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The International Writers Magazine
: Reality Check

The Virginia Tech Killer's 15 Minutes Of Infamy
James Campion

Random violence is really interesting. Especially epic slayings by lone nuts for no fathomable reason. Big ratings. Big talk. Big headlines. Big reasoning. Tons of that. Why? How? All the silly incomprehensible psychobabble getting to the bottom of nothing. Sure it's scary. There are badly wired humans everywhere. At any moment they go off the rails and things get broken and people get hurt. This happened at Virginia Tech this week. Horrible stuff. Can't be explained, like hurricanes and earthquakes and Nazis.

I'm fascinated by it. So are you. Of course you are. Repulsed? Sure. Frightened? Perhaps. But mostly fascinated. Glued to the gory details, the fallout, the grieving, and the endless lists of possible motives. I'm not particularly surprised, but then again I believe just slightly less than half of our populace is capable of crazy random shit. I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often. Maybe not 32 massacred kids in a relatively mellow bucolic college campus, but you know what I'm getting at.

And you know who's banking on our fascination with this? The media: network television, cable stations, newspapers, radio, you name it. Nothing new here. That's what they're here for. Tragedy is party time for news geeks. None will admit to it in public, but they all do the hula victory dance every time feces hits the fan somewhere, in the bullpens and pressrooms, and especially at corporate headquarters. I've been there, Jack. Oh, it's mass orgasm, believe it.

You think I'm being Mr. Bad Ass Cynic again? Well, maybe you're right. But as evidence I present the airing of the Virginia Tech killer's mailed video/print/digital photo manifesto this week. The National Broadcasting Company won the sweepstakes on this puppy, as they did with the Imus flak, since they were the first to sack his sorry ass and then unconscionably lead the evening network news broadcast with ten (Ten!) uninterrupted minutes of racist hysteria last week. Unconscionable unless of course we keep our eyes focused on the aim and purpose of everything media: Ratings Equals Cash.
Maniac sends multi-media diatribe to major news organization before slaughtering innocents.
This is the Holy Grail for those profiting on news broadcasts.

Hey, maybe the murderer was tuning in as Brian Williams was gushing trumped-up show biz empathy all over the Rutgers girls basketball team last week. Figures here's a sucker who will make me, a lonely, lunatic misanthropic jag-off famous. Hey, it's as good as the video game, bullied, victim of a sick culture, gun-happy theories.

Okay, so back to Ratings Equals Cash.
I must go on record as stating that I have no problem with this. It is a sound business axiom like Profit Is God, Downsizing Is Good For The Soul, and Fuck The Public.

NBC News exists to sell time. The purpose of all media, no matter how much the talent or producers or fans think their special slice of it changes lives, advances society, or shifts politics. It is showbiz, period. And this is not a new phenomenon. No, sir. This goes back as far as jogging Greek messengers who were wacked for unpopular presentation. Got to feed the audience, buster. W.R. Hearst knew it. He was an onerous mutant and a great newspaper mogul, and the main reason he once owned 80% of the mass media in this country. Now it's more like six mega-conglomerates controlling all of this country's mainstream media, and they know damn well the shit you will eat, and you will gorge, my friends, you will gorge.

No, reporting the news as entertainment is not the issue here. I love it. Keep it coming.
My gut-churning disdain begins with the smarmy, apologetic, touchy-feely rhetoric being spewed by dime-store barkers like Williams and his ilk as they roll out the dung. Give us some credit. We know we're slowing down to see the gruesome car accident, a mass rubber necking. We don't need the laughably affected facial expressions of remorse and stilted voicing, fidgeting shoulders and slight dips of the head.
"I'm sorry folks, it's so sad and heart-wrenching, but here's the crazy guy!"

The whole thing is fabricated and insulting and patently false in the most insidious way. Just play the damn tape of the psycho rambling on about being ostracized and emotionally wounded and spewing the same tired falderal made famous by the usual Chuck Manson wannabees. I would respect these assholes so much more if they would just be honest: "Here is some sick stuff, you're going to be horrified and nauseated but unable to turn away, then let's get right to the cheery Sally Field pharmaceutical ad."
What is the difference between this and the exploitation of the Elephant Man?
What is the difference between this and Britney Spears tantrum updates?

Then the president of NBC or some other bloodsucking corporate suckfish comes on MSNBC later accompanied by Williams to "explain" the need for true journalistic integrity in accepting the package and waiting two (Two!) hours to alert authorities -- two hours to dupe tapes, make copies of the photos and comb over reams of gibberish. Two hours to get the campaign ramped up, slap "NBC Exclusive" tags on every photo and every second of amateur YOUTUBE video.

And this on the heels of NBC acting all sanctimonious last week in the wake of Shock Jock Crucifixion. So what's more offensive, I ask you: Name Calling 101 or airing the meanderings of a mass murderer 48 hours after the tragedy?

I don't find either offensive, but apparently this is a hot topic right now and I figure since everyone is so up in arms and sensitive to public decorum and decency, where do we go on this one?
Oh, and by the way, NBC eventually got around to the real story, why the local authorities and college security allowed an armed and dangerous killer to put together a promo package, go to the post office, leisurely stroll around campus armed to the teeth and eventually butcher 31 additional students over a three-hour window.
© James Campion April 21 2007
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