Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Virginia Tech: In the tunnel with the rest of us

Posted in guns, media by allisonkilkenny on April 19, 2007

The gifts of squirrel and possum carcasses the 30 Rock folk offered their peacock god have paid off. Cho Seun-hui, the kid who shot up Virginia Tech, mailed his rambling manifesto to the NBC studios, giving them the exclusive story into his motives. And boy-oh-boy, are people concerned with motives. The media wonders about Cho’s motives, and now the public wonders about the media’s motives to broadcast Cho’s manifesto. All coverage of the Virginia events surround speculation about loners, publicity-hungry networks, and background checks at gun shops.

But no one talks about the real story: Guns are legal.

After the atrocities at Virginia Tech, the media underwent its familiar pattern of “surface diagnosis.” This is when media correspondents harp upon superficial details of a story and become unknowing (or perhaps knowing) participants in “spin.” Suddenly the story became less about the victims and more about Cho — his childhood, relationships, and motives.

As if there is a good reason to blow away your classmates, and if the news stations devote enough time to analysis, they’ll find it. Every available talking head has their own theory for why Cho fell off the deep end. Could it simply be that Mr. Seun-hui was….I dunno….crazy?

But this is not the point. Everyone knows there is no good reason to massacre our fellow human beings. The major news networks’ obsession with Cho’s motives are surface diagnosis. For example: A
psychopath, who was known to his university as a deeply disturbed, unstable young man, marches over to the local gun depository, and purchases a Glock 19.

Now, it’s easy to “surface diagnose” this situation. Why didn’t the gun dealer communicate with the university? Why didn’t the university have Cho Seung-hui forcefully committed after he stalked two girls and made his creative writing professor so uncomfortable that she had hand signals (indicating to call the police) for her assistant if Cho ever showed up and began to threaten her? Clearly, the warning bells were a-ringin’, and had been for some time. These are all important points, but there is a bigger undiscussed problem.

To discuss these smaller stories in this way is to discuss it from inside the “tunnel.” We (citizens, the media, special interest groups, lobbyists, think tanks, neo-conservatives and neo-liberals) all helped to build the tunnel. The tunnel is narrow policy. The tunnel is the reason presidential candidates only discuss a handful of issues, very briefly and without great detail, during debates. The tunnel is the reason the media only discusses effects and never causes. They cover arrests and massacres but never discuss the policy behind the effects.

Outside the tunnel is the real story: WHY ARE GUNS STILL LEGAL?! Pardon the outraged liberal upper-caps, but C’MON! PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY?? The is the real story behind the Virginia Tech massacre, but gun laws are policy, so they’re off-limits to the media, who are safely nestled inside the tunnel.

It’s a bunch of hooey when the NRA gun nuts march into town and talk about everyone’s civil liberties. As if anyone has ever been shot through the chest during a bank robbery and thought, “Thank God for Mr. Charlton Heston.” There’s also this argument:

Gun nut: If we really lived in the Land of the Free, all dem kids woulda had guns, and dey coulda den shot him right ‘tween’ his lil’ slanty-eyes, that chink motherfucker Imma kill me some Korean Jap bastards RAWWWWWWWRrrrrrrr!!!!!!1

Me: … what?

That’s a great idea, Larry. Let’s arm the college kids, so when they get drunk at keggers, and fight over which frat brother grabbed Tina’s boob, they can shoot it out in front of the Sigma house. Kudos on an excellent policy decision.

The truth is this: guns do more harm than they do good, period. A Virginia Tech-sized portion of the American populations dies every day from guns. Yes, what happened in Virginia is a national tragedy, but 30 people die from guns EVERY DAY in this country. EVERY DAY. This is the story of policy outside the tunnel that we need to address.

But the media, in its tunnel, refuses to have this debate. You will never hear a politician muse about banning handguns because they fear the NRA and its lobbyists, who still have incredible reach and pull in the government and economy.

Gun nut: But hey, hippy, crime has been around since the beginning of time! If Cho hadn’t used guns, he would have used knives or some shit! BlahblahblahBlue Collar TV.

My mother also confronted me with this line of argument yesterday (it wasn’t a proud moment for either of us.) I countered with this: If Cho had entered that hall with a knife instead of Glock 19 and .22 caliber Walther P22 handgun, how many people do you realistically think he would have killed? One? Two, at the most. The truth is: 33 people are dead because of guns.

If Cho had wandered into that gun depository and their shelves had been stacked with delicious corn instead of assault weaponry, this would be a very different blog.

But we have been in the tunnel, built by corporations and their think tanks, for so long that we can’t see these bigger issues anymore.

You can find examples of the tunnel syndrome and surface diagnosis everywhere. Media coverage rarely addresses American foreign policy, the War on Drugs, or the price-gouging of the pharmaceutical companies. Instead, we get stories about another 135 faceless brown people blown to bits in some Iraqi village, the two stoner kids busted for holding an eighth of weed, and crazy old Hilda Fisher racing across the Canadian border in her Rascal so she can find some cheap pills.

And we think: what a crazy world! Where did all this hate and suffering come from?

Now people are foaming at the mouth because NBC showed Cho’s media package where he is seen posing with the guns and bitching about normal teenage annoyances, like rich girls who won’t pay him the time of day. As a media network, NBC had a duty to show the videos. End of story. It’s not as though they showed them with a caption that read: SUPER AWESOME GUY. Such a caption creates bias, and then they could be accused of glorifying the killer. Saying NBC is glorifying the killer is a surface diagnosis. Saying there will be copycat killers is a surface diagnosis. The true diagnosis is:

Guns are legal
Guns kill people.
They are designed to cause maximum destruction
Crazy people can buy guns
Crazy people will kill innocent people

From birth, we’re told the “true patriots” thwarted the British, usually depicted as snarling apelike creatures in red jackets. How did we win the motherland? With guns, bucko! Full-blooded Americans love guns, and if you don’t, you’re a commie. Or worse…French. If you don’t have a gun and support gun rights, the government will come into our homes and sit in our livingrooms, and refuse to leave, which is really unthoughtful because I’ve had a hard day and just wanted to watch American Idol, Government.

The United States of America has the greatest army in the world. They could crush a popular uprising even if every single American citizen was armed to the teeth. And do we want to get into an arms race with our own government? Quick, Cledus! Get the nuke! I think them feds are comin’! Maybe we should be less preoccupied with arming ourselves and more centered on policy discussions, outside the tunnel of gun rights and patriotic facades.

Our country is sick and the diagnosis is bad policy decisions. Why don’t people realize this basic diagnosis? It’s not entirely ignorant America’s fault. We’ve been kept deaf and blind by the media, and dumb by the government, who makes it their business to keep disenfranchised minorities silent and permanently marginalized. We’re born into the tunnel and kept there by the endless cycle of surface diagnosis and spin offered to us by an increasingly conglomerated media.

The good news: You can escape the tunnel.

It’s true! Like individuals who escape cults, you can claw your way out of the darkness. It just takes some reprogramming. The next time your local news covers a story about the cops making a drug bust, pay attention. Right as you feel yourself accepting that the story has a beginning and end that correlate with the beginning and end of thirty seconds of video footage, STOP.


They’ll show footage of the officers emptying brick after brick of weed onto the table set up before the cameras. Then, see if the anchors mention anything about the War on Drugs, the fact that the majority of prisoners in the United States are non-violent drug offenders, or any kind of reference to the botched foreign relations in Latin America. They probably won’t.

This next step is important: Call your local news team. Ask them why they chose not to mention the failed War on Drugs, or the exploitation and systematic torture of the Latin American population. Hold them accountable for their ignorance and perpetuation of the tunnel. If we demand more of our media and government, they will listen. They have to, right? After all, we live in this supposed democracy, so if they didn’t, they’d be admitting it’s actually a fascist regime! HA! Ha…ha…….ha.

Always ask the bigger question. Whenever you see a story on the news, wonder what policy created the effect, the story. If there is a story about a mentally ill man who stabbed a woman on a subway platform, wonder what welfare system failed him that he was not in a safe facility, receiving medical care. The next time you receive a medical bill and cringe at the price, remember that Americans pay for THE worst medical health care system of all the first world countries, and that our arch-enemy, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, offered his own people universal health care coverage.

Make no mistake: you are born into the tunnel. All Americans are. Fortunately, our society is free enough where there are alternative sources of media. Remember: think big, think past the surface diagnosis to the causes — the government policies — that create the world we live in.

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2 Responses

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  1. john said, on May 11, 2007 at 7:07 am

    Speaking of the comment about ridicule vs. criticism, I have to say I agree. Ridiculing a figure revered by billions gets us no where, and though it may be funny it’s still derogatory. If you wanna criticize, go ahead. At least that’s respectful.

    Then, speaking of the comment about free speech… well I’ve just gotta say that of course you have free speech. It’s a wonderful thing to have and no one’s taking it away from you, but doesn’t that free speech come with certain level of responsibility? You allowed to offend as many people as you want, but is that the kind of world you really want to live in? A bunch of people who are in a bad mood? What ever happened to “kindness”… or how about “goodwill to men”? That really supersedes religion and you oughta think about that regardless of what beliefs you hold.

    Finally, concerning the comment about offending Christians vs. Muslims. Really, why is it OK to offend members of the majority religion, but it’s so un-PC to do it to minority groups? In fact, that doesn’t just apply to members of the majority religion, but to the majority at all. It seems the most hated demographic these days is the Christian white male, and it’s OK to say all kinds of nasty things about them, but people don’t dare say a thing about anyone else. There are a ton of people that belong to Christian, white, or male categories that are really good and nice people, and plenty that are all of these things are still innocent.

    My question is, where has simple consideration for other people gone?

    By the way, I laugh at some of these jokes – I’m not saying they’re not funny, but why have people come to think that comedy should be exempt from the cultural rules of civility and respect? Has our culture really become that callous, cynical, and disrespectful?

    I know it’s the “in thing” to be anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-male, anti-American… whatever. Just cause everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean you should, too.

    Normally I roll all this stuff off my back and take it with a grain of salt, but I just wish people would think about these things sometimes.

    Peace! 🙂 (609) 610-2757

  2. Static said, on May 11, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    It is so wonderful to read an American Perspective on this that doesn’t read like this:

    “V.Tech was a tradgedy, BUT guns aren’t the problem.”

    As for your hypotheical “gun lover” argument, I can tell you’ve been talking to your fellow americans *rolls her eyes* I’ve read those arguments from people I know online.

    It makes is want to hurl.
    really. It does, sometimes.

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