Be it for his piss-poor prose or his menacing mien, mass murderer Seung-Hui Cho received little corrective feedback toward the end of his brief and brutal life. And probably for most of it. Consequently, when Cho, who murdered 32 students and faculty members at Virginia-Tech, got his firearms, the mandatory background check he underwent came back as clean as mine; as a legal permanent resident of the United States, I too was checked out when I purchased my piece.
The background check conducted by the owner of Roanoke Firearms revealed nothing of Cho’s deviant displays over the past two years, because the authorities Cho brushed up against kept it that way. Stalking two students, taking pictures of women under desks, terrorizing his teachers, setting a fire in a dorm room—all met with laissez faire and leniency from police.
Cho had passed through the university disciplinary system, but that too resulted in counseling recommendations rather than consequences. Cho was not even considered a suspect in earlier bomb threats the university received, and for which, as it transpired, he was responsible. Police and campus authorities responded to Cho’s stalking, pyromania, and voyeurism by medicalizing his misbehavior. As the nation’s pseudo-experts generally advise, Cho was referred to a mental health facility.
There were exceptions. Cho’s poetry teacher, Nikki Giovanni, uses the word evil to describe him. She refused to put up with his intimidating presence in her classroom, and had Cho removed. American youngsters are notoriously tolerant of deviance, which they’ve been taught to think of as quaint, cool, or a sign of individualism. The more multicultural and left-liberal a society, moreover, the more it will lack shared norms of decorum, and the less its members will expect civility from one another. Incivility is often construed as difference. Which is why anti-social, sullen, scheming gruffness is currently being framed as “shyness”—the hallmark of a “troubled young man,” a “loner.” When the photos of the killer in full regalia surfaced, some students even wondered if this was his way of “reaching out.”
Classroom etiquette, such that it is, doesn’t necessarily exclude chatting on one’s cell, wearing Gestapo get-up, a cap, and dark shades. Nor is acting catatonic, apparently, an impediment to reaching senior status at the nation’s schools. Cho, however, was so threatening that students began deserting Giovanni’s poetry class in droves. “The guy’s really creepy,” they complained. Still, to expel Cho from the course, Giovanni had to threaten to resign. English instructor Lucinda Roy and her assistant devised a distress signal in the event Cho became unruly during one-on-one tutoring sessions with Roy.
Enter the tele-experts. Understandably self-serving, they work to place bad behavior beyond the strictures of traditional morality, making it amenable to their “therapeutic” interventions. The Drew Pinskys of the world conjure so-called mental diseases either to control contrarians or to exculpate criminals. To listen to the nation’s psychiatric gurus is to come to believe that crimes are caused, not committed. Perpetrators don’t do the crime, but are driven to their dirty deeds by a confluence of uncontrollable factors, victims of societal forces or organic brain disease.
The paradox at the heart of this root-causes fraud is that causal theoretical explanations are invoked only after bad deeds have been committed. Good deeds have no need of mitigating circumstances. Even though Cho went about his business meticulously and methodically, liberals (and, increasingly, conservatives) toss the concept of free will to the wind. They acknowledge human agency if—and only if—adaptive actions are involved.
The doctors who examined Cho in December 2005 were more honest than the Drew Pinsky-type sorcerers the networks inflict upon their viewers. They found that he was “depressed,” but of normal “insight” and “judgment.” In retrospect, his wise teacher, Nikki Giovanni—also the only one to use the E-word—would have to admit he acted in character: purposeful and brutal, never frazzled or faltering. Contrary to Pinsky’s “ideation,” the mass murder at Virginia-Tech was not a mental breakdown, but a mission accomplished. Cho was evil in action.
Between his early and late morning killing sprees, Cho paid a visit to a Blacksburg post office. There, he mailed a “multimedia manifesto” to the NBC television network. His thinking was, once again, rational. Having developed a good feel for the campus police’s ineptness, Cho had no qualms about postponing the gruesome finale he had in store for a bit. He was equally astute about placing his trust in the media. Cho knew they would disseminate his feral fulminations, instantiated on QuickTime video, far and near. He knew that, entrusted to smut purveyors like Nancy Grace and Greta van Susteren, the manner in which he likened himself to Christ, and blamed rich kids, hedonism, and Christianity for his failings, would, eventually, become a cult event with apostles.
The experts will now contend falsely that they could have calibrated the killer differently; that their ministrations might have prevented the murderer from murdering. The logic? A killer is not evil, but ill. The witch doctor’s potions can thus exorcise evil, as evil is merely a manifestation of organic disease. Just like cancer. The irony is that Cho was compliant. When he commenced the countdown to the crime, as the LA Times reported, he “began rising earlier, sometimes by 5:30 a.m., to put in his contact lenses, apply his acne medicine, and to take his prescription pills.” (Emphasis added.) The pills didn’t stop Cho, because evil is not an illness to be excised. Like good, evil is a human propensity, to be rejected or pursued.
A well-aimed bullet would have stopped Cho. But gun-free zones are not the only areas in need of reclamation. The concept of the individual as a responsible, self-determining agent is the foundation of a free society. Liberty requires that psychiatric mumbo-jumbo not be allowed to oust morality.
©2007 By Ilana Mercer