The one act of the Virginia Tech shooter that we can be thankful for is that, when he took his own life after the massacre, he blew his face off. This meant that he could not immediately be identified, which in turn meant delaying the inevitable round of moronic analysis of why he did what he did.
After the Columbine shootings, you’ll recall, we learned the details of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s lives almost immediately–they had web pages! they wore trenchcoats! they listened to Marilyn Manson!–which launched an immediate round of speculation as to what we needed to ban or curb in our society in order to ensure that bad things never happened again. With the Virginia shooter unidentified, there was little for armchair cultural critics to latch on to: we didn’t know his lifestyle, his entertainment tastes or even his citizenship, which made it that much harder to draft him as the poster boy for Insert Your Pet American Cultural Sickness Here.
Not that some haven’t tried. Here’s Dr. Phil McGraw on Larry King Live last night:
[T]he problem is we are programming these people as a society. You cannot tell me — common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they’re on a mass killing spree in a video game, it’s glamorized on the big screen, it’s become part of the fiber of our society. You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high. And we’re going to have to start dealing with that. We’re going to have to start addressing those issues and recognizing that the mass murders of tomorrow are the children of today that are being programmed with this massive violence overdose.
Keep in mind that Dr. Phil has no idea what the shooter was “programmed” with, how he grew up, what his mindset was or what he’s been exposed to culturally. [Indeed, as I type, police are announcing that he was a South Korean resident alien.] We only know that he shot a lot of people, which means that most of the media analysis has focused, uncharacteristically, on the practical steps colleges can take to keep a gunman from succeeding at that.
Information about the shooter’s identity is starting to seep out already, though. Soon enough, Dr. Phil will have plenty of company.
[Update: I'll be watching the coverage, but I've only got two eyes--feel free to post your choicest media absurdities or observations in the comments.]