The latest contemptible ghoul

It's Rush Limbaugh. What took him so long?

It's all secularism's fault, and what he wants is more god, more prayer, and more religion at the university. He doesn't comment on the fact that the killer wanted to "die like Jesus Christ".

(Who knew Jesus murdered 32 innocents on the way to the cross, and nailed himself up there?)

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On the way to the cross, probably few. But after his death, it's truly amazing just how many people Jesus, or rather his followers, have taken out.

This is not to say xtianity or religion has anything to do with the tragedy at VT. However, I wonder if Cho tuned in regularly to listen to Rush Limbaugh. And if he did...

I listened to him for a few minutes Tuesday morning and he was blaming the faculty at Virginia Tech for the massacre.

At that point we knew very little about the shooter. All anybody knew was that he was a male from South Korea and a student at VT, and that he reportedly hated America, and especially rich Americans. So Limbaugh's "reasoning" went like this: He must have liked America when he chose to come here to study, so he learned to hate America only after he began attending the university. So obviously he learned to hate America, and rich Americans, from the liberal professors at VT, who poisoned his mind against America.

He chuckled and said he and his listeners knew this was what really happened, but don't expect the "drive-by media" to explore that angle. Because the media is part of the vast liberal conspiracy against all things decent and right, and the only place you're going to hear the truth is from the lips of Rush Limbaugh.

Of course, soon after that we learned that Cho's family came here 15 years ago, when he was just a child, and that his professors were concerned about his attitudes and found him to be a creepy loner. So I guess Limbaugh has moved on to a more conventional approach to exploiting the tragedy to make his political "arguments."

Listening to Limbaugh is like listening to a senile old man rant incoherently. His arguments are unbelievably silly, as is his adolescent attitude toward politics. It's really disturbing that there are people out there who think this guy is smart. He's a blithering idiot.

Unfortunately, Limbaugh doesn't care about the particulars. Like quite a few of the founding fathers, he takes a rather utilitarian position when it comes to religion. God is necessary for order and morality; who cares which God, so long as it is not too far from the Judeo-Christian model; who even cares if God exists, just as long as we talk about God as though he does. This is the most cowardly and bankrupt version of theism, IMO, and makes guys like Limbaugh sound even more foolish with all their talk about needing religion (Ann Coulter also comes to mind, and a local guy here in Pittsburgh, Jim Quinn).

I hestitate to be dogmatic at a time like this, just think of how much much more despairing the tragic Mr. Cho would have been WITHOUT the comforting, calming, stabilizing presence of Jesus in his life?

More Christian instruction for Americans and for visiting foreign nationals is clearly indicated. I suggest we make it mandatory for all citizens, starting at age 2 and ending at death, legislated and enforced at the Federal level. Surely you agree.

(Who knew Jesus murdered 32 innocents on the way to the cross, and nailed himself up there?)

Huh, you mean that part isn't in your Bible!?

By Anony-Moshe (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

When you're obsessed with hammers, everything starts to look like a nail.

That applies to the crowd here, too.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

Why, no.

Hey, maybe we should give all creepy loners with a christ complex intensive instruction in how Jesus died without killing anyone else first, and provide crosses in various places with self-mounting straps (Velcro! It's not the nails that kill you, it's the respiratory distress from hanging by your arms). The crosses should have some kind of quick release mechanism so that if the wanna-be messiah changes his mind or just finds a slow death more unpleasant than he expected, he can bail.

I think this would be a great service to America.

Bud Cort can be the spokesperson for this device.

The thing about crucifying yourself is that it's really hard to get the last nail in.

(courtesy of Neil from "The Young Ones")

By Andy Groves (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

Firstly, PZ, could you somehow mark when you're linking to a critique of right-wing idiots, or to the source article? I hate the idea of giving these guys page hits, but I can't easily tell on my browser of choice where the link is going to take me...

Secondly, he does have a point though. Most mass murderers at schools seem to be social misfits - people that feel isolated. More needs to be done to generate a sense of society at schools perhaps? Of course, Limburgh's solution of more churches and prayers is just a non-starter, but more effort to create social links could really help reduce the number of this type of shooting.

A few years back I was living in a town where I knew no-one. I was doing a long commute to Sydney each day for work, and most of my friends were there too. After about a year of living in a block of appartments, and still not knowing the names of any of my neighbours, I posted letters to each appartment advertising a barbecue on the driveway. Almost everyone turned up, and almost no-one knew their neighbours. I was very glad I had done that a few months later, when I fell very ill, too ill to drive myself to the doctor's surgery. I was able to knock on my neighbour's door and ask for help, because we knew each other. It's a dumb example, compared to a school massacre, but it shows how social support can be very important.

Programs that reach out to people and help them connect to others around them probaby do need to be better-developed.

By demallien (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

Maybe we could have attendants who'd help with that last strap. Cute attendants in skimpy costumes with little angel wings, and they'd pout if the would-be messiah tried to get down. They'd say, "You'd die for me, wouldn't you?" Anything to encourage these psychos to end themselves quietly, and make it a happy and pleasant torture event.

Has anyone noticed the, well, interesting equivocation from the media as to what exactly Cho wrote about religion and Christianity in his stupid manifesto? Sometimes it's said that he was "discussing" Christianity, but then I've been coming across versions where Christianity gets lumped in with the rich kids as something that is criticised. Given this new bit about being "like" Christ (not to mention the whole creepy thing about "seeing promiscuity" in some poor random stalkee's eyes) ... Frankly if anything he probably had too much exposure to religion, not too little.

Also, I kind of wondered about something from the very beginning but didn't want to mention it because, well, I didn't want to sound like reverse Debbie Schlussel (ugh) but I think Franklin Graham's latest asinine claims of demonic possession make it legitimate to mention that it's a little curious why we haven't heard much in the media (except, so I understand, at NPR) about his family's churchgoing habits. A bit odd, isn't it, that he doesn't seem to have gotten professional help at home? (His mom seems to have been aware that he had issues, at least according to the roommate who said she took him aside when she dropped the son off and told him to "take care" of the kid.) Hard not to wonder what the church's line on mental illness is ...

(Disclaimer: I don't actually know for certain what their church thinks of mental illness, they may well be perfectly sensible on that point. That said, the "demonic possession" thing seems to be the new talking point, which really really annoys the hell out of me. Where I grew up - in Asia, though admittedly not Korea - it was all too common to attribute mental illness to demonic activity and/or divine punishment. I remember hearing more than once that seeking medical help would doom one to lifelong institutionalization because "the doctors don't understand spiritual problems". Needless to say, this attitude was not exactly helpful for the afflicted ... to say the least.)

Stuart, yes. And he totally blamed his victims in advance.

Nah.

Comedian (and druggie) Rush Limbaugh's comments are stupid and wrong- but these particular comments aren't filled with hatred and xenophobic loathing.

I don't think this quite meets the gold standard of contempt or ghoulishness that Schlussel did so well to establish earlier this week.

No, I'm not going soft. I well recall Limbaugh's accusation that Michael J. Fox was faking the symptoms of Parkinsons. Limbaugh will say absolutely any lie to help the conservative cause.

By Christian Burnham (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

Figures. I should've bet money.

I left a comment on a blog this morning giving faint praise to Limburger for actually saying something sane: that people shouldn't blame things like video games for the VT tragedy. My support was tethered to the qualification that he not utter anything about the VT tragedy being related to rampant atheism or liberalism in general.

I of course hit the nail on the head. He couldn't go more than 24 hours before finding an already well-beaten scape goat.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

That's one death for every year of Christs life.

Well, this isn't entirely fair.

The secularism issue was just a side note, at least as far as what I heard of the the radio show went. He mostly blamed the "PC" movement- what ever that is nowadays.

Because, you know, they led the push towards de-institutionalism... along with, you know, Regan.

On the other hand, they do agitate for getting the government out of the business of regulating the private lives of the governed... Although it seems like a lot of libertarians and hard righties want that too.

Ok, look, ultimately it's the PC police who are against "profiling," and, as he so succinctly put it, asking the question "were there any warning signs?" is nothing more than calling for profiling Asians. Asians experiencing a psychotic break, admittedly, but Asians none the less, which is wildly hypocritical and... yeah, that doesn't make lick of sense either...

Ok- I admit that I have no idea what he was going on about. All I know is that it really is the fault of pointy headed intellectuals and the political left because- well, just because _Rush Limbaugh_ says so.

And unfortunately, for a large portion of the population, that's enough to make it gospel true, regardless of how pig ignorant stupid the actual argument is.

By KarmaPolice (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

Let's just go ahead and win this argument. For each country in the world, we simply graph "percentage of atheists" vs. "number of violent shootings" and mail the result to these bastards.

By delphi_ote (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

. . . maybe being able to take comfort in a relationship with that which is larger than self ( i.e., God) would have a calming effect on some of these people who go absolutely nuts and lose their sanity.

So imaginary friends are a precursor to sanity now? Interesting.

By Jason Malloy (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

I'm right there with you on the angel thing PZ - provided that it's a big, buff, Adonis-with-wings style angel. I suspect that if I was a borderline psychopath, and I was confronted by cherubin, it may well be just the last thing to push me over the edge...

Cherubin are creepy!

By demallien (not verified) on 18 Apr 2007 #permalink

"God is necessary for order and morality; who cares which God, so long as it is not too far from the Judeo-Christian model; who even cares if God exists, just as long as we talk about God as though he does."

'The various deities of the empire were all regarded by the people as equally true, by the philosophers as equally false, and by the magistrates as equally useful' -- Gibbon.

Limbaugh states:

Maybe there needs to be more religion and prayer at our universities, folks.

Okay, Rush. To emphasize the peaceful intent of your suggestion, how about we choose to impose Buddhism across the board. You won't complain about that, will you?

The one view I don't see in any news media is simple sorrow and a viable plan of action.

Perhaps I stand far off the normal curve, but I feel entirely sorrowful for the victims, the families, and the shooter all at once. When I expressed that, I was advised not to feel sympathy for the devil.

Umm. There is no devil, therefore Cho wasn't the devil. He was a seriously messed up fellow who should have gotten help and, if that help were ineffective, put somewhere where he couldn't hurt anyone--including himself.

I can certainly understand the angry reactions as that seems to be how people are wired. I don't diputte that. They also point fingers to find and burn the witch who "caused" this.

I don't see that anger or mindless vengeance is going to do any good at this point. A firm resolve to change in the future to protect other students might.

Perhaps I do feel sympathy for a human "devil." At least, unlike every commentator I've heard so far, this inclines me to do my best to help people like Cho before they pick up a gun.

Fire away. I'm sure this post will earn me some heat.

By MorpheusPA (not verified) on 19 Apr 2007 #permalink

Funny how "God works in mysterious ways," and how man "cannot fathom the mind of God" yet this prick seems to know exactly what this God fellow wants.

Hundreds of years ago, mental illness was considered a sure sign of demonic possession. Countless schizophrenics who didn't respond to wacky potices were ultimately tortured to death thanks to ignorant and futile attempts by religious folks hoping to purge demons and save souls.

D'Souza and Limbaugh appear to be the modern day equivalents of the exorcists, excoriating the scientific and reasonable for failing to parrot magic chants in the face of evil and tragedy.

D'Souza asks where the atheists are at a time like this. Well, many of us are trying to understand the nature of evil and tragedy and find cures for it and ways to prevent it. Had we stuck to the religious approach, "only what's in the Bible," we'd no doubt still equate schizophrenia, Tourette Syndrome and autism with demon possession.

By prometheus (not verified) on 19 Apr 2007 #permalink

I don't want to make too much of how a single sick young man presented himself as he prepared to do something monstrous, but I wonder if others were as struck as I was by the stereotypical macho imagery Cho adopted. It echoes the violent heroic fantasies that we've heard from some on the right: One armed man prepared to act rather than suffer evil, injustice and mistreatment. Of course most of us have a sufficiently healthy grasp of what's going on around us that even when we have violent heroic fantasies, we don't think the people around us are evil-doers who deserve to die. But when madness combines with violent hero fantasies (and the examples of previous killing-sprees), trouble isn't far to seek. There are lots of elements in U.S. culture that reinforce the violent hero fantasy part of this mixture, and there are always people who feel isolated and mistreated. Combine these with a little too much distance from reality and easy access to deadly weapons, and bad things will happen.

Morph'PA:

Fire away. I'm sure this post will earn me some heat.

Not from me. Why do you think your comment is controversial? Because you exhibit compassion for the profoundly and violently disturbed in a world that is sorely lacking? Well, then color me twisted, too. My mother devoted her professional life to helping people such as Cho, and I intend to do the same (if I ever get out of school, mutter, grumble). Having some sympathy for a tortured soul who does a terrible thing is not the same as letting the perpetrator off the hook, condoning the act, or blaming the victims. Whether or not the families and friends of the victims ever feel the same way will be purely a product of their individual grieving and healing processes, and not something I would press upon them... but forgiveness can be liberating (and is nothing like that disgusting "Thank God I Was Raped" crap).

Am I angry at Cho? Yes. Would I leap back in time and crack his skull with a bat at the first sign of violence if I somehow could? Yes. I'm no angel. (And I'm not very coherent before noon, I hope this post makes some sense...)

In addition to what Bryson Brown said (post 29):

I have been been reading many blogs and there is a steady movement from anger and shock to self-serving conceit. Particularly "right-leaning" individuals now blaming the victims for not taking action, and at the same time elevating (in their own minds) themselves to a status undeserved.

When they are saying that the victims failed, they are really saying that they would not have. This self hero-worship is far from reality-based.

We all have an idea of our own selves. We all believe that we would do the best we could in harrowing circumstances. But reality is never like our dreams and ideas.

This second-guessing of actions taken under incredible duress is grievous. And the elevating of egos (perhaps a defense mechanism) is obnoxious.

I am stunned by the violence of the shooter who was obviously completely irrational at the end. I am overwhelmed by the violence of juvenile egos unable to cope with a diverse world, in other words, to face reality.

And I am saddened for the people most affected who must now navigate this stupefying ignorance on top of dealing with their loss and grief.

Why do you think your comment is controversial? Because you exhibit compassion for the profoundly and violently disturbed in a world that is sorely lacking?

Yes. Like you, I'm assuredly no angel. Even my compassion is directly proportional to the square how much I know/like a person plus a base constant. Few enough have a constant much over zero that I tend to earn a great deal of bashing when I say things like this.

Your post made perfect sense--I, too, woulda sedated the poor fellow by drug or bat and called for help had I known what were coming and been in the position to stop it.

I would dearly like to hope that most sane people would do the same.

By MorpheusPA (not verified) on 19 Apr 2007 #permalink

One perhaps wastes to much time on the Limbaughs. Limbaugh has no education to speak of, no training, no particular knowledge of any subject. He is a self-opinionated windbag.

He is simply a person a beer short of a six-pack who has found a way to make money from others who are at least two beers short.

And boy oh boy did he find something to make up for that missing beer!

Well, as more and more information comes out about Cho and his mental health history I've had to revise a lot of my thought about what happened. I'm glad to see that some people here at least have some sympathy for Cho now that it's coming out that he's another victim in all of this.

Unfortunately stupid politicians and idiot insurance companies are making it more and more difficult for the seriously mentally ill to get treatment. Then everyone is surprised when things go horribly wrong.

I feel sorry for Cho and Cho's family, as well as all the people who were killed and injured and their families. Instead of painting Cho as a monster though, why not reconsider the mental health care systems in this country?

When they are saying that the victims failed, they are really saying that they would not have. This self hero-worship is far from reality-based.

Indeed. It doesn't always work out like they fantasize:

Shooting victim at mall drew gun, family says

...

The man who was critically wounded during Sunday's shooting rampage at Tacoma Mall drew a pistol and confronted the gunman before he was cut down by gunfire, his family said Tuesday.

Brendan "Dan" McKown was delivering a bank deposit for a mall gift store when gunshots scattered shoppers at around noon. McKown was among six people hit.

Police say Dominick Sergio Maldonado, 20, of Tacoma, marched through the mall shooting randomly at shoppers before taking four hostages in a Sam Goody music store. He surrendered about four hours later.

Witnesses told McKown's family that he was shot after he pulled his own handgun during the shooting.

"Our understanding is that Dan drew his weapon and confronted the gunman," his stepmother, Beverly McKown, said during a news conference Tuesday at Tacoma General Hospital.

...

McKown, 38, was shot twice in the abdomen and may have suffered permanent paralysis due to spinal damage, said hospital spokesman Todd Kelley. McKown was being brought out of a medically induced coma Tuesday. The other shooting victims were treated at hospitals and released.

...

Tacoma police confirmed that McKown had a gun, but spokesman Mark Fulghum said there was no evidence that gunshots were fired by anyone other than Maldonado, who faces numerous criminal charges.

...

They said that while they are worried he may be paralyzed for life, they are certain McKown's faith will sustain him.

...

"We are not angry," said Beverly McKown. "We are praying for Dan and we are praying for this boy. God is a healer."

From doridoidae's comment #35:

Unfortunately stupid politicians and idiot insurance companies are making it more and more difficult for the seriously mentally ill to get treatment.

Thank you...it needed to be said.

On MSNBC last night I saw an interview with a psychiatrist who was explaining how difficult it was to get a person who, like Cho, has been judged to be a "danger to themselves and/or others" admitted for inpatient treatment. If they have insurance then the HMO will usually refuse to pay for inpatient treatment but, instead, will insist upon outpatient treatments; and, if they have no insurance, then the institution is under no obligation to admit them. So, back out on the street they go.

For those states/cities that do provide some treatment, the system is always overloaded so that people who are a potential "danger to themselves and/or others" wander the streets waiting for their chance at treatment. cf. The fellow who pushed a woman under a subway car in NYC.

I think a large amount of blame has to fall on the on those who helped Raygun shut down the federal funding for institutionalisation. If that were still available (or Virginia had a well funded replacement), then Cho would have been diagnosed, treated and tracked starting a year ago.

BTW At about the same time there was an interview with one of Cho's suitemates. Although he commented on Cho's self isolation he never once mentioned anything he, or the rest of the suite's residents, did to help Cho. Nothing about involving him, or even presenting their concerns to the University. Only one or two people at VT seemed to *care* about Cho...no wonder his growing mental illness was fed by feelings of alienation.

I have no patience for anybody getting up on a soapbox trying to make a larger point about this incident. When someone is as disturbed as Cho, the condition is likely to be physiological in origin, though the severity of the outcome obviously varies dependent on environmental factors and opportunities for causing harm.

Saying that more religion or less religion could have prevented this makes as much sense as trying to find the right combination of gas tank additives to fix a blown head gasket. There is no social prescription for ridding the world of pathologically violent individuals.

I think there is a good chance that this particular incident was preventable, considering all the warning signs. It's also clear that Cho could not have killed as many people without a gun. Draw whatever conclusions you want from that. But the lessons to learn from this failure apply primarily to how to prevent and mitigate violent outcomes from people we've already identified as posing a risk. There is basically nothing to conclude about how to educate the population at large. Even in that case, the most we can hope is to reduce the risk of another such catastrophe. It cannot be eliminated entirely.

"It's Rush Limbaugh. What took him so long?"

He was busy having sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

I'm realy amazed at the number of people who are missing the larger point: Cho had a serious mental illness, and the rules in effect at the state and univerity levels were inadequate to address that.

Cho should not have been at school, period. Now, to some, that will sound like I'm being a fascist; trampling on the rights of the mentally ill, etc. But many people had reason to believe that there was actually something wrong with the guy, and he needed help... And the mechanisms were not in place to address that.

Rush is wrong (again; and as usual). Schlussel is wrong. I imagine in the next few weeks, some leader of a large religion will prove himself or herself wrong.

No amount of praying was going to help Cho. He should have been booted off campus because of his chronic, ongoing, serious mental illness.

I'm going to slightly backtrack on something else I said, about how gun control would not have helped. While Cho PROBABLY could have armed himself anyway, at least if there had been a "mentally ill" flag in a "persons" table of the "gun_control" database Virginia should have, at least he could not have walked into a gun store and bought guns.

(Okay, I'm a computer scientist, I talk this way sometimes.)

I don't fault VT here; I fault the overall rules, where crazy people don't get the right kind of help in this country. Keeping them from (legally) buying guns is certainly an issue. Allowing Cho to keep attending classes at VT is certainly an issue. And requiring all students to invoke imaginary spirits in the sky would NOT help.

As an aside, I'm pissed at NBC (and others) for airing Cho's crap. Should have handed it right over to the FBI, and "no fair peeking." Wow, what a bad decision that was.

Unfortunately stupid politicians and idiot insurance companies are making it more and more difficult for the seriously mentally ill to get treatment. Then everyone is surprised when things go horribly wrong.

YES. Ohmigosh. Even here in The People's Republic of Massachusetts, the condition of state-funded mental health is appalling. The Romney claims to triumph here are fraudulent. His 11th-hour budget was balanced on the backs of the weak and the sick; he "solved" the health-care problem by requiring everyone to HAVE it while making no provisions whatsoever to provide the disadvantaged with the means to GET it. I'd better pull the plug NOW before I get all ranty. Oops, too late. :-)

Raven, the McKown's story is a very sad tale, but thanks for posting it. That side of the coin doesn't see the light of day very often.

Cho should not have been at school, period. Now, to some, that will sound like I'm being a fascist; trampling on the rights of the mentally ill, etc. But many people had reason to believe that there was actually something wrong with the guy, and he needed help... And the mechanisms were not in place to address that.

Can we have a show of hands here? Does anyone think it would have been "fascist" to take reasonable efforts to protect other students? Somebody dropped the ball here. True, Cho may have fit more of a profile of someone likely to commit suicide than commit mass violence. But you don't have to protect the rights of someone intent on violating the rights of others. The stalking cases alone should have been grounds for expulsion.

Now, to some, that will sound like I'm being a fascist; trampling on the rights of the mentally ill, etc. But many people had reason to believe that there was actually something wrong with the guy, and he needed help... And the mechanisms were not in place to address that.

Or the mechanisms failed. Whatever. No Mike you're not a fascist, there's nothing fascist about pink-slipping someone who's a danger to himself or to others. That's exactly what involutary committment is about. That's WHY the process exists. Why it failed in this case I cannot say.

MorpheusPA, please don't apologize for being compassionate and reasonable. Everything you said made perfect sense to me.

I know some teachers tried to intervene, but where were all the fucking Christians when this sick, miserable kid needed somebody to reach out to him and listen to him and try to find out why he felt so alienated from his community? Christians always show up late, because all they're interested in is the after-tragedy grief party.

Max...

I know some teachers tried to intervene, but where were all the fucking Christians when this sick, miserable kid needed somebody to reach out to him and listen to him and try to find out why he felt so alienated from his community? Christians always show up late, because all they're interested in is the after-tragedy grief party.

I can tell you how the Christian students would have intervened: By taking him to a Bible-study group.

My take: That would not have worked. Conversely, I think it could have made things worse.

Just imagine if someone like that with those problems were to actually read some of the parts of the bible. If your doing the Lord's work, you can get away with some real ugly stuff.

While Cho PROBABLY could have armed himself anyway, at least if there had been a "mentally ill" flag in a "persons" table of the "gun_control" database Virginia should have, at least he could not have walked into a gun store and bought guns.

What, any mental illness? Not all illnesses are created equal, if you will; not every mental illness makes you a permanent danger to those around you, or yourself.

Imagine a young woman, the victim of child abuse. In her teenage years she receives counseling to deal with the depression that results. A few years later, living on her own in college, she decides to buy a handgun.

It's a known fact that women who are the victims of abuse are in a higher risk group for sexual assault later in life. If the ability to purchase handguns for self-defense isn't meant for women like her, who is it meant for? (I'm not saying that a gun is the best way to protect yourself, but that is how handguns are justified; and if we're not going to allow those at risk to use handguns to defend themselves, then there's really no justification for letting anyone own handguns.)

Cho didn't break a single law until he walked into that dorm room and shot two people. So it clearly wasn't a function of "failed mechanisms" or "not enforcing the gun laws that we have." I don't know that there was any putative law that would have stood in his way, short of repealing the second amendment.

I don't know. Maybe it's time to do that? If we can pull the right to gay marriage out of the constitution, there's little to stand in the way of pulling out the right to bear arms. (Except all those guys with guns, I guess.)

Cho didn't break a single law until he walked into that dorm room and shot two people.

He had harassed female students, and they reported it to police, though they did not press charges. Under other circumstances, he might have been found to have broken the law.

Anyway, the question is not whether there were sufficient grounds to put him in jail but whether there were grounds to remove him from campus. The university was in fact hamstrung by legalities given his record, then we really do have some problems with the way we deal with mental illness.

Caring for Cho's mental health is an important concern--one which I place a distant second after protecting the lives of others at the university. Fortunately, there's not a conflict. Providing him with help at the right time would have helped to protect the other students. But I really don't see any circumstance in which a university owes an education to somebody who poses an immediate danger to themselves or others (as was determined in Cho's case).

BTW, I agree with your point that mental illness covers too wide a range to be useful. The main point is that there was a reasonable basis to believe he could cause harm.

BTW, I agree with your point that mental illness covers too wide a range to be useful. The main point is that there was a reasonable basis to believe he could cause harm.

I guess I'm not yet convinced that there was, but I'm not a psychologist (or Bill Frist) so I'm not about to engage in "diagnosis by video tape." If there was conclusive evidence that he was a danger to others then certainly action should have been taken. But a lot of his behavior could have been construed in harmless ways (and probably was.)

But maybe I don't have the whole picture? This just seems like a situation where it's far too easy to learn the wrong lesson. Maybe there's no lesson at all.

What, any mental illness? Not all illnesses are created equal, if you will; not every mental illness makes you a permanent danger to those around you, or yourself.

Sure, any mental illness. This would be one of those things where the flag would mean, "Okay, now I gotta fill out this form for some additional checks. D'oh. I hate it when that happens. But heck, if the guy really IS crazy, I don't mind keeping a gun out of his hands; and if he's not, what's another 30 days? At least I won't get sued."

I'm not convinced he did nothing illegal before he started shooting. Unwanted (and reported, BTW) text messages to women students? That's not some sort of a violation on that campus? I know where sexual harrassment can lead me at my job: To the unemployment line. There's no equivalent to that at VT? If there isn't, what is VT thinking??

Filing the serial numbers off the guns was legal?

Sorry, I disagree with your statement... And I see I've hit PZ's three-post limit. I strictly adhere to that, so I can't respond any more. I'll read your responses, though.

Just want to echo an earlier post and say that it is very strange that Cho's psychotic manifesto is being described as "anti religion" and "anti Christianity." Here's some of what Cho said:

• You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.

• Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?

• You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your vodka and Cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.

Where exactly is the "anti Christianity" part?

I'm not convinced he did nothing illegal before he started shooting.

Well, I'm not saying he never got a parking ticket or anything. It was specifically laws pertaining to gun control, gun buying, and mental health issues that I was referring to.

I'm the last one to apologize for male sexual entitlement, re: the text message harassment, but I'm not convinced some text messages would have been a basis to restrain this guy against his will.

Filing the serial numbers off the guns was legal?

I didn't realize he'd done that. Well, serves me right for speculating before all the facts were in. Still, though, I don't know how they'd have enforced the "no filing the serial numbers" law in time to do anything besides regular inspections of registered firearms.

Anyway, I don't see much of a lesson in this tragedy except that, no matter how many rules and procedures you make based on previous situations, a new situation always comes along where none of what we've learned in the past applies. Where, in fact, all the prior lessons apply in exactly the wrong way.

Somehow I came across a bloger called texas fred and I check him out for a hoot.He did`t disappoint,his take it, was the victims fault for waiting around to be killed!Thats right someone should have taken this guy out and it`s all the liberals fault the way kids are brought-up( no winners in games, kids are taught not to fight back,that we are all equal,it`s not if you win or lose etc.).And guess what if ole texas fred and all his readers had been there this guy would have barly gotten off a shot probably not even had made the news!Some people have answers for everything.I`m sorry but for shootings like this I can offer none.

Ed, this is on topic. Talk radio is feeding this idea. I don't know how they get away with blaming the victims like this.

And they use this same ego-stroking tactic to sell the rest of their crap: global warming denial, ID, faith-based agendas, etc. Limbaugh was just the first to discover that this niche could be profitable.

I guess it's good framing for self-centered, delusional misanthropes. And apparently there's a large pool of these people.

The Guardian is now reporting that his poor mom "spent most of her time in church praying for him to snap out of his unhealthy taciturnity" while in Korea; after coming to the US "Her spare time was devoted to the Korean church in Centreville, where she implored the pastor to help her son. According to the Joong-ang Daily, she always prayed that her boy could become more outgoing."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2061279,00.html

That sounds like an awful lot of prayer to me. (I remain curious as to what her pastor might have advised her to do with her son ... Doesn't sound like professional help was on the to-do list.)

I don't suppose this is gonna get any traction in the MSM here ...

Actually, while I agree and admit that fear is a strong motivator, I also made the point some place else that people "don't" act, and "should". That this includes myself doesn't matter. The fact is, a lot of these situations are a case of the crowd all hoping the problem will go away, while if anything, failing to do something to stop it just makes things worse. We are talking about 1 person vs. 30+ others, and him *needing* to reload in between shooting people... This makes even less sense to me when its something like the LA riots years back where we where talking about maybe 50-100 people causing chaos, in a city of like 20,000 people... And, as far as I remember, not one of the rioters/looters was caught toting anything worse than a baseball bat around that day.

Why are the lunatics that kill people the **only** ones that seem to be obsessed with the "one man against the world" BS? Why does it take everyone in the plane, building, etc. deciding, "I am going to die anyway.", before someone is willing to risk doing something? Hiding in the corner, praying that God will stop it, hoping the police will show up in time to do something about it, waiting for "someone else" to solve the problem just gets you shot anyway. To me that is a major, "Duh!". If you want to talk about gung ho hero BS, then maybe part of the problem is a fear of or false respect for nuts that go postal and start acting it out? I doubt it, but it makes about as much sense as blaming what happened on the idea that some self proclaimed redeemer is going to shoot places up due to obsession with the idea, or lambasting people that, maybe, like me, can't comprehend their own likely lack of logic, common sense or courage at trying to at least protect "other" people, when its likely they are going to get shot by the nut waving a gun around anyway.

Sure, some of the people asking the question are not thinking it through like I have, and just think everyone should automatically jump them, because they think they would. I bloody well know I probably wouldn't, but that doesn't stop me asking myself why the hell not, given the outcome is just as likely going to put me in a hospital or a grave if I don't. Its a valid questions, especially when you have dozens of people, the gunman has to, as I said, reload, and no one even thinks about doing anything but trying and failing to avoid them. Its not machoism, not self proclaimed heroism, not cursing the people that got hurt. Its just, why the hell don't people react positively in such cases, instead of hiding under a pillow or their religion? It just doesn't make sense to me, given the outcomes that happen in *every* case where this happens. And, I don't mean something absurdly stupid as the post in here about the moron that shot someone with his own gun. I mean just basic, "Its harder to hit a moving target, I will probably be shot anyway, and maybe I can just take this guy down or distract him enough for someone else to do so."

To me, not even thinking in those terms when considering what to do about some nut with a gun is itself a sign of irrationality. Some of the people posting similar comments are probably thinking the same way. The problem is, they are right wingers, and allegory, examples, metaphor and explanations are all too difficult for them, so its much easier for them to just babble something about Rambo and proclaim that they would *never* just sit and do nothing (that being an admission of cowardice their hero Rambo would find objectionable).

Lets just put it in the simplest terms possible. One of the problems we have comes down to that we simply see *ourselves* as so important that we have to be *trained* to defend other people. If we don't have that training, we would rather wait forever for someone that does have it, unless the group as a whole has a chance to talk themselves into acting. It doesn't matter if the ass threating us has a bomb, a machine gun with 30 rounds in it, two hand guns with all of 18 rounds, or a board with a rusty nail. We stop thinking about anything but ourselves the moment threatened. And that **is** a problem that actually does make things worse, natural reaction or not.

But, as I said, unlike the fools people have been mentioning here, I am willing to admit that I don't know what I would do. But I like to think that I would at least be thinking.

Kagehi:

But I like to think that I would at least be thinking.

I like to think I would be there thinking about learning German, or whatever engineering subject is being taught. Learning is hard. So is teaching. I would rather have students and professors in the mindset that applies for the greater than 99.9% percent of the time that there is not a killer on the way to the classroom than distracting themselves over very improbable catastrophes. It takes a certain amount of time to task switch, and while I am shocked at the number of fatalities, I think it's outrageous to place the onus on people who showed up in a classroom to learn.

Has there been any recent news about the Ismail Ax / Ishmael Ax (I've seen both spellings in the media) he had written on his arm? I've only seen speculation, but thought I might have missed something. Some were suggesting it was religious in nature, but I don't know if there is any truth in that.

Ishmael, son of Nethaniah
There are at least two people in the Bible named Ishmael. The name is sometimes translated into English as Ishmail. The first and most famous was Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Another was the son of Nethaniah, best known for killing Gedaliah, who had been appointed as governor of Judah.Ishmael, the assassin, is described in Jeremiah 41:1 as being the son of Nethaniah, who was the son of Elishama, who was of the royal lineage. He lived about 2600 years ago, during a time when the Babylonians had conquered the land of Judah (southern Israel). The Babylonians had appointed Gedaliah, who was Jewish, to act as governor on behalf of the Babylonian government.Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, led 10 men to the town of Mizpah where they assassinated Gedaliah.

Kagehi, I came down very hard on that kind of thinking. And you are right in that a good part of it was the false bravado of the people making the claims. But part of it is also timing. There are hundreds of kids out there right now going over this very thing in their heads. Because they were there and they are alive. And others are not.

That is a big load to take. I think that many should and will seek counseling. But I think to discuss it in the context of "a failure to act" or to even broach the subject this close to the traumatic event could push some over the brink.

I appreciate your deeper thoughts on the subject and I have certainly contemplated it myself. It is difficult to look inward and realize that you might just be like most people. Peace. I was seething when I wrote it but that has mostly passed. If I couldn't let go of the rantings from the banshees, it would consume me.

Instead, I listened to a little Jimmy Buffett (Mental Floss) and my blood pressure has returned to normal.

"In one ear and out the other
Don't you get criss-crossed.
I recommend you try a little
Mental Floss"

We are talking about 1 person vs. 30+ others, and him *needing* to reload in between shooting people...

What guns did you think he had? These weren't old-west-style sixguns. A 9mm with a double-stack magazine holds at least 12 rounds, and a .22 could easily hold 20 more. He easily could have killed all those people without reloading.

The one guy who did stand up was gunned down. Most people held doors shut; actions that saved countless lives. I think second-guessing the courage of individuals in that situation is pretty reprehensible.

Forget Limbaugh's stupidity in blaming the VT faculty for Cho's insane act. He'll say anything to get a reaction. It's clear the kid was messed up in the head. If anything, this horrible incident is a clarion call for better public awareness of the signs of serious psychiatric problems. It's amazing to me that his roommate, who said Cho hardly said a word to him, and often sat staring blankly out the window, didn't tell someone, "Hey, this kid's really weird. He kinda freaks me out." Might someone have been able to evaluate him to see if he was a danger to himself and others, as we now learn, he had been before, and been involuntarily committed? Is there no system in place for intervening before disturbed people go off?

Well, Mousie, that IS the question. Such a system would be made up of the "mechanisms" we mentioned earlier.

Chet:

I think second-guessing the courage of individuals in that situation is pretty reprehensible.

I strongly agree, Chet, so your apparent distain for whatever mechanisms could have caught this guy in their filters and resulted in an involuntary committment before the fatal day is a bit puzzling. Am I misunderstanding you?

Cho didn't break a single law until he walked into that dorm room and shot two people. So it clearly wasn't a function of "failed mechanisms"

Ah... True, any illegal acts he may have committed prior to that were insufficient to bring him to the attention of local law enforcement. And that's exactly why it *was* a function of failed mechanisms, because we're not talking about laws here, except the one that makes pink-slipping possible. They failed to do what they were designed to do, which is exactly what we wish the laws could have done, but can't do and never will.

That's the key difference. The goal is to catch a Cho before any laws are broken, not to put enough subtle indicator-of-danger laws in place to ensure that he'll be bound to break one before he goes on a killing spree. Surely you understand this. So perhaps you simply misunderstood what was meant by "mechanisms" in the first place...?

Kagehi,

But the training to "defend others" that is received in the military is aimed precisely at overcoming the completely normal reluctance to put oneself in harm's way. Military training is all about getting you ready to take the fall so that your mates can live. Words such as "teamwork", "mateship", and "esprit de corps" are thrown around an awful lot. Most military organisations even end up developing special words to describe those that don't adhere to these ideas. Officially we have "malingerer" and words lie that. Informally, at least in my country, other words and expressions, such as "jacking on your mates" (putting your needs ahead of those of your mates) "jackman" (someone that does the above) and "squeezer" (someone that avoids doing their duty) were common terms of abuse.

The whole point being that unless you have been through a long (several years worth) military indoctrination, you are unikely to be prepared mentally for doing what needs to be done in a situation like that at VT. One thing I did note was that apparently VT had a cadet corps (well, at least they have a drilling square!) I don't know exactly how that works n the US, but I suspect the kids did more marching around in ranks than building of true esprit de corps, because otherwise we probably would have seen a few people get together and take the shooter down.

But without years of brainwashing, most people just aren't going to put themselves in harm's way. Self-preservation is too heavily hardwired into our brains to be easily overcome in an emergency situation, and frankly, I think that's a good thing.

By demallien (not verified) on 19 Apr 2007 #permalink

so your apparent distain for whatever mechanisms could have caught this guy in their filters and resulted in an involuntary committment before the fatal day is a bit puzzling. Am I misunderstanding you?

Clearly you are. I have no idea what you think I said that gave you that impression.

And that's exactly why it *was* a function of failed mechanisms, because we're not talking about laws here, except the one that makes pink-slipping possible. They failed to do what they were designed to do, which is exactly what we wish the laws could have done, but can't do and never will.

Are we supposed to find it significant that rude text messages didn't result in his involuntary commitment?

The reason that I say that it's not a question of failed mechanisms is because I agree with you - the mechanisms in place operated they way they were supposed to. That they didn't do something they weren't enacted to do isn't evidence that they failed.

I'm not sure there could have been a law that would have interdicted this guy beforehand, without also imprisoning thousands who were never a danger.

The goal is to catch a Cho before any laws are broken

Catch him and then what? I'm not convinced that his behavior prior to the shooting rose to the level of having him involuntarily committed. Certainly it seems like a lot of mental health professionals concluded the same thing at the time.

I'm still far from convinced that any procedural or legislative changes are justified by this event. It's a tragic loss of life, yes, but let's not fall all over ourselves to learn all the wrong lessons.

Chet,

Food for thought, as always, and thanks for picking up on my prioritizing the possibility of my misunderstanding you ahead of the possibility of the reverse. ;-)

I have comments, but no time to do the topic justice, so for now, thanks for the reply but I gotta sign off. Have a great day!