While I have nothing to say directly about the events at VA Tech other than pretty much the same sentiments that everyone has: it's a tragedy. While that's true, I'm a bit miffed as to why it is front page news. Still. Even in New Zealand. The Dominion Post, which services pretty much all of New Zealand below Taupo, had a large photo of Cho Seung-Hui brandishing his firearms on the front page. I understand that there's a fairly compelling human interest story. But this is also an event which can bring forth many points of discussion about American culture, higher education, psychology, basic human interaction and decency. (Gun control is being discussed of course, but somehow I doubt any progress will be made on that front.) There's an odor of exploitation that permeates media's coverage of these sad events, events which are fairly isolated and have a relatively small sphere of influence.
They're sensationalizing the people involved. They're playing up Cho Seung-Hui as some kind of one-dimensional evil villain, like someone out of Batman's rogues gallery. He doesn't make a statement. He has a diatribe. He's disturbed, anti-social, eccentric, and a loner. He's been dehumanized and is now a character in one of the media's stories about terror. And then there are the victims of the massacre, who have articles about them such as the one on the washingtonpost.com today that begins "Like a string of jewels come stories of priceless lives cut short on a day when the unthinkable occurred."
158 people were murdered in Baghdad two days later in similarly senseless bombings, but their lives aren't described as priceless and their stories don't sparkle like jewels. Their stories don't do anything because they're not reported. There is no follow-up. No real effort at making these occurrences human occurrences. The Washington Post article about these bombings interviewed one witness. ONE. A man who witnessed another man's head being eliminated. Maybe if news sources like the Washington Post reported on Iraqi bombings--bombings that are a symptom of a larger problem of sectarian violence in a region rife with tension due to religion and cultural differences that have global consequences--like they are the VA Tech shootings, people would actually care what's happening in Iraq. I only seems fair that Iraqi deaths should be noted as people not numbers and commented on by their friends and family instead of state officials.
And one last note: the washingtonpost.com is posting photos and bios of people killed at VA Tech. Why haven't they been doing this for US soldiers killed in Iraq?