the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Lessons Learned

I noticed that quite a few of my blogging friends mentioned the Virginia Tech shootings in their posts. Most of the posts were eloquent and moving. I find I have very little to say during events like this. At a certain point, too many words become noise.

The news media doesn’t have the luxury of saying what’s on their mind in one blog post, then moving on. They love to milk tragic events… for days. It’s just what they do. Reporters go on Facebook, trying to get VT college students to speak to them, like vultures looking for prey. Some have criticized this action, but hey, news events move fast now, and searching online is the modern way. This bothers me less than the packaging of tragic events as pseudo-entertainment.

Diane Sawyer, on a special Primetime, “A Killer Revealed,” was particularly moronic in some of her statements.

After talking about Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, who blocked the door so his students could escape from the window:

“Of all the lessons that you can be taught at college, the lesson of this type of bravery is the best.”

Huh? What does that mean? What lesson did they exactly learn? And why did they have to learn a lesson at all? Is this the Cosby show?

It’s also not enough for the families and friends to grieve for their loved ones. WE have to participate.

Diane Sawyer again:

“For more than 30 of them, it was too late almost from the beginning. And for the families of those that died, tonight the pain, as the poem said, is pitched way past grief. Then by the minute those of us, the rest of us, look into the details of their young lives ,of those who were lost, and in a sense — we become family, too.”

We’re family now? Of course, the real families will have to live with this tragedy forever. For the TV “family,” we’ll be upset until… hmm… Sunday.


  1. Ash

    I also have nothing to say. Well, I have one thing to say – more babies than that die every single day in my home country… and no-one says anything on the news.

  2. better safe than sorry

    i find the coverage almost overwhelming, while i’m interested in getting details and facts, like most coverage on cnn, it becomes too much. i think i’m drawn to it because i’ve got a child away at school and something like this can just as easily happen here as did there. my heart goes out to those families for their loss, i can’t even begin to comprehend how they must be feeling.

  3. Jennifer

    You are so right. I had CNN on all day yesterday b/c I wanted to watch the afternoon convocation. They kept running the same footage over and over and over again until I was ready to scream. Didn’t anything happen in Iraq yesterday? Could we have caught up on that while we were waiting for the service to begin?
    And my favorite interviews were the ones where the reporter asked, oh so solemnly, “what were you thinking when you were hiding behind that desk?” Um, hmmm, how about “Oh shit, I’m about to die???” What the hell are you supposed to be thinking??
    Tragic, frightening, horrible day, but 24 hour media saturation doesn’t make it better.

  4. Finn

    I rarely post about things like this because everything I attempt sounds so trite, so much like meaningless platitudes.

    While this is horrible and tragic, it didn’t happen to me, so I feel no need to add to the background noise.

  5. schmutzie

    I usually avoid these kinds of things in my weblog, as well, because the reporting is myriad. I also hide from news sites and television, because there is a tendency to make this sort of situation about everyone, which makes me distinctly uncomfortable. We do not own it.

  6. Sizzle

    “is this the cosby show?”


  7. You can call me, 'Sir'

    Disaster seems to bring out the worst in our media. The shameless speculation and the sensationalism make me want to move to a very remote island and eat coconuts for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I’d have to give up the internets, which means I’d have to say so long to reading your daily baloney. And that’s unacceptable. Damn you, Neil, for stepping on my dreams of island living.

  8. amanda

    i mean, i totally get what you are saying. i really just wanted the facts of the day last night when i had turned on the TV. i couldn’t find anything straightforward. so i turned off the TV and put on an episode of “this american life” from 2001, which is a comment on how irrelevant i find the news to be. i might as well be listening to something that aired six years ago. this is a terrible thing, and it’s all i can do to stop asking myself, “what’s the f-ing point?”

  9. Jazz

    Seems like we have the same proccupations Neil. I had started writing about this and mentioned you because damn you are in my head.

  10. Churlita

    I know it was a horrible tragedy, but I think we all reach a saturation point about just how much we can hear about it. I feel for the families, but I doubt it helps to have Diane Sawyer saying stupid things about them on TV.

    If you turn your blog into the Cosby Show, will you start wearing one of those groovy sweaters?

  11. Bre

    The media is driving me insane with this. I don’t watch the specials, though I’m not sure if it’s because it’s my own way of protesting or just protecting myself from the grief.

    Why can’t we just let them deal with this peacefully?

  12. Postmodern Sass

    HURRAH for you, Neil! I thought it was just me. We had the local ABC news at our school yesterday, wanting to interview students and professors about the shooting, and I kept hearing them talk about family and how they all felt so deeply for those people on the other side of the country. Such bullshit. I will never, ever, understand Americans. You fight for the rights of ordinary citizens to bear arms, and yet every time someone uses them, you act surprised.

  13. Alison

    Well said.

  14. Neil

    Two other thoughts:

    I really hope they never make a movie about this. I know they will. The New York Times will applaud it for what it says about “gun control.”

    I really don’t think the South Korean government owes any special apology. I can understand the fears in the Asian community since the killer was Asian. I really hope this doesn’t become an issue. Whenever something bad happens, I know my mother is always thinking, “God help us if he’s Jewish.” This young man clearly had something wrong with him, and he became evil. There were so many signs that this kid was off. Pretty sad.

  15. tiff

    There’s other news in this world. You’d think they could cut away from this horrific event to fill us in on OTHER horrific events.

    Or something about puppies. Puppies are cute, and would allow a brief respite between bouts of horrific events.

  16. Ariel

    Urgh, American news reporting, dripping with sensationalist sentimentality and thus utterly nauseating. Not to mention that cutesy approach that forbids any hard-hitting footage should be shown (have you ever seen body bags coming back from Iraq on a US news channel, have you?) and the relentless self-satisfied delivery of the news anchors…

  17. Nance

    I get so sick of the way the media tosses out words like “family” and “hero” until those words just don’t have meaning anymore. Now, professional athletes are heroes and people watching television are instant family. It is sickening.

  18. CuriosityKiller

    Diane Sawyer makes no sense. What is that? Poetry?

    As ironic as the shooting itself.

  19. Janet

    The media spin on events like these always leave me cold. I will probably post something on the issue on the blog but I haven’t had the time, or the words, to say just yet. Maybe by then the noise won’t feel nearly as deafening.:(

  20. Laurel

    If it’s going to be All VA-Tech, All The Time, I’d rather hear about the victims, what they were studying, what they were like, etc., rather than glorifying the disturbed killer who doesn’t deserve the publicity… On a friendlier note, hope the lovely Sopiha is feeling better today. You ARE at her beck and call, right? *wink*

  21. mckay

    i’ve never been a fan of d. sawyer. the media makes their own feelings the story.

  22. plain jane

    For some reason all the rah-rah about V Tech being a family bugs me too. The cheerleaders at the convocation didn’t sit right with me.

    Did anyone hear Franklin Graham’s comments? Who’s crazy here?

    As for the S. Korean apology, nice thought, but how about a U.S. apology? This is where the killer grew up.

    I agree, they are giving way too much attention to the killer, it just glorifies him.

    One more thing. How about 24/7 coverage of the almost 200 humans who were killed in Iraq today?

  23. Ashley

    You are so right…it makes me wonder how many of the news media actually care one bit about any of it.

  24. Ariel

    Ashley, if it bleeds, it leads. There’s your answer.

  25. Caron

    I agree with Plain Jane. While this was certainly a tragic event, massacres of thi magnitude are a daily occurence in Iraq. Do we ever see any coverage of their families?

  26. Roberta

    The president of my company, who has two kids in college and whose daughter’s best friend goes to Virginia Tech, waxed prolific all freaking day.
    The last thing he said before I finally walked away from him… “Unfortunately a tragedy like this has to happen before blah blah blah” (something about better security systems).
    I wanted to scream at him that a tragedy like this did not have to happen. I wanted to point out that maybe a tragedy like this, only with 3 instead of 30+ would have gotten the message across… I wanted to point out that it is not a new message. I wanted to tell him he’s an idiot, and I wanted to kick him.
    Neil, I’m with you. It all becomes more noise. Everything has become so cinematic… the camera pans, the music swells, there are heroes and codas and grand statements of banding together and recovering and what it all has come to mean before anything has even sunk in.
    Everyone should just shut up.

  27. Roberta

    I hate when I forget to un-ital. (after ‘in’.)

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