maybe someone here can find out some more details.

"Student Group Wants Campus Gun Ban Lifted
By Christine Hall Staff Writer
September 17, 2002"

"After two armed southwest Virginia law students stopped a campus shooting rampage in January, a Second Amendment group at a northern Virginia law school decided it was time to change their own school's ban on guns."
"Jowyk began researching his law school's gun policy following the January incident in which a disgruntled student at Appalachian Law School, Peter Odighizuwa, allegedly shot and killed the school's dean, a professor and a student on campus before being subdued by two armed students, Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges."

4/19/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

I have a sense that Virginia Tech will mark a cultural tipping point in American attitudes toward Iraq and GWOT, and more generally in our willingness to continue to accept a daily torrent of defeatism and nihilism from the political and social elites of the Left.

Baghdad is on the other side of the world but Blacksburg is very close. Almost every adult American alive can remember his/her experience on a college campus. Cho's senseless violence may not have Islam written all over it but I do not think that many people will differentiate or even care. It could not be more clear that you do not negotiate with evil - you exterminate it.

The concern people want answered now is when do stop this lunacy and the how will not matter. The belief that giving up in Iraq will bring more Chos to us will gain more traction and the backlash against our dometic surrender monkeys will grow louder. I think whatever else it means, April 16 is the day the Democrats lost the 2008 White House unless as a party they can run to the right of the GOP. Given Senator Reid's incredible pronouncement that the war in Iraq is lost that is not likely to happen.

4/19/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Unfortunately the Democratic response to Virginia Tech is gun control!

shortly after shots rang out at Virginia Tech, Democratic gun-control advocates called for action.

"I believe this will reignite the dormant effort to pass common-sense gun regulations," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat, said, "The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders stood up to the gun lobby."

The House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee announced it would hold a hearing on college campus safety next week. "We must start now to learn what we can do to prevent things like this from happening in the future," said Committee Chairman George Miller, a California Democrat.

4/19/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This reaction by the Democrats is one reason I am not excited about efforts to expand gun rights on campus. I support them but am not hopeful because the pro & anti-gun forces have been deadlocked for so long.

In the meantime it would be useful to encourage students to defend themselves in other ways, maybe with improvised clubs or by throwing liquids in the eyes of attackers, whatever experts recommend, rather than those victims laying on the floor waiting to be shot.

There are also situations in which defenders might want to use non-lethal force in defending themselves.

4/19/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

peterboston and herr wu wei,

On this date in 1775, British General Gates sent troops on a punitive expedition to rein in His Majesty's unruly wards. Gun control was the issue of that day. Americans resisted, and the rest is history.

Nothing will change in America until Americans begin to behave like those Americans at Lexington and Concord.

4/19/2007 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

"I have a friend since college who is first generation Chinese-American. The mere mention of Korea gets him sputtering along the lines of "We should leave then all alone and let them kill each other. They're all crazy!" He gets so agitated that I have never taken the time to ask his reasons for that opinion."

Hm. I'm a 1st generation Chinese-American who also happens to have served most of his Army time in Korea. I view the American mission in Korea right up there with the most honorable missions of the US military. With all the times we've failed allies, Korea is one case where we can say word has been bond, and Korea has been better for it. I disagree with your 1st generation Chinese-American friend. I have a lot of respect for the Korean people, and I don't recall anything in my ethno-historical background that would lead to your friend's negative view of Korea.

As well, folks may be surprised at the number of Korean-Americans, many of whom come from middle-class families, choose to serve in the US military.

4/19/2007 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Virginia Tech officials said they had no knowledge of an ordered hospital follow-up on the 2005 psychiatric stay by campus killer Cho Seung-hui.
They said the school played no role in monitoring the treatment ordered by a judge for Cho, the student responsible for killing 32 people and himself in a murderous rampage on Monday.

Officials said they did not know whether Cho had received that counseling.

Chris Flynn, director of Virginia Tech's counseling center, said at a Thursday news conference that the hospital did not report to the university when Cho was released, The New York Times said.

Ordinarily, he said, the hospital would not have done so because the treatment was ordered by a judge and did not involve the school.

But, he said Cho would not have been released if the hospital thought he was a danger, the Times said.

No Follow Up

4/19/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The story in my previous posting, no follow up, has some of the missing information I wondered about earlier. The first evaluation of Cho caused a judge to order him to be taken to a mental hospital for a fuller evalution. That second evalution said he was mentally ill but not an imminent danger, so the judge decided not to commit him. Cho was ordered to undergo outpatient treatment.

Since the government had taken charge of the situation, the university wasn't informed. I don't know if the law allows them to have access to an adult student's medical records.

A counselor recommended involuntary commitment, and a judge signed an order saying that he “presents an imminent danger to self or others” and sent him to Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital in Radford for an evaluation.

“Affect is flat and mood is depressed,” a doctor there wrote. “He denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are sound.”

The doctor determined that Mr. Cho was mentally ill, but not an imminent danger, and the judge declined to commit him, instead ordering outpatient treatment.

The question I asked is "What happened after that?" The New York Times article fills some details in. It sounds like the university should have looked to kick him out of school and find a way to get involved in his medical care, or at least make sure Cho was getting care. This is because even though there weren't any crimes reported, Cho was going downhill.

Much about what Mr. Cho did after leaving the hospital remains uncertain. Professor Roy said that she had no contact with him after that date and that she believed he had graduated.

Last August, Mr. Cho’s parents helped move him to a dormitory room he shared with Joe Aust, 19, for his senior year.

His writings grew increasingly unhinged. He submitted two plays to Prof. Edward C. Falco’s class that had so much profanity and violent imagery that the other students refused to read and analyze his work. Professor Falco said he was so concerned that he spoke with several faculty members who had taught Mr. Cho...

As the weeks passed, she added, she noticed a slight change in his writing. Instead of focusing on children, as he had in the past, his last story was about adults.

And then he stopped going to class.

4/19/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

Insanity of another and more dangerous type:

Today Harry Reid, a big Poobah in the Democrat Party said "The war (in Iraq) is lost". This was featured on Drudge: the big picture and type on the top of the page.

It should say: Harry reid is lost. Harry Reid and the democrats are lost-insane-in need of psychiatric intervention, NOW! Before they do something that hurts a lot of people.

Thank you, you're welcome.

4/19/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Frederick D. said...

This evening on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Bill had a behavioral specialist from law enforcement give her take of Ch0 Seung-Hui. She rejected outright any characterization of him as being psychotic. Clearly, she has read all the reports about the young man going as far back as they have information on him. Rather, she prefers the same term that I thought of when the information starting dribbling out through the media: psychopath. A psychopath is not delusional. Rather, a psychopath is a brutal control freak who wants to either control reality or destroy it and remake it in his own image.

I am not a medical doctor, but I try to read as much as I can about mental/emotional health issues. The more wise positions on the spectrum of opinion about where these deadly, destructive illnesses come from state that it is a combination of physiological vulnerabilities/defects in concert with a dysfunctional family life. In any event, his path was probably set before he even reached puberty, and the rage and hatred gathered steam steadily as the years went on.

I consider him to be a kind of terrorist. Certainly his behavior dovetails right in with the example of the Prophet and the Prophet's legions of following jihadis down through the centuries. So, Cho was not a Muslim, but he was one with them in his psychological profile.

4/19/2007 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger USpace said...

But of course sick psycho time bombs have privacy rights too...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
endanger everyone

don't force help on crazies
they have right to murder first

4/22/2007 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger X: THC said...

Question Marks...

"This didn't have to happen", Cho Seung-Hui said, after brutally murdering thirty-two people at Virginia Tech University.

And this terrible tragedy of sons, daughters, mothers and fathers didn't have to happen, if we'd only listened.

But we never listen.

We never listen to those that are different from us- the outcasts, the lonely, the homeless, the ones that are unspoken for. We don't try to understand. We shun them and put them out of our minds because of our fear that we will become like them.

And these people become more and more lonely and alienated in their isolation.

Words like "creep", "deranged misfit" and "psycho" devalue this killer's humanity so we don't have to face how similar he is to us. Cries of "how could he have been stopped" are uttered by media quick to sensationalize and gain market share, when the words "how could he have been listened to" are never considered.

Because we don't want to listen.

We don't want to hear about loneliness and alienation when we're all so busy with our lives, making money and making friends. And the unpopular, the ones that don't fit in, the lonely ones are ignored or made fun of because we don't care to understand anything about them.

As a boy, Cho Seung-Hui "was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness" (Associated Press). When he started college, according to the Guardian, "his mother took his dormitory mates to one side to explain about her son's unusual character and implored them to help."

And he clearly needed help, devaluing himself so much that he called himself "Question Mark".

There are more "Question Marks" out there. There are millions of them. And if we don't listen to them, they will follow the same path again and again, because people are not connecting. We are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, creating more and more "Question Marks" every day.

Most "Question Marks" don't become murderers. Some just kill themselves. Most harm no one and live just as we do, needing antidepressants to appear what we call "normal". They may be someone you know, someone you love.

This "Question Mark" was once a little boy, who cried, and smiled and loved, He wanted to fit in just like you and I. But that desire to fit in transformed itself into anger towards a society that shunned and ignored him.

How many more times will we shun and ignore the one that doesn't fit in, the one in the corner, the one that's different? When all we have to do is listen, before it's too late.

But we won't.

Thirty-two human beings who did not know Cho Seung-Hui were murdered.
They were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, with dreams of futures that will never come and children that will never be born. The thirty-two leave behind people that love them. People that are now scarred for life by this horrible day of death.

To most of us that have not been directly involved, this tragedy will become a memory and fade like all the others that came before.

And the "Question Marks" will appear with more frequency, again and again, because we don't listen.

We never do.


4/23/2007 07:54:00 PM  

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