A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 26, 2007

Cho: The Creation of a Killer

Filed under: children,Crime,Culture,Education,Philosophy,PoliticalScience,Teaching — avoiceofreason @ 6:43 am

Some food for thought. I am not defending the actions of Cho, but to state that “They’re the actions of a madman” does little to look at factors which may be involved in sociopathic behavior.

As experts analyzed the disturbing materials, it became increasingly clear that Cho was almost a classic case of a school shooter: a painfully awkward, picked-on young man who lashed out with methodical fury at a world he believed was out to get him.

When criminologists and psychologists look at mass murders, Cho fits the themes they see repeatedly: a friendless figure, someone who has been bullied, someone who blames others and is bent on revenge, a careful planner, a male. And someone who sent up warning signs with his strange behavior long in advance.

Classmates in Virginia, where Cho grew up, said he was teased and picked on, apparently because of shyness and his strange, mumbly way of speaking.

Once, in English class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., when the teacher had the students read aloud, Cho looked down when it was his turn, said Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior and high school classmate. After the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded “like he had something in his mouth,” Davids said.

“The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, `Go back to China,” Davids said.

School shooters “typically” have this very similar and profoundly disturbing history. They may be created by society.



  1. I completely agree with you.

    In some respects, the interviews with the survivors/witnesses are just as disturbing as Cho’s tape…

    Comment by titaniumwhite — April 26, 2007 @ 7:12 am | Reply

  2. I think I disagree with you. Cho made decisions. To say that society created this villian is to say that everyone who was bullied, everyone who was teased, everyone who was picked on will go on to commit these crimes.

    I have another theory also, what if these types of villians draw this kind of attention? Cho seemed to invite these by not trying to speak, by not trying to make friends. He could have used his counseling sessions for self improvement, instead, he used them to create excuses.

    No question in my mind, that no student, no individual deserves the kind of treatment Cho received prior to the shootings. But let’s not confuse who made the choices.

    Comment by Randy — April 26, 2007 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  3. I have to say that I’m somewhat in the camp of Randy, though I do think there is validation in your post. I think it’s a combo… and that there is a “what came first the chicken or the egg, arguement here….” When really it probably was a combination of factors. I tihnk that Cho obviuosly had some underlying problems… which could have been the cause of his anti-social behavior. WHO KNOWS? where those came from, genetic? birth defect? chemical imbalance? abuse? something that happened in s.korea? something at home? No clue. maybe combination of those. THEN when you pile on that the treatment he recieved… not good.

    My brother was bullied horribly in school. He was a very late boomer and VERY different from his classmates. He is now an amazing pastor (in my opinion) and a constant persuer of people for the Gospel. he keeps a blog at jeffcannell.com called messy church… though he rarely gets a chance to post.

    Kids sure can be awful, heck, adults can too! But his bullying can’t be the sole cause of his bahavior (i’m not sure your are suggesting it as sole cause).

    Comment by mommyzabs — April 26, 2007 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  4. “I think I disagree with you. Cho made decisions. ”

    I think I need to disagree with everyone. Several criminologists, profilers, and psychologists I saw discuss this on the news seemed to present the most valid main point on Cho- and people like him. His mental state made him paranoid and delusional. No matter how he was treated he would have viewed others with paranoia and delusions.

    So to a certain extent his screwed up mental wiring didn’t allow him to make rational decisions. He was that most difficult thing for society to understand- an irrational person. We have that kind of person because we can’t understand them and we can’t stop them.

    Comment by totaltransformation — April 26, 2007 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

  5. We have that kind of person because we can’t understand them and we can’t stop them.


    We have difficulty with…

    Sorry, my daughter was in the room wanting to see pictures of horses on the computer and hit the send key too soon.

    Comment by totaltransformation — April 26, 2007 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  6. To state that “They’re the actions of a madman” does little to look at factors which may be involved in sociopathic behavior.

    Nothing occurs in a vacuum. Sociopathic behavior, however, is a socially constructed phenomenon. We need look no further than the work of Foucault to understand the changing definition of madness across centuries. There is little doubt that the actions taken by Cho could be considered those of a normal human being. There is also little doubt that Cho’s actions were clearly formed within his situated life, the context of his development. Those factors aside, however, thinking about Cho’s medical history, his psychological history, and, as you point out, his social history one might have predicted the outcome of this one alienated young man.

    School shooters “typically” have this very similar and profoundly disturbing history.

    What, then, do you suggest as a solution to this obviously societal problem? If we create ’em we ought to be able to figure out a way to either stop creating them or identifying them in order to prevent their acting on their socially constructed pattern. But how does one stop a crime before it occurs? The law doesn’t allow for that. In order for the police function of the state to be initiated in any given case a crime must have already occurred. I keep coming back to the same thing. Make firearms less accessible (not inaccessible) in order to reduce the probability of such a crime taking place. That would be a start. I don’t have the magic formula for what that regulation should look like but I know we ought to have a serious discussion about just that. One suggestion I heard recently would be to license the purchaser of weapons–one could not buy a firearm (or, perhaps any other weapon) without a federally issued firearms license. It is a solution I tend to like.

    Comment by Roger — April 26, 2007 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

  7. Like most else, for me it comes down to responsibility. I do believe that we as a society have a responsibility in many bad things that happen and are far to quick to point the finger elsewhere. Having said that, Cho had a responsibility as well, a responsibility of recognising that he needed help and to try and get it. There’s never just one cause for something like this. And as long as we fail to reach out rather then condemn, it won’t get much better……

    Comment by spasmicallyperfect — April 26, 2007 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  8. I thank you all for the comments. I received this in my in box at work, and I threw it out there. I happen to agree with many of the points, but also feel that typically there has to be something to work with. However, it is noteworthy that almost all of these young male mass murderers have a very similar case history to Cho. They are typically among the most bullied. Does this mean he and others like him are not culpable, certainly all are responsible for their actions. I also didn’t mean to post this to excuse behavior, but to “explain” some of the factors involved.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 27, 2007 @ 12:22 am | Reply

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