Monday, April 23, 2007

of note

One article in the Times Online quotes extensively from Camille Paglia (among others) regarding the VA Tech massacre. I hate to say it, but I found Paglia's take disappointing: she, too, has fallen into the trap of interpreting Cho's behavior through the faulty lens of systems and structures. Her rhetoric about frustrated maleness would be more impressive if it had any predictive value, but it doesn't. We're all capable of Monday morning quarterbacking.

The Times Online article also angers me because it contains some inexcusable speculation about Cho's state of mind, with the journalist essentially writing fiction in the omniscient third person. Whatever happened to simply reporting the facts?

A second article about the massacre, this time over at MSNBC, is much more to my liking in that it explores the various biological, social, and psychological factors that may or may not lead a person to snap and go on a killing spree. Unfortunately, one major issue-- the individual will-- doesn't make an appearance until the very end of the article, where it seems almost like an afterthought or a punchline.

I wondered at this for a bit, then realized that embarking on a serious discussion about the nature of human will might have been a bit too airy-fairy for a "serious" news outlet like MSNBC. Instead of engaging in some intensive philosophical reflection (which obviously has no place in the realm of public discourse, and would doubtless tax the average reader), the article's writers chose to save their thoughts until the last possible moment. Too bad, that.

A third link is to Dr. Vallicella's blog, to a timely post that cautions us to treat journalistic claims with skepticism. In this post, Vallicella is particularly concerned with the claim that Cho's mass murder was "the worst mass killing in US history." Given what Dr. V has dug up, I will retract-- with apologies-- every instance in which I parroted the claim in question.


1 comment:

hardyandtiny said...

There is no worst of anything.
Great post Hairy!