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Why Did We Need to Know? TMI After Blacksburg

3:53 a.m.

Thank God for exhaustion, or I wouldn’t have gotten the hours of sleep that I did. A long hot bath helped, though there isn’t enough soap and water to clean out my head. A heavy dose of bed-time narrative – imagine Kurt Vonnegut as escape fiction! – and I was finally able to knock myself out. And then my little boy called in the night: I’m thirsty, it’s too dark, something. And now I can’t get that other voice out of my head, that fully grown, lip-quivering boy at the perfect storm of petulance, his self-loathing narcissism gone murderous.

If you haven’t seen the Virginia Tech murderer’s rant, my counsel is to avoid it. It is toxic. And no, I did not take my own advice. I couldn’t not watch. Get right inside the mind of a mass killer! Step right up, folks, and see the Wounded Boy! Hurry, hurry, hurry! It’s Actual Footage! Live! Inside the heart of darkness! Tell your friends, invite your enemies, forward this everywhere! And please, don’t forget to patronize our sponsors… When I wrote about Dawson College and the shooting there on that bitter day last fall, I refused to name the shooter, just as I do when I reflect on the earlier Montreal Massacre. How quaint, how fussy that now seems when NBC News has decided to air the ravings of the Blacksburg killer. NBC itself is BIG NEWS today! So, by extension, is the Globe and Mail and all the other TV, print and online media that have dutifully obeyed the pre-death wishes of that catastrophically maladjusted man-child in Virginia. (No, I won’t name him, either. I crave the conquest of barren hillsides. I fight battles out of time. I’m an idiot, but I do what I can.)

I am stunned by what I saw. I am bewildered that I could click on a bit of text and bring the sickness, the disgusting narcissism of raging injury right into my house, right into my heart. (“Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my hope…” Pray and pray.) I wonder at the decision-making process of the major media. WAS there any? Well, DUH, of course we run it!! We’ll never have a scoop this loaded again! The number of jolts this provides to the planet is beyond counting. We will watch and watch again, a lurid and haunted fascination. We don’t know what’s good for us.

So while the commentators (like me) prattle about “copy-cat killings”, now the Manual for Impotent Men is available free, in deathly colour. It’s the school for scandalous action. And now YOU can get the revenge you deserve! It WORKS, kids! When the revenge fantasies don’t work anymore, try reality! The guy’s a hero now. He has a constituency. He’s the patron saint of Glock masturbation. He has been given exactly the public exaltation that he lusted for in his pornographically petulant dreams. We nourish this madness. We feed upon it. It is unbelievable. It is this week’s sign of apocalypse, if we needed one.

No doubt there will be pious invocations of the public’s right to know, the sober responsibility of the broadcaster and the journalist. But this is the ultimate sell-out. NBC has hit a jackpot, and they’ll keep pulling that slot machine’s crank. Vonnegut couldn’t have invented a humour so bitterly black, where mass murder and mass media join hands and celebrate the power of rage and heartbreak. In Canada, the families of slain and dishonoured girls fought long and achingly, at an emotional cost we can’t imagine, to restrain access to the ugly evidence in the Bernardo trial. Can you imagine now how the families of the Virginia Tech innocents are feeling, knowing that this filth is number one with an on-line bullet? Can you imagine their decision, to watch or not? I pray that they don’t, but what if they do?

I will try not to watch again. My eyes are raw and my gut hurts, but I’m like a billion others. I want to understand. (Ah, noble intentions. Or maybe I just want to say, Didja see? Didja see? Maybe I just want to peek into that corner we all know is off limits. It’s psychological pornography, and we get to justify it with all kinds of righteous reasons. Didn’t NBC?) But I do want to be able to sleep. Macbeth comes to mind. (I’ll name the Scottish play, but I won’t name the Blacksburg bastard. And yet I hear he had hardworking parents. Dry cleaners. Out, out damned spot!) Do you remember the aftermath of murder in the play?

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth doth murder sleep,’ – the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds…

It’s 5:03 a.m. I’ll try sleep again, but even writing doesn’t seem too cathartic right now. We will all sleep again. (Pray for the sleep of the bereaved families. And I hope, too vengefully, that somewhere news executives are losing a few nights of their own.)

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