Saturday, April 21, 2007

Taken By Self

The language of the mass killer. Has anyone studied this? I'm wondering if there are commonalities. I'm struck by the theme and tone of Seung-Hui Cho's self-videotaped rants. There's a lot of second-person accusation, which I suppose stands to reason, but I'm intrigued by the theme of entrapment, of being cornered, of being left no choice. And then he contradicts himself: "I didn't have to do this," he says. "I could have left, I could have fled."

What does he mean?

Then he says no, he can no longer run away. He suggests this is a means of facing the truth finally, of confronting a problem that demands to be resolved. Here he lapses drowsily into predictable martyr-speak, how he's doing this on behalf of some imaginary family of kindred and similarly marginalized souls, his "children" (an interesting term – is he anticipating copycats in the near or distant future?), his "brothers and sisters" whom, he adds venomously, "you fucked." In the moment he says "fucked" his face flashes with malevolent life. He capitalizes on the hardness and violence of the word to give his accusation a mysterious ring of truth.

What is he talking about?

Whatever it is, he means it.

The title of one of the countless video clips on YouTube of Cho's videos is "Video of Cho Seung-Hui, Virginia Tech Killer, Taken by Self," which is interesting because it could be read two ways. At least.

"You decided to spill my blood," he says. He spilled his own blood of course – he was taken by self – so this is in one sense an interesting interpretation of the suicidal urge. We generally believe that urge to be voluntary – a willful, if irrational, reaction to hopelessness from within. But Cho thinks we did it. We forced him to do this. Perhaps other suicides, depressive suicides, the more common ones I suppose, never forfeit the social contract and, finding themselves ill-equipped or no longer willing to keep up their end, direct their nihilistic urge inward to the ultimate point. It appears that Cho never bought into any of it, freeing him to narcissistically direct his outward, to make an explosive statement of redemptive extroversion.

And of course, that's why he gave us his video artifact. Self-glorifying, self-serving, self-centered. Taken by self.

Out of this fucking life, I suppose, you gotta take something.