The Virginia Tech Shootings: A Realistic View of the Murders, Security and the Media

(Editorial by Chris A) Chris A., the author of "A Vulgar Display Of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa" shares his experience on the events surrounding the VA Tech tragedy. He is a former USAF Security Policeman. His new book details the carnage wrought by a mentally ill gunman and tells the inspiring story of heroism and courage in response to the killer. Chris has a bachelors degree in criminal justice in addition to a dual-masters degree in human resources development and public administration. His criminal justice background includes the area of crime prevention and anti-terrorism.

The Virginia Tech Shootings: A Realistic View of the Murders, Security and the Media

The tragic murders at Virginia Tech clearly bring to the forefront two very important societal lessons. First, that security is designed to address and confront the expected and anticipated. Security is for the most part, a reactive posture, thatís simply how it is in a free society. Law enforcers respond to robberies, thefts, parking violations. We as a society and as individuals take proactive steps to protect lives and property from what can reasonably be anticipated. A mentally ill madman determined to slaughter people isnít something anticipated. In fact, despite what some mainstream media outlets will tell you, it is an exceptionally rare happening. That brings us to our second lesson which is perhaps more disturbing. Our nation is plagued with an over-reactive entertainment-oriented media devoid of any true sense of responsibility.

Before the bodies of the students killed that horrific Monday morning were even cold, media pundits immediately started the blame game. Rather than reporting accurate confirmed "news" about the incident in an effort to keep the public informed, the media opted to "create" news. While law enforcement was still in its response phase, the media was gearing up to sensationalize and expound on any facet of information revealed, regardless of its accuracy. Armed only with conjecture and opinion, before even the number of people killed was revealed, so-called "professional journalists" demanded answers to incredibly unreasonable questions. "Why wasnít the campus closed down?" "What is the procedure for dealing with an armed madman killing dozens on campus?" "What was the gunmanís motive?" "Why did the students in the engineering building allow themselves to be lined up and executed without fighting back?"
These questions were not designed to inform but to entrap. They were not asked with the intent of learning about the facts of the incident but rather to rationalize blame. The questions asked by the media that morning were sickening and patently unfair to those officials charged with investigating the facts and disrespectful even to those who perished.

Iíve seen this travesty of journalism over and over again. I was plagued by the impact of bogus reporting as I worked on my third book, "A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa," the true story of the murder of rock star Dimebag Darrell and three heroes who came to his aid. I encountered dozens of myths, legends and downright lies perpetuated by the fact that reporters and news media were more interested in ratings and scooping their competitors than reporting facts and truth. The result of this type of "shoot from the hip" reporting is that the errors of early "breaking news" tend to become fact even if itís inaccurate. The reality is the investigation into the murders at Virginia Tech will not be completed for perhaps a year or more. A murder investigation is a complex very detailed analysis and that takes time. However the report will reveal the true implications and lessons learned from the incident. However, by the time the report is generated the media will have moved onto other stories, the final report on the murders will be old news and the facts will be relegated to the third page of the B section of the Sunday paper.

Regarding the four questions posed earlier in this article, hereís a realistic answer to each.
"When the initial report of two murders was reported, why wasnít the campus closed down?" The fact is there was nothing to indicate the murders reported around 7:30 am were anything other than a terrible domestic murder. Itís an incredible stretch to believe that somehow law enforcement is supposed to surmise that it was in fact a diversion. As terrible as a double-murder is, that action alone is not a rational basis for closing down a campus or shutting down an entire town. Life must go on.

"What is the procedure for dealing with an armed madman killing dozens of people on campus?" This is an utterly ridiculous question. Security is reactive in most cases but even when there are documented protocols for dealing with situations an armed person killing dozens is out of the norm. Hereís the fact. Security costs money, lots of money, and the reality is that Virginia Tech, The Alrosa Villa, Columbine High School, and myriad other facilities could indeed have incredible securityÖhowever youíre not willing or able to pay for it. Security is very, very expensive.

"What was the gunmanís motive?" Without a complete investigation motive canít be ascertained. In fact, this question was bandied about by the media before the name of the gunman was even known.

Perhaps the most disturbing question Iíve heard on TV and radio was the question: "How could 30 people allow themselves to be lined up against a wall and shot one by one?" That question makes me ill. Itís divisive, disrespectful and is absolutely baseless until an investigation is completed. Iíll wager there were plenty of heroics and selflessness on that campus and in that chamber of horrors yet the media focuses on what they feel is apathy and implies cowardice on the part of those brutally murdered.
I wonder how each police officer, firefighter and paramedic feels after their response. Why do we hear almost nothing about these heroes who faced true peril and the unknown. They did the best they could in a fluid and almost unimaginable situation. Yet itís the face of the killer and his name I see on TV, the internet, and the front page of my newspaper.

My heart is broken as I consider the events of Monday the 16th of April. What I do know is that in the long run good always triumphs over evil. As I often tell people when I discuss my book, we all know who Jeffery Dahmer is, we all know who John Gacy is, but rarely can anyone tell me the name of a single person they murdered. Itís important that we remember and honor the memory of those slain. In recent years our mainstream media has created an over indulgence and emphasis on "societal-blame." Virginia Tech is no different. We now know who the killer is, the man who pulled the trigger, yet our media seeks to try to rationalize his guilt by blaming society. The fact is, remove one person from this incident and there is no incident. Rational, intelligent people need to understand that the facts of this incident will not be available for months. Our law enforcement community requires time to investigate this incident but some media outlets will do all it can to divert them in an effort to generate "news." We need the "true story" if we are to extract lessons and learn from the incident.

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