Friday, April 20, 2007

Fame and the Future of Mass Murder

Yesterday, I took NBC to task for its willingness eagerness to advance a killer's agenda of becoming famous. On Huffington Post, Cintra Wilson takes it further. Reminding us that Cho explicitly aligned with the Columbine killers and sought to top them, she asks whether NBC hasn't contributed to raising the bar and ensuring that the next sick mass murderer will do even more damage than Cho.

I think we can cut through the arguments about whether future "copycat" killers are likely. They're inevitable. The VTech killer himself tells us that he was a disciple of the Columbine killers. Some tiny fraction of human brains turn out to be horribly buggy. And some of the buggy ones will inevitably be drawn to the fame game. As with TV ratings, movie grosses, and IPOs, unique visitors, and Technorati rankings, the infamy game has a scoreboard.

How long will we wait for the next buggy-brained sociopath to go off his meds and play a round of "Can you top this?" It might be years, but it will happen.

Next time, however, the mediation of a major broadcast network may not be necessary. (for the early-adopter crowd, it wasn't necessary this time.) Dave Winer contemplates the marriage of our evolving arsenal of social media services and abuser-generated content. Dave also has some worthwhile links to other voices in this grim conversation.

Earlier in the week Dave and Doc Searls argued for the release of the entire package unedited and unexpurgated. Doc views it as an application of crowd-sourced debugging:
"More eyes will make the this bug shallower. It may save lives. Even if we see a zillion mashups of the original video, which we'll see eventually anyway."
Doc expanded on that on an NPR interview with Xeni Jardin and in his own blog.

Jeff Jarvis
takes the same position that got Tex Antoine fired many consciousness-raising revolutions ago.

Mickeleh's Take: NBC should have used their editorial judgment, but reversed the filter. Instead of broadcasting and posting the Rambo-glam dress-up movie posters and the bling-envy poetry, they should have aired the sickest, most profanity-laced, and least comprehensible rantings of the killer. That would have serve two purposes: If Doc is right and crowd-sourcing the bugs will help us fix them, then NBC should have put the buggiest bugs out there. If Cintra is right and copycats will look to Cho for guidance, then NBC should have made it really hard for anyone to latch on by showing Cho only at his least accessible, and most incomprehensible.

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Anonymous said...

for the unknowing among us, can you explain the tex antoine reference? thanks.

Michael Markman said...

No, I will not. That's what Google is for. (If he got fired for it, I'm certainly not going to say it. It was a very bad thing to say.)

Unknown said...

I know you're trying to be clever with the link to me -- and I do agree with the rest of what you say -- but I do take exception to the Tex Antione line. I know you're not trying to say that I made a joke about rape -- that you're saying that I suggest an inevitability to this video trend. And I am hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to discussion. But I have to say that I object to the allusion.

Michael Markman said...


I agree and apologize. You are right to object.

It was an ill-considered, ill-framed allusion.

Of course, I meant no literal connection between Tex's career-ending blurt and your nuanced and throughful position on how we can respond to the new and unfettered media landscape.