Cho Seung-Hui & Mr. Brownstone

Published by Toronto Mike on April 17, 2007 @ 16:52 in News

angryLet the armchair psychoanalysis begin. The Virginia Tech shooter has a name and factoids about Cho Seung-Hui are starting to filter in.

We're learning he was quiet and disturbed. Evidence of his disturbed nature comes from accusations he set fire to his dorm, stalked women on campus and wrote alarming one-act plays for his playwriting class. He quoted lyrics from my favourite Guns N' Roses song in one such story in which a group of teenagers plot to kill a teacher who is ruining their lives.

These acts are typically performed by angry young men. Cho Seung-Hui was quiet, disturbed, a loner and very, very angry. I remember teenage anger. I remember that burning rage within and the rush that seemed to thrive off it. If you've never been a young man, you can't know this anger. It festers, it swells, and in the case of Cho Seung-hui, it erupted.

Many years removed from such angst, I can honestly say I'm no longer angry. The fury dissipated long ago. Many of us can harness the rage, channel it elsewhere and maintain total control. Some, cannot.

Cho Seung-hui was 23 years old. The talk shows and infotainment outlets will debate why a student in the final year of an English degree would murder so many before taking his own life. He was angry, yes, but many angry young men survive their rage without touching a weapon. What made Cho Seung-hui different?

Comments 29 comments

29 Responses to "Cho Seung-Hui & Mr. Brownstone"

Jill
April 17, 2007 / 18:51

After reading the plays on fellow classmate Ian MacFarlanes blog
http://newsbloggers.aol.com/2007/04/17/cho-seung-huis-plays/

I can't believe this wasn't
turned into the counselors or
even the Dean. His writing is a reflection of just how disturbed he was and reads very similar to the
writings my patients share with me.
Being that he was an english major and a senior it would be interesting to see what any of his earlier writings in childhood and early teen years were like. His thought content is disorganized and full of feelings of persecution and rage.
Hopefully these shootings will bring pause to our lives to reevaluate our approaches with each other and caution us to be more attentive and watchful as to those we surround ourselves with. Whether it be at school or at work where
students/employees have been
known to come in and gun down
their peers or at all the other places where people become close enough to
know one another and
(subsequently) develop the
passion required to murder those acquaintances. It's about being attentive -- not just to whether someone's packing heat but whether or not they're capable of doing so.

dale
April 17, 2007 / 19:27

What made him different was that he was "asking" for help through his writings & nobody (except 1 instructor who informed social services but nothing was done 2 years ago). I've gone through changes with my kids (puberty) & their vision of life & themselves changes day to day but we as parents realize these transformations & deal with it in a constructive manner.
Where are his parents & what is their reaction?
Gun laws in certain states have to be changed as I went to Virginia Beach in 1989 & signs on stores everywhere - We Sell Guns/Ammo & Beer/Liquor. A lethal mix.
Whose to blame here?
dale

Toronto Mike
April 17, 2007 / 21:51

I just read the screen plays.

1. Dude was disturbed.
2. Dude wasn't a very good writer.

Mike H
April 17, 2007 / 23:35

According to a story on CNN I just read, the stories were in fact turned into police over a year ago, but because they contained no specific threats, nothing could be done. Which, by the way, is exactly as it should be. In a free society you're 100% innocent if you're just thinking about doing bad things. People can try to get you help, but ultimately it's up to the individual to accept or reject that help.

Jill
April 18, 2007 / 09:10

I'm not raelly sure if this was a matter of innocence or guilt. As always, after tragedies such as these we have hindsight and then it is easy for us to stategize what could have been done to prevent this. I do belive that enough people who were associated with this young man had enough concern to present a case for him to have a psychiatric assessment. I am not sure how this is done in the U.S.A. but in Canada a form 2 can be issued by a justice of the peace if a person is deemed to be at risk to themselves or others.

Toronto Mike
April 18, 2007 / 09:17

I'm with Mike H. in the sense that I'd like the freedom to write graphic and disturbing plays without having any of my civil liberties stripped from me.

The tricky part is separating the wheat from the chafe.

Jill
April 18, 2007 / 10:59

I agree with the two of you as well. There are many great writers that have written far more disturbing stuff then was written by Cho Seung Hui. However, I am not sure if these other writers are projecting through other identified behaviours that they may pose as a risk to themselves or others as evidenced not only by their writing but by their daily presentation and interactions with those around them. Fellow classmates verbalized that they had thought he may be a concern prior to the tragedy (via Ian MacFarlanes blog)and I am sure that this was validated not only by his writings.

Mary
April 18, 2007 / 21:42

I do believe in freedom of speech and writing but, when one writes,or speaks w/such hate and displays violent behavior, someone should take notice and help! Where was his mother in supporting him emotionally, as well as all the support a mother gives? Was he ever in counseling and followed up w/treatment? Even teachers have a right to report unusual behavior, etc., and try to help!! Mary

apache
April 18, 2007 / 23:02

culture of violence.
it was ironic seeing bush the other night.

Ryan
April 18, 2007 / 23:09

Mom, you feel strongly about this eh? You had to post it six times?? I'm joking. i know it was an accident.

I have one thing to say about this dude.

He was messed up. he needed help. But for every guy like him that opens fire to kill in a crowded place, there are 999 people who who write sick things and need psychiatric care, who will not shoot anyone.

It's a losing battle to try to prevent this. One thing we can all agree on is that none of us could understand why he did this or how his brain worked.

If this guy was sick, nothing short of serious medicine would have helped anyhow. Some shrink wasn't going to stop this from happening.

Toronto Mike
April 19, 2007 / 09:18

It sounds like these warning signs were detected and people repeatedly tried to help him. Teachers escalated their concerns, the police were involved, etc.

Wasn't it Prince who said "if a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind then give me the electric chair for all my future crimes"?

Ryan might be right, this might have been unpreventable without a time machine.

susie
April 19, 2007 / 09:35

I have been reading many articles, blogs, comments, etc. on this sad and horrifying episode. I grew up, Korean(American) in the Midwest, child of immigrants.

My first reaction to this was horror -- and then a sense of shame and worry how this would affect how S. Koreans would be perceived (or rather Asians would be perceived) since the media has been really overhyping the "Korean" ethnic angle.

My second reaction, honestly, was....about the hidden and untalked about abuse that goes on and has gone on in S. Korean families -- a culture where physical abuse seems seemed to prevail (especially with older generations) along with the pressure to produce model students and citizens for family and the greater Korean society at large.

How much did that possibly contribute to the emotional/psychological development of this person? Also, his many biblical references hints at an hyper-religiosity.

As uncomfortable as this parallel is to mention at this time, it bears looking at. Looking at his writings, it is not an improbable conclusion that mental illness was the main factor in bringing about this situation -- but how much did other environmental and sociological factors contribute?

My intent is not to assign blame but more a general question to examine what people are not saying within the Korean community. I have known other korean friends who I grew up with have emotional issues later in life over the family environment that they grew up in. Pressure to perform in a culture of abuse and violence in many homes is not rare.

Toronto Mike
April 19, 2007 / 09:44

Ryan, just so you know, that Mary is a different Mary... and I deleted her extra submissions.

Susie wrote:

Pressure to perform in a culture of abuse and violence in many homes is not rare.

Without casting blame, I'm wondering about his upbringing. I mentioned this was only preventable with a time machine. By that I'm suggesting that his childhood may have created the monster within. Could Susie be on to something?

Jill
April 19, 2007 / 10:16

Nature vs Nurture......hmmmmm.
How children are treated by adults in the formative
years will come full circle. Parents, teachers and anyone who interacts with children need to raise them with a sense of dignity and belonging and engage their children in conversation to create critical thinkers.
The self image and fears that each of us has resulted from those who were our models. I hope these shootings bring pause to our lives to reevaluate our approaches with our children.

Dustin
April 19, 2007 / 10:57

I don't know where all of you are from, but I am from the Northern Virginia area. In fact I live right around the corner from his parents house. I don't know if you remember this, but last year we had another incident like this happen. this 22 or 23 year old kid had been insitutionalized by his family. he broke out, stole a car, drove to a fairfax county police station and killed 2 cops and injuried 3 others. he had many more weapons than cho, and was just as crazy. Friends of mine knew this kid and said that it wasn't his fault, and so on. All I have to say is I am sick of hearing that this kids are not to belame. dylan and eric of the columbine incident, cho, this kid in fairfax, are just crazy, chemically immbalanced or what ever; the media immedital blames society, and the people around them... Its their fault; the world is not a nice place grow a thick skin and get over it... and another thing to say that its the parents fault or that cho's family life was too hard is a crock of ____. Cho has a sister who turned out fine (infact she went to princeston,) I don't think she is going to be shooting anyone. If you want to say its a family issue then how do you explain that. culture is not to blame either, seriously how many people are on the Virginia Tech Campus. there aren't incidents like this everyday, In fact how many people in the US education system, you don't see every little johnny and jane going to school packing heat. Its just some poor sedistic, pisser with no life and no friends. thats the issue. most of these incident involve Kids that are loners, or with very distance friends. And as for the his writings; Cho's teacher should have failed this Kid, To find a english major that writes like that scares me, more than the pictures of this kid. Yes the VT staff was aware of the issues surround this kid, but the good old ACLU and lawyers alike would have had a field day with VT's education dept. if they had pushed for him to be committed.

chinableu
April 19, 2007 / 10:59

I think Susie is very much onto something. I lived in Korea for many years. The culture highly values conformity, honoring the family, protecting one's family image (saving face) academic achievement. Also, in recent decades, evangelical Christianity has had phenomenal growth in South Korea. Combine all of this with the "traditional" nature of this culture, where any kind of mental illness or emotional problems are considered shameful and embarrassing. Also, in the past 20 years, there has been an increase in conspicuous consumerism in South Korea. The ranks of the affluent have expanded and Koreans are really enjoying displaying all the external accoutrements of the nouveau riche -- cars, houses, designer clothes, shoes, jewelry, dining out, etc. This kid sounds like he was at the epicenter of all this juxtaposition. Also, there are some reports that he was slow to develop speech. This could be a definite sign of learning problems, abuse, brain defects, etc. I'm sure, whatever his problems were, his conservative Christian family probably felt like all they needed to do was pray for him. Furthermore, if he was abused, which seems pretty clear, in a traditional Korean family/culture, there would be no recourse: the abuser would lose face and the accusers would be shunned by the community. All in all, this kid seems to have had all the cards stacked against him.

However, even understanding all of this, I am still repulsed, sickened and horrified by his actions. In his videos, he looks like the evil personified.

Certainly, if he were still alive, he would no doubt be found legally insane and incompetent to stand trial and put away in a mental facility for the rest of his life -- which is where he should be.

I truly hope that this IS a wakeup call for Korean culture and attitudes. I'm not singling them out -- plenty of Americans with all the advantages available to them have committed horrific acts of violence -- I'm just saying that every aspect of Korean culture made it increasingly unlikely that this kid would ever get help -- or even that his illness would even be noticed.

Dustin
April 19, 2007 / 11:20

Chinableu,

I argee with you that the korean culture has put a great focus on "tradition" values, but to blame the his family life, or his families urgee to see him succeed in life is only to push the blame away from the real issue here. Cho lives in a culture in which you either (excuse the phrase) kill or be killed. just like much of the American society; if Cho could not deal with it then help should have been given to him, weither he wanted it or not.

kam
April 19, 2007 / 22:34

i think what that cho guy did was good, he killed many innocent people, but the teachers will be afraid to abuse the student in future. i read what he wrote, he said he is sacrificing himself for all the weak and helpless guys. and its true. first i thought he was a monster but after i read what he wrote i can see the benefit of what he did. you see in our world people only respect one thing -- strength. if you are big and tall everyone respect you, if you are small everyone treats you like shit. cho showed that small guys can turn nasty if pushed too far, and that will make people afraid to pick on small guys, especially students. innocent people died, that's unfortunate. but the same thing happens in a war, innocent die in order to correct some other evil. cho was kicked out of poetry and literature class for his writing, he was a shy guy so when he tried to hit on a couple girls in a somewhat clumsy way they ratted on him. girls don’t have the guts to say “i am not interested, but thank you for asking” to guys they find unattractive, instead they pretend they like them, flirt with them, than behind their back they rat on them and backstab them. and misandrist men are all to happy carrying out their dirty duties falsely accusing a guy of harassment. sex discriminates against the ugly. they don’t realize that ugly guys are people too who also deserve to have fun and be happy. taking a kinder and gentler attitude towards all humankind might serve these pampered women with low self-esteem well. its easy to ridicule men, to blame men, to ignore men. but it is not easy to be a man. especially an ugly short man like cho. society prepares the crime the criminal commits it.

feminists and men who support gender biased, sexist, anti-male laws including the school system, police, justice system, and government are responsible for emasculation of men, which is the cause of the social anxiety among young men like cho. feminists would rather nitpick and close down a corporation which is supporting thousands of women who feed their babies because some guy hang a victoria’s secret angel over the time clock.

as for the media, its common sense that by rewarding cho with what he was aiming for – publicity they are sending the message that whoever kills a lot of people will be rewarded with publicity. why stop there? announce a bloody reward for the families of dead serial killers so you can get your bloody ratings. what do you expect from a society which is so utterly lacking in integrity? you are worse than the cho dude, you may be snug and secure behind your desks, but you are encouraging murder.

Toronto Mike
April 20, 2007 / 09:03

I've read kam's comments three times now, and they're really disturbing. I see from the IP address that he/she lives in Virginia.

kam, if I break it down, you're essentially plesed Cho Seung-Hui murdered so many innocent students because it shows "the little guy" can "turn nasty" if pushed too far. We, the society that reports this sensational story and celebrates the victims, are responsible. Please tell me if I misinterpreted anything you wrote.

kam, I think I speak for all readers of this site when I ask you, with all due respect, to speak to someone about these feelings. Speak to your doctor, priest, teacher or anyone you trust. Your mind set has my newly refined alarm bells ringing off the hook.

Pete
April 20, 2007 / 10:48

Hey Mike,

I once knew a guy in high school who reminded me of Cho. He was picked on, they took his money and made a fool of him. I'm not sure where he is, I've been looking for him for years. Thing is, I wouldn't be surprised if one day I heard he had done the exact same thing. You see Mike, the media blames video games...etc. but the fact is it's all bullying. Cho said in his video if I recall that he was spit on and ate garbage, so I'm not suprised this happened. There is no way on earth I'm condoning his actions but it all stems from frat boys and their drinking buddies. I've seen it time and time again. This guy needed help and he didn't get it, for that reason a lot of innocent people had to die.

Thanks for the opportunity to speak my mind Mike.

Pete

Jill
April 20, 2007 / 13:06

To shift the focus the NY Times ran a profile on each of the victims in the Virginia Tech tragedy.

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/us/20070418_VICTIMS_GRAPHIC.html

Heartbreaking!

Ryan
April 20, 2007 / 17:15

Kam, get help. You have some semi-valid points in an absolutely losing argument.

If you do live in Virginia I would like to know if you have the balls to walk up to one of the victim's mother and say "i think what that cho guy did was good".

Glynnis
October 18, 2008 / 23:11

Cho Seung Hui was an angry young man, sure the victim's families are suffering and it is sad and unfair that they, who didn't even know him were tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time, is actually not much different from getting struck and killed by a drunk driver. There is no way to sue or to even seek retaliation because the killer is dead. As for his surviving immediate family, they too are still struggling with the shock of the massacre. It is simply not fair, to say the least, to blame the parents for what the troubled young man had. This young man(after all, he was 23 years old and was diagnosed with Asperger's Autism) should have had at least enough insight to realize that he need life-long treatment for his problems, but, he was probably too lazy to pay heed.

Glynnis
October 18, 2008 / 23:25

Yes, Cho may have been too lazy to seek treatment, many persons who develop schizophrenic-like symptoms are often-times much too lazy to find help.
http://glynnis-glynn.blogspot.com

Glynnis
October 18, 2008 / 23:29

Cho was just plain LAZY period. Too lazy to make friends, too lazy to speak up in class, too lazy to work a little part-time job after-school, and too lazy to ask a girl out for a date!!!

http://glynnis-glynn.blogspot.com

ignisfatuus
July 5, 2009 / 19:59

Too lazy?! That's probably the dumbest fucken thing I've heard. It's a little along the lines of saying, oh, that person who died from cancer did so because they were morally bankrupt and it was a punishment from god.

As for Kam's statement, yes it is extremist, but it shows the extent to which some individuals feel marginalised. When you dehumanise other people, to the extent some males are who have social anxiety, you are basically giving them an emotional death. While that isn't necessarily justification to go out and mow down dozens of students, I don't think many people truly understand what it is to be humiliated and emasculated to that extent, to be rendered other and stripped of your dignity. There's nothing left, and the pain feels like it has to be shared.

The blogger did a good job on covering the anger of young males. What probably happened here, at least in part, was the lack of outlets and improper intervention by school authorities. If you read the report prepared by the commission after the fact, the supports he had in place in high school were denied him in university.

And I don't think the media were particularly sympathetic, as some people are trying to say. In fact, their portrayal was of a one dimensional figure of evil, which is a gross oversimplification and an injustice to the public, as they will learn nothing from this incident.

Glynnis
August 12, 2009 / 00:09

I have decided to come back and blog about Cho. It has been quite some time now, as I have suffered a major personal tragedy within my own immediate family, only shortly after the last October 18th blog comment. Cho is much of a life's lesson to learn. I lost my wonderful father, whom I loved dearly to a negligent physician. Cho, I gather is nothing more than the scapegoat for all of the victim's families who lost their loved ones to this senseless tragedy. Nonetheless what happened to me is no different either, as I am finding out just how hard it is to bring a lousy doctor to justice in this country. They are the biggest liars, and will say anything just so they won't have to be sued or lose their license. But, I am going to relentlessly prevail in this endeavor. The right always prevail.

e
July 18, 2010 / 12:00

Through high school, he was teased for his shyness and unusual speech patterns. Some classmates even offered their lunch money to Cho just to hear him talk.[21] According to Chris Davids, a high school classmate in Cho's English class at Westfield High School, Cho looked down and refused to speak when called upon. Davids added that, after one teacher threatened to give Cho a failing grade for not participating in class, he began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth. [...] The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, 'Go back to China.'" Another classmate, Stephanie Roberts, stated that "there were just some people who were really cruel to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him. He didn't speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him."[27] Cho was also teased as the "trombone kid" for his practice of walking to school alone with his trombone. Other students recall crueler names and that most of the bullying was because he was alone.
- Wikipedia

Based of this, I believe the people who drove Cho to do this atrocious act is guilty all the same.

Cho finished the three-year program at Poplar Tree Elementary School in one and a half years. Cho was noted for being good at mathematics and English, and teachers pointed to him as an example for other students.[24] At that time, according to Kim, nobody disliked Cho and he "was recognized by friends as a boy of knowledge;... a good dresser who was popular with the girls." Kim added that "I only have good memories about him."[23][24] An acquaintance noted that "Every time he came home from school he would cry and throw tantrums saying he never wanted to return to school" when Cho first came to America in about the second grade.[25]
- Wikipedia

He had so much potential...but too bad...

Donn Men Flat Postage
April 18, 2012 / 13:41

Hopefully the Hornets buy out chris kamen contract so he can come back because we need all the big men we can get to beat the lakers


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