Thursday, April 19, 2007

15 Minutes Forever

Man, do I feel down today. I used to have a harder heart and tougher skin, but now I'm getting weak and soft, despite all the harsh satirical swipes I've taken of late. The VaTech massacre and the media-led choreographed grief, more misery and bloodshed in Iraq and the supreme indifference of many Americans, among other current delights, are too much to take from this distance, so I cannot imagine how those closer to these tragedies are coping. It must be truly soul-crushing. Whatever our daily trials, we should keep these people in mind before bitching about something that's bound to be trivial.

I see that some of the relatives of those murdered by Cho Seung-Hui are upset with NBC for airing Cho's "confessional" videos. I sympathize with them, honestly, but what can you expect? The biggest public shooting spree in the nation's history (well, by one or two people anyway; massacres where the state mowed down striking workers, as in Thibodaux, Louisiana in 1887, for instance, don't count), and NBC has video of the killer rambling about his sorry life and talking about terror? That's going to be broadcast, especially in a voyeuristic culture where mass murderers become famous. Journalists may call Cho's video "news," which is technically true, but let's be frank: people want to see the killer up-close, hear his voice, look into his eyes, imagine what he might be imagining, wonder how he appeared when he butchered his victims, soak in the sick fuck's negative energy. It's a ratings winner, a natural follow-up to the massacre, and the feelings and sensitivities of those related to the dead, while officially acknowledged by network execs, carry little weight in comparison.

Cho Seung-Hui is now a celebrity, a dark icon of sorts, right up there with John Wayne Gacy, Charles Whitman, Dean Corll, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson (though Manson's rep is far bigger than his body count -- such is the power of crazed personality and word-of-mouth). There will be books, films, plays -- hopefully not those that Cho wrote, but I wouldn't be surprised -- t-shirts made from the video stills, possibly video games, and Zeus knows what else: it's still early. For now, the media is content to milk Cho's insanity until the final ratings point fades under the studio lights. Then it will be time for the Next Distraction, hopefully during sweeps week.