Blog Post

Virginia Tech Killer Vlogged Manifesto

This morning, having trouble constructing an article to process my intense emotions about the Virginia tech shootings at NewTeeVee, I ended up cutting out most of the parts about television news and online video, feeling the real story was about mourners uniting using tools like Facebook. Eventually, the post became a better fit for our mothership site, GigaOM, where it was published this evening.

Now, video associated with the attacks has made its way online — footage killer Cho Seung-Hui captured of himself and snail-mailed to NBC in a “multimedia manifesto” between the two shootings. It’s riveting and appalling. Watching police swarm a school building with the sound of gunshots in the air was terrifying; this is a whole different level.

Not all of the footage has made it online. Dave Winer has written a petition asking that the videos be released in full. “It’s 2007, and it’s a decentralized world. We should all get a chance to see what’s on those videos,” he says.

According to NBC, the materials included a DVD with 27 QuickTime video files of about 10 minutes in total.

“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” Cho says in one of the videos. “But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”

I, for one, find Cho entirely unsympathetic. He apparently affiliated himself with the Columbine killers in writing that was mailed in the package. I know video is an especially compelling medium; I hope this clip is not.

27 Responses to “Virginia Tech Killer Vlogged Manifesto”

  1. While, as a videoblogger (a real one) myself, I don’t like being tarred with the same brush as a mass murderer, I dislike even more the fact that the mainstream media has given this guy the publicity he so obviously craved, making him a star after death. How many copycats will this inspire? We don’t have long to wait, I fear.

    We can probably say that Cho wasn’t a videoblogger during life, but he’s a viral media superstar post-mortem. Was that a good idea?

  2. Can we agree that sending a text manifesto to a newspaper is not blogging? This is the same thing, but with video.

    Please note I agree with the larger point being made, that this technology can be used for good or evil. But calling him a vlogger is wrong for all the reasons we’ve listed.

    More thought on my blog. The Josh Wolf/journalism seems like an easy comparison, but they’re different for a lot of reasons.

  3. I’m not going to bother with rehashing what’s already here: Cho’s actions in no way constituted “vlogging”. “vlog-like” isn’t any better. What, so once you hold a calera at arm’s distance and film yoursle , you’re a vlogger? There wasn’t even any internet involved, so there you go. Huge mistake, there, kids. Now that MSNBC has clips of it in video format on their site (although seemingly only in the context of previously broadcast news) I guess you could make an argument for it.


  4. Paul, again I don’t mean to disrespect and this is all just my personal opinion. Nothing more. If you really want to continue the conversation you can email me and we can chat.

    And Koz is right. So I’ll leave it at that.

  5. Blogging as a term has always been clear to what it meant as a technology and method. Those involved on videoblogging have pushed away from defining videoblogging saying it’ll limit what people can do.

    Definitions, if properly assigned, create clear ways to develop something and use it in many ways. Because videoblogging has not been clearly stated, people will use it as they define it as Dave Winer and Liz Gannes have. Richard BF on the videoblogging list has stated an alternate definition of videoblogging as a confessional like genre that could fit Cho’s confessional.

  6. Paul Kapustka

    Does anyone else find it ironic that vloggers, who fought hard against narrow definitions of “journalist” that sought to exclude them, now would do the same for vlogging? Zadi, what happens if someone else posts Cho’s video to a blog? And who gets to say what’s right or wrong? Seems like there is a lot of offense being taken over the use of a term whose definition is far from being set, solid or agreed upon.

  7. Paul, the web is a wonderful/awful/amazing place. One day we will see the first videoblogger who does something atrocious and it will be newsworthy… but in the larger scheme of things — making sure we document stories and history correctly, we can’t say this person was a videoblogger.

    He didn’t call himself a videoblogger. He didn’t have a videoblog. He didn’t post these videos onto a blog or anywhere on the web. If he posted videos on youtube, or any other videosharing site, or a personal blog, or a private blog that no one sees but himself… if he uses the tools the web affords, then yes he’s a videoblogger.

    Calling Cho a videoblogger because he shot a confessional video and mailed it through the post is like calling my grandmother a videoblogger when she shot my first steps before the web even existed.

    I honestly mean no disrespect, I just want to make sure our web history is documented correctly.

  8. Paul & Liz: I also disagree with the calling of these vlogs. Vlogs are not defined by a particular style of talking into a camera any more than blogs are defined by particular style of writing. You can’t ignore the technology framework needed to turn videos in the videoblogs.

  9. Paul Kapustka

    Verdi, you make a lot of assumptions that seem to serve your own arguments, and do not pertain to the post or the reality of a news operation. We’re covering this topic because it is of great interest to the new world of TV, and how gatekeeping and information dissemination is changing rapidly. So it’s pretty normal to expect us to cover this topic, and not the controversy surrounding the Attorney General. Chuck, Steve and Zadi, it seems like your definitions of who gets to be called a videoblogger are pretty narrow — is it the distribution method, or the style of production, that earns one the title? I understand that you may not want to be closely associated with someone whose content is so repellingly different than your own outstanding pioneering efforts; but the same tools that are allowing you to break the traditional barriers of broadcasting can also be used by those with less honorable intentions. Such are the prices of freedom and an open Internet. The use of “vlogged” in the headline is a reference to the style of the videos, which is clearly vlog-like. Perhaps you can argue that “Vlog-Style Manifesto” or some other construction in the headline might have been more appealing. But that doesn’t change the fact that the videos do indeed look like videoblogs.

  10. I think Liz is more thoughtful than that Verdi, but I’m sure that’s true of the news biz in general this week. The worst thing I saw was a “play-by-play” of the citizen journalist phonecam video on CNN. This isn’t the superbowl!

  11. Here’s why this gets called videoblogging – it makes it justifiable to jump in on all the easy, lurid coverage of this event. If you’re in the news business this is an easy week – just repeat the same story over and over and over. Alberto who? Iraq what? This guy made some video so it must be “videoblogging” yeah! Got that deadline taken care of – this stuff will draw some traffic.

  12. You are wrong on this one. Yes, he speak directly into a camera about his innermost thoughts. He also wrote similar stuff on paper. Then he mailed the DVD and papers. Neither one of these constitute blogging or vlogging. Some videoblogs are confessional, some aren’t, just like some books are and some aren’t.

    As chuck says “The vlog hook is wrong.”

  13. I agree, it’s wrong to call what he did vlogging.

    We don’t call his text manifesto blogging, nor should we call his video vlogging. Confessional video, sure – but why not simply call it that?

    The vlog hook is the wrong hook.

  14. From wikipedia, Video blog:

    A video blog or a vlog is a blog that includes video.[1] Regular entries are typically presented in reverse chronological order and often combine embedded video or a video link with supporting text, images, and other metadata.

    Vlogs often take advantage of web syndication to allow for the distribution of video over the Internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats, for automatic aggregation and playback on mobile devices and personal computers. See video podcast.

    Though many vlogs are collaborative efforts, the majority of vlogs and vlog entries are authored by individuals.

  15. Liz, Cho wasn’t a vlogger. He didn’t have a videoblog and he didn’t post these videos to a blog. People are getting confused as to why the title says he vlogged his manifesto.

  16. Liz Gannes

    Speaking directly into your video camera about your innermost thoughts definitely says vlogging to me. Perhaps it wasn’t the perfect example of the technology side, but consider how easy it was for NBC to post those QT files online.

  17. Dave Winer’s post was utter bullshit. The fact that you’ve parroted that crap over here is really disappointing. I kind of liked this blog but it’s clear you have no idea.

  18. allen miller

    as difficult as it might be for some of us, we all need to pray for this young man’s soul. God will deal with him. please remember him while prayng for the vctums and their families

  19. Is this a horrible and chilling after-effect of a new generation growing up on youtube? Killers expecting to get their 15 minutes of fame with ‘multimedia manifestos’.

    Part of me wanted to watch it but the other part kind of wishes that NBC (while this is an amazing exclusive they are gitty over) held off from giving this guy what basically is his last dying wish.

  20. I felt sick, when I saw that video. I wish people would stop sending death threats to the owner of the store wear he bought the gun. It was not the owner’s fault that their store was given the “okay” to go on with the purchase. Also, obviously someone with that much rage was going to get a weapon no matter what. There has been enough pointing fingers at everyone for who’s fault it was (the gun store owner, the police, the school), the truth is it was only Cho’s fault, no body else killed those people, he did, he is to blame.

    Blaming people will not bring those loved one’s back, we just have to hope and pray that no one will want to replicate such an incident, and pray for those who were robbed of their futures.

  21. i’ve been taking the role of devil’s advocate on this one, since nobody else is. he sent it to the media so that they would put his garbage all over the place. are these videos something we want people marking as “favorites” on YouTube?