[1:40PM PT] MSNBC is reporting that Cho Seung-Hui, the presumed gunman in Monday's Virginia Tech killings, express-mailed a package of correspondence to NBC News during the two hours between the first and second shootings. NBC has shared the contents with FBI investigators.
The package is said to have contained a DVD or CD which held a PDF document with embedded QuickTime videos, digital photos, and 1800 words of run-on psycho text. The contents of the disc are said to have amounted to a total of 27 video clips and 43 still photos, each of which was separately captioned. In Cho's diatribe, he calls the two young men responsible for the Columbine massacre "martyrs." Snip from MSNBC transcript:
"We received a package that included some images a lengthy diatribe. We believe it may shed some light on what he was doing between the first shooting and the second. It includes some images, and a disturbing, rambling, multi-page statement. (...) We are not going to give out any specifics of the information."Via TV Newser.
[2:30PM PT] UPDATE: NBC has published a statement. Snip:
Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” said in a posting on the program’s “Daily Nightly” blog that the communication was received earlier Wednesday. He described it as a very long “multimedia manifesto.”Link to photo excerpts, video excerpts, and report.
The package, timestamped in the two-hour window between Monday's shootings, was sent to NBC News head Steve Capus.It contained digital photos of the gunman holding weapons and a manifesto that "rants against rich people and warns that he wants to get even," The Associated Press quoted an unidentified New York law enforcement official familiar with the case as saying. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Police said the development might be "a very new, critical component of this investigation.""We're in the process right now of attempting to analyze and evaluate its worth," said Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of Virginia State Police.
A professor at the University of South Carolina who asks to remain anonymous says,
Ben "August" Smith, my former student who shot eleven people, did something similar. He mailed a letter explaining his motives to World Church of the Creator head Matt Hale. Hale received them after Smith was dead and went public with them as part of his propaganda message.[4:30PM PT] UPDATE. The Associated Press has posted a longer compilation of the clips NBC aired so far: Link.
The Chicago Tribune's "The Watcher" blog has an extensive post with details on what Cho sent to NBC News: Link.
BB reader Adam J points out that the sender on that package label is entered as "A. Ishmael," or some such spelling, and
...the return address is 88 Revel Dr. I live in Blacksburg, work at Tech, there is no Revel Dr. Perhaps it is revel as in "to take intense pleasure or satisfaction"?BB reader J P adds,
Actually, looks like the return address reads '88 revol dr', as in lover backwards. Tip o' the hat to Sonic Youth, perhaps? A spurned lover?As mentioned in a previous BoingBoing post, the words "Ismail Ax" were reported to have been written in red ink -- or tattooed -- on Cho's arm when his corpse was found. Much speculation has circulated online about whether "Ishmael/Ismail" may or may not refer to the persona that figures prominently in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religious teachings.
Even if we do eventually glean meaning from that detail or any of the others in Cho's Web 2.0 vanity package -- will any of that help us understand why a mentally ill sociopath took the lives of 32 fellow human beings on Monday? Does it make any difference?
The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004. The poses in the two images are nearly very similar, and the plot of the movie, Oldboy, seems dark enough to merit at least some further study.Link to image comparison, and here is the plot summary, here is the NYT's film review of "Oldboy." (Thanks, W. Vann Hall)
NBC has a dozen Quicktime videos of the Virginia Tech killer. They're sifting through them and deciding what to release and what not to release. This is wrong. It's 2007, and it's a decentralized world. We should all get a chance to see what's on those videos. Given enough time the focus will go on their process, much better to just let it all out now, with no editorial judgement.Dave points to thoughts on that same subject by Doc Searls:
Cho sent those recordings to a major broadcast network. Not to the police, not to other individuals. (Far as we know.) Clearly he wanted his recordings broadcast -- after the deeds were done, and he was dead as well.
We don't know if he thought about uploading them to YouTube. But, since he planned to fill the rest of his morning with murder, it's likely that he didn't want to post his plans on the Live Web -- where somebody might see it and get authorities to stop him. So he opted instead for snail mail and a big bang later on the small screen. YouTube would come, inevitably, later.
From what I gather, the police have seen and cleared the recordings for disclosure. So, presumably, there is no reason to protect anybody (for example, individuals Cho may have targeted for murder) other than broadcast viewers. (This is required by law, fwiw.)
So I think Dave is right. If there is nothing to hide here, other than obscenities that cannot be broadcast on TV or radio, there is no reason why NBC should withhold the recordings other than the belief that they own them, and hold them as property. That's their right; but it does not help the rest of us get clues that might help prevent another tragedy like this one.
And this tragedy isn't just about Cho and NBC. It's about the rest of us.
So I agree with Dave. More eyes will make the this bug shallower. It may save lives. Even if we see a zillion mashups of the original video, which we'll see eventually anyway.
Over the next few days, as we wonder about causes and mourn those who fell victim to gunfire at Virginia Tech University on Monday, we will hear many fervent, ill-advised calls for quick technological fixes meant to prevent another such incident.Read the whole thing here: Link.
We will hear "experts" on cable news shows blame video games for the rise in gun violence among young people - despite the fact that the rise in popularity of violent video games coincides with a remarkable drop in gun violence in all sectors of American society.
We will hear others blame the university for not investing in technology that would have made it easier to alert students about the unfolding events. And we have already read foolish calls from conservative law professors and others who insist that deregulating a particularly deadly technology – firearms – would make our campuses safer. After all, they argue, if someone had been able to shoot back at the attacker, fewer people would have died. So Virginia should allow firearms on campus, they argue.
But as we begin to examine what happened Monday morning in Blacksburg, we must resist the temptation to rush to judgment and draw ill-conceived lessons from the event while emotions are so raw and the pain so intense.
As a culture, we are very bad at thinking about technology. We look to it either as something to fear or as a panacea for the flaws of the human condition. Technology is neither. It is merely an extension of our own wills and capabilities.
Previously on BB: