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ERIC Number: EJ901131
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 28
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1071-4413
The Poetics of a School Shooter: Decoding Political Signification in Cho Seung-Hui's Multimedia Manifesto
Carvalho, Edward J.
Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies, v32 n4-5 p403-430 2010
In 2007, against a tragically ironic backdrop of National Poetry Month, April indeed was "the cruellest month" (Eliot 1922, I.1). The media spotlight during that time repositioned from Iraq and Afghanistan to Blacksburg, Virginia, where a stateside guerilla incursion at Virginia Tech would mark the single worst episode of school shooting violence in American history. Shortly after the first wave of shooting, student gunman Cho Seung-Hui mailed a self-produced, twenty-three-page PDF "manifesto" to the local NBC network, where producers later uploaded a closely bowdlerized version of the new media composition. "" went on to provide a dedicated Web space for Seung-Hui's content for viewers to examine more closely the various incarnations of Seung-Hui's performative rage. A 2008 hour-long BBC documentary on the killings, "Massacre at Virginia Tech," worked tirelessly to invisibilize the structural or political features of the shooting incident. At various key points in the film, students who knew, had roomed, or spent time with Seung-Hui said over and again that no one "saw" any bullying or "oppression" of any sort. At the same time, there was nothing to be said, for example, of global economic history in relation to Seung-Hui's family, the militarization and hypermasculinization of culture, or how Seung-Hui's image was appropriated to fuel debates on illegal immigration and the war on terror. Simply stated, little effort went into decoding the manifesto or the plays Seung-Hui left behind from a political vantage, and those rare attempts to understand that did appear, in print or video form, were either incomplete or ineffectual. Most critics, it seems, are content simply to accept Seung-Hui's actions as yet another "senseless tragedy," devoid of political significance. This essay works to challenge those assumptions and shows that Seung-Hui in fact designed his manifesto with a performative political intent to conflict one's perceptions, expectations, and interpretations of news reports he prognosticated would follow: the rather quick and dirty yellow journalism that traditionally casts social problems under the rug as historical detritus of an unclassifiable "indiscriminate and incomprehensible violence." (Contains 31 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia