The media coverage of the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech has been both fascinating and disgusting to watch. If the entire U.S. media could have a giant spontaneous orgasm, this is it! They’ve descended like filthy carrion, fed on the flesh of both the living and the dead, and pooped out some record ratings. T.V. network executives all over the country are congratulating themselves and toasting to the grand success they’ve had this week. Because it’s such a ratings smash, it’s all we will hear about for the next month or two, or at least until something else comes along for them to feed on.
Things got interesting once NBC decided to publish the killer’s multimedia portfolio. He essentially put together a complete press package of photos, video files, and a printed manifesto…a “digital vanity package”, as Boing-Boing puts it. He knew what he was doing, knew exactly how to get the most exposure possible to spread his deranged message and try to justify his actions. NBC, not being able to resist such a ratings frenzy, released everything to the rest of the press and made the killer an instant media star. His name and face are everywhere — he’s practically the new American Idol. NBC claims that they “agonized for hours” over whether or not they should publish it, but we all know their mind was made up the moment they opened that package. They’re facing a bit of a backlash for doing so, and it added almost nothing to the investigation, but they knew the media and the public would eat it up. Some of the material does give us a window into the killer’s warped mind, but are full slideshows and glossy video montages really necessary? (Any other news agency would have done the same thing, of course…NBC isn’t the only whore out there.)
The latest “discovery” centers around a purported link between the murders and a movie called “Oldboy.” The killer took pictures of himself doing certain things (pointing a gun at his head, wielding a hammer) and somehow they’ve decided that because the actors in this movie did similar things, they must be connected. I’m not quite convinced. Earlier, douchebag lawyer Jack Thompson blamed the killings on violent videogames. Because, you know, we have to find something to blame. It’s not enough that he was a troubled, psychotic manic-depressive type. No, we need something in the media to blame, something we can physically point to and say, “This is the cause! This made him a killer!!” Maybe he watched violent movies, and maybe he played violent videogames — many people do. But this kind of mental instability isn’t actually created by such things. If that were true, I’d be running around with a chainsaw and a shotgun after having seen “Evil Dead 2” so many times.
Today my biggest question is: how soon before some asshole comes up with a Virginia Tech ribbon/sticker/shirt/bracelet for sale? Has the cashing-in already begun? I’m sure it has. Somewhere out there, mere days after the murders, someone is selling a product designed to milk tears and empty wallets, and it won’t be strictly for charity. Hey, they did it after 9/11, so why not now?