Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune notes the strange decision by NBC to put its NBC News logo and the NBC peacock, “in all its multicolored glory,” on the videos and photos that it released of Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung Hui. This is one strange network that seems to have no moral compass whatsoever. It fires Don Imus, under pressure from the left-wing Media Matters group, Al Sharpton and its own host, Keith Olbermann, when the words, though offensive, didn’t actually hurt anybody in the physical sense. But it then gives a national platform to the hateful words and images of someone who killed 32 people, on the dubious pretext that we need to understand the twisted mind of a demented killer.
Authorities say that NBC’s broadcast of the words and images didn’t add anything to their investigation of the crime. All it did was anger millions of people by taking the media attention away from the victims and possibly inspiring more threats of violence against students and schools across the country. NBC officials had to know that airing the material would increase the danger of more violence, especially during the week of the anniversary of the Columbine massacre at a Colorado high school. Let us hope and pray that more lives of our precious young people will not be lost because of the reckless and irresponsible actions of NBC.
What NBC did was comparable to Al-Jazeera airing al-Qaeda and terrorist videos. It is not done so that we can understand the mind of a terrorist. It is done in Al-Jazeera’s case so that the terrorists can intimidate their intended victims and transmit their propaganda. I don’t think NBC wanted more copycat murders to occur as a result of airing the Virginia Tech killer’s materials, but it had to know that this would be a risk associated with such a decision. It had to know that more death could follow. But it went ahead anyway.
Make no mistake about it. This was done for ratings and profits. And that is why the NBC News logo and NBC peacock were on the materials distributed to other media. NBC wanted “credit” for this trash. The corporate suits thought that people seeing the NBC brand name on the video would come back to NBC for more updates about the story. For no other reason than that it wanted to be associated in the public mind with the killer’s “multimedia manifesto,” as anchor Brian Williams called it, the network plastered its brand name and symbol all over this sick material. Of course, it also sends the message to other potential killers that NBC is their network of choice. NBC has become the Al-Jazeera of mass murderers.
The backlash has started. The reaction to NBC News is being reflected in signs appearing on the Virginia Tech campus that say, “Media Stay Away.” Family members of victims cancelled their appearances on the NBC Today Show because they were very upset with NBC for airing the material. On Friday, a national day of mourning for the victims, NBC News correspondent Kristen Dahlgren acknowledged on MSNBC that Virginia Tech was at first welcoming to the media but that after the airing of the killer’s video tapes, photos and statements, the attitude changed to the point where students and others became “very vocal” against the media and “They want us to leave at this point.”
On Thursday, during the day, NBC News issued a statement saying, in part, that “We did not rush the material onto air, but instead consulted with local authorities, who have since publicly acknowledged our appropriate handling of the matter.” MSNBC anchors went further on the air, saying that authorities had “cleared” NBC’s release of the material. But all of this was a lie. A Virginia State police official was briefly shown on the NBC Nightly News on Thursday night, in a story by correspondent Pete Williams, saying that NBC should not have aired the material. Williams didn’t explain the contradiction between what NBC had claimed and what the official said. Reporting from the campus, correspondent Mike Taibbi did say, “What many here want is for the media to go home.”
In the Williams story, NBC News president Steve Capus justified the decision to show the material, saying, “I thought we had an obligation” because it would shed light on “what was inside the mind of this killer.”
In fact, Virginia State Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty did more than take issue with what NBC had done. He told reporters that he was “rather disappointed” at the network’s decision to broadcast “these disturbing images” and that “I’m sorry you were all exposed to these images.” He also said, “We already knew why he did this and seeing these pictures makes a lot of pain that we really don’t need and the families don’t need either.”
So the material doesn’t tell us anything new, it’s very hurtful to the people of the area, and NBC lied about having official approval or clearance to air it.
The public is now asking what was going on in the minds of the corporate suits running NBC News and MSNBC. These executives, led by Capus, ran the risk of more bloodshed for the sake of ratings and profit. They are far worse than Imus, the guy they fired for being offensive.