04/20/2007 02:54 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Media's Bloody Wednesday

Insurgents know the value of a secondary attack. Set off one bomb to draw in responders. Then set off a second explosion to inflict more damage. It is a sick trap.

And with the VT massacre it is just such a trap the supposedly responsible media fell into.

Between his first murderous outburst and his second deadly rampage the VT killer, whose name I will not even utter, spent nearly 90 minutes preparing a package with the diligence of someone doing a final prep on a graduate level presentation. In the package: 43 photos, 27 digital videos, one audio file and an 1,800 word statement. All bundled up and shipped off to NBC news.

This would be the killer's secondary attack, timed to cause the most emotional damage. Assuming some lumbering sucker tripped the trigger wire.

NBC New obliged.

This package, this sick media kit, was received by NBC News Wednesday. According to their own statements, once NBC got the package they immediately put it in the hands of the FBI. That is, if one takes the definition of "immediate" to be as soon as NBC'd used the opportunity to cull through the worst of what they'd been sent, pull out whatever sights and sounds they pleased, and then regurgitate them through the electronic ether. In other words, they did exactly - -exactly -- as this killer wished: made him a posthumous cult icon. Chiseled his name in history. Gave a voice to an individual who barely had a mind.

To be turned into a cause célèbre -- no matter how macabre -- is precisely as the VT assassin desired. Not that any other news outlet would have displayed greater morality, but clearly in picking NBC News, the killer picked correctly.


Why, barely two days after the murders, why when bodies were not yet buried and while victims still fight for their lives, did news outlet after news outlet after news outlet feel it was appropriate to build a public dais from which this mad man could preach?

Daily in major cities people who have inured to the emotionally disturbed pass those who stand on street corners and ramble without so much as giving a moment's credence to their disconnected thoughts. Yet, by dint of body count, the insane manifesto of the VT assassin is given national prominence.

And I ask again like a child who cannot comprehend: Why?

The killer's words and images should have been turned over to the authorities without airing.

They were not.

The media should have put restraint above salaciousness.

They did not.

And shame on them.

Shame on every media outlet that broadcast the videos at the top of the hour, ran with the assassin's picture above the fold and linked to the text of the manifesto because of the public's supposed "need to know."

There is no "need" there. There is nothing there.

But go on. The text and the clips are now readily available. Go on. Look, listen. The blame the killer lays is imprecise. To whom it is ultimately directed remains unnamed. German cars and Cognac seem to be the only real culprits. Hollywood movies and violent video games are off the hook.

But that's it.

That's all there is.

And all the slowing down to stare at this "human wreck" in the world will not give the lay person any more insight into a sick and trouble mind. Superintendent of Virginia State Police Steve Flaherty said at a press conference: "A lot of folks saw images that were very disturbing. This is a kind of image that people in my line of work have to see, and I'm worried that people who are not used to seeing them had to see them."

Yet NBC News president Steve Capus offered no defense for whoring the words and images. "There is no way to look at (all this) without being profoundly upset, and it is incredibly disturbing." And yet knowing that, knowing how "disturbing" it would be to survivors and victims families, knowing the limelight shine he would direct toward a fractured mind, Capus still allowed for the words and images to be shipped across the greater media. Almost all branded with the NBC News logo.



There is one thing to be gained from the assassin's last words. He calls the Columbine killers "martyrs."

Clearly the VT killer was affected by all the media attention those two received.

Clearly this killer should have gotten none at all.

The media should have sent a message to every sick son of a bitch who thinks their destiny is to go out in a blaze of glory that no such 'Cody' Jarrett moment awaits them. Instead, they fade away lonely and anonymous, consigned to a Potter's Field of time.

The media abdicated responsibility. Instead of doing right they have simply lit a fuse, and we can only wait for the next explosion.

A year. Five years. Three months, or maybe tomorrow.

It is difficult to believe just a week ago America was roiled over Don Imus and his unfortunate comments regarding the kink of black women's hair and the status of their sexuality. Recall when that was considered hateful speech unfit for public airing? I'm sure - and I say this facetiously. My satire here should be obvious, but allow me to point that out before my words are twisted when they are later reduced and then reprinted - that Imus wishes he'd spoken of indiscriminate slaughter rather than a girls ball team. He could have moved himself up from fringe time to prime time.

Instead it was someone who could actually deliver on his hate speech who has acquired that spot.