Stephen King piles on

Here’s what Stephen King has to say about Cho Seung-Hui:

For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do…Cho doesn’t strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, ”just mean.” Essentially there’s no story here, except for a paranoid a–hole who went DEFCON-1. He may have been inspired by Columbine, but only because he was too dim to think up such a scenario on his own.

This is disappointing. Rather than taking a golden opportunity to seriously address the rush to judgment and blame we’ve witnessed in the media this week, King goes the easy route by turning glib. Writers, health providers, police officers, professors, university administrators and (don’t forget!) gamers have all had their turns being thrown under the bus; and while he does flippantly mention in the opening graf of this that his “own college writing…would have raised red flags,” King seems to go out of his way to drop some distasteful epithets. He’s quick to align himself with Nikki Giovanni here, but King never spent time in the classroom with Cho, and like 99.9% of us out here on The Internets, he hadn’t read a word of his creative writing until after Monday’s awful events.

I trust Giovanni’s assessment and think she is well-founded in describing Cho and his work as “mean.” I’m bothered, though, by King’s own meanness here. It has been well-established that like Charles Whitman before him, Cho suffered from severe mental depression.  In describing Cho through such tender mercies as “dim,” someone who “doesn’t strike me as in the least creative,” and “Dude was crazy…a paranoid a–hole who went DEFCON-1,” King does little to elevate the discourse.

Which I suppose explains why “Dude” is Contributing Editor of Entertainment Weekly


9 responses to “Stephen King piles on

  • naomi.

    wait, wait, wait–the author of “carrie” can’t empathetize with feeling alienated? surprising. there is much to critique here, obviously, but cho’s writings wouldn’t seem to be the first on the list.

    for additional hilarity, check out this gem broadcast on msnbc.

    your myspace friend,

  • trevor

    I couldn’t agree more, Naomi. Cho’s video only makes him a martyr, of course, so long as NBC continues broadcasting it…

  • zootenany

    I sometimes believe that there is an attitude in this country that if one expresses compassion towards the villian – in this case Cho Seung-Hui – one is perceived as being “for” him and therefore “against” the victims. This is terribly unfortunate and strangles any real discourse. Stephen King took the easy route.

    How disappointing.

  • trevor

    You’re totally right, Zoot. Our “us” vs. “them” mentality is definitely part of the problem. King’s snarkiness is not only mean-spirited, but probably reinforces the despair Cho felt in the first place. Some of the initial comments made to the AOL News thread where they first posted his plays were downright vicious.

  • Seam

    I’m apt to agree that Cho was obviously a sex-abuse victim, and I think these plays testify to that. Certainly Cho deserves minimal sympathy because he’s a murderer, but he obviously needed help. What is King’s point? Is his anxiety about being thought a poor writer so high that he needed to write something like this?

  • Chad Marsh

    I’m glad there are a few others who agree with me that King took the easy way out on this one. It seems that whenever something like the Virginia Tech Massacre happens, people feel a need to write the aggressor(s) off as being less than human and lacking any positive traits, probably because it helps them deny they have anything at all in common with those who commit despicable acts like Cho’s. Unfortunately, I think this denial just feeds the problem. Each and every one of us has – or could have had – the capacity to kill, had the right buttons been pushed at crucial moments in our lives and had we been born with the sort of crushing shyness and social inhibition that Cho seems to have suffered and doubtlessly had little control over, himself. Writing Cho off as an “a**hole” only fuels the false dichotomy between “us” (the human, the sane, the good, the socially accepted) and “them” (the inhuman, the psychotic, the evil, the pariahs), a distinction I think Cho and others like him must falsely accept before turning the dichotomy on end to envision themselves a collective, martyred “us” and all who tragically find themselves in their crosshairs “them.”

  • Chad Marsh

    In other words, shame on you, Mr. King.

  • trevor

    Well said, Chad. Thanks.

  • Taeho

    Everyone has the capacity for murder. It is not nearly as distant a human instinct as we have come to believe in this day and age. Killing has been ingrained into our history since before us humans have walked this earth.

    What it comes down to, yes, it was senseless violence. But Cho Seung-Hi was a victim of circumstance just as much as his victims were. I am not justifying his actions at all whatsoever. But he is no less of a human than we were. Just be grateful that we did not have the hindrances or grow up in such a situation as he did, or it very well could have been one of us “normal/sane” people with our index finger curled around the trigger.

    I have nothing but condolence and sorrow for those who have tragically passed, but at the same time, I have nothing but sorrow and pity for Cho Seung-Hi. I’m sure that if he had a choice, this was not how he was planning on being remembered – a monster.

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