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NBC's painful but necessary decision
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


April 19, 2007

Between his first and second round of killings, gunman Cho Seung-Hui went to the local post office and express-mailed a packet of photos, a video and a rambling, often incoherent 22-page screed attempting to justify the execution of his classmates.

After clearing it with police, NBC News began airing brief excerpts Wednesday night and has taken considerable heat for doing so. It must have been devastating to the victims' loved ones to see the boastful killer posturing with his handguns. And even NBC's own consultant, former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt, said that airing the video was Cho's "ultimate victory ... reaching out from the grave and grabbing us."

gif Kids & Virginia Tech

Kids and Virginia Tech
Artist Daryl Cagle; Attribution Daryl Cagle,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Difficult as the decision was for NBC, it was the right one, reached after a long day of soul-searching. NBC was thoughtful and careful about what it chose to present and it did so in a manner that was not sensational or exploitive.

Cho's final thoughts are essential to understanding what otherwise is inexplicable. The packet is a dark glimpse into a mind that is truly unhinged.

Only from the video can the depth of his narcissism, anger and sense of grievance be apparent: "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

Jesus Christ, he said, "loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart and ripping my soul all this time."

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, the usual pop explanations quickly arose - a flawed culture, America's quick resort to violence, the ready availability of guns. But Cho himself provided the most convincing explanation. He was, to use a layman's term, insane.

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