Va. Tech, and the recriminations come

Last night's MSNBC's Countdown spent the hour on the Va. Tech massacre, which is on every news website today.  Questions were raised about why the campus was not locked down after the first shooting which was two hours before the mass murder.

Who could expect that this would be the one in a million chance that one murder would turn into 32?

For a more poignant perspective, ABC News this morning interviews survivors and family members and shows many pictures taken from the campus on cellphones by students waiting it out.  And, do not forget the Va. Tech website itself discussing today's events on campus.

Remember the dead, comfort the living, but consider the possibilities in a calmer, more sober light light.  Now is not the time for fingerpointing because it will take awhile to gather all the facts.

Guests last night on Countdown even talked about the use of siren systems to warn of danger, but why assume that the possibility of mass murder will occur again requires such warning systems, designed to keep us all paranoid?  Why?  Why assume such insanity will happen again that something like that is required.  Sometimes reporters spend too much time thinking about hypothetical situations that are too remote to be realistic. And "paranoia runs deep..."

I live in the tornado belt, and there are tornado sirens all over town. They are tested every Wednesday at noon, even during the off season.  I lived through the Cuban Missle Crisis, so every Wednesday I think about the Missles of October, almost like my own mini PTSD event.  

My government succeeded in scaring the hell out of me during the Cold War, and I still react to it.  Don't add to the paranoia.

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    Amen to that (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by TexDem on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 08:38:49 AM EST

    Now is not the time for fingerpointing because it will take awhile to gather all the facts.

    On MSNBC this AM a caller made the same point, said there was too much of a gotcha mentality by the press ready to blame the school.

    It seems there always must be finger pointing (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Georgia Blue on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:04:13 AM EST
    It's the blame (somebody) game.  No one seemingly can accept that there are twisted souls who will unpredictably commit unspeakable acts...as if laying blame will soothe the pain, focus the outrage and make it comprehensible.  What a sad day.

    The govt. is still trying the scare tactics.  GWB & Co. never miss a chance to link Sept. 11 with fear & terrorism to maintain that nervous edge.    

    It frightens all of us how vulnerable (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:20:26 AM EST
    we human beings really are.  Seems to me our knee jerk attempts to blame is only our desire to hide and not deal with how vulnerable we are.  If it is someone's fault.....anyone's fault, then we really aren't that vulnerable and someone messed up.  No matter how many people we blame though we will all of us still be fragile miracles walking around on this very small sphere in this universe.  I will never forget my grandmother before she passed snorting at someone going on about how bad things had become.  She said, "Oh hell, things are still the same!  Don't you remember when we were kids and old man so-and-so killed his wife, threw her in with the pigs and they ate her.  None of us knew what happened til spring and the kids all told us."  She was a hoot and sadly she spoke a simple truth.

    Grandma was right Tracy.... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by kdog on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:09:38 PM EST
    so very right.  The only differnece between nowadays and the good old days is that in the good old days there wasn't a mass media telling us about every horrific crime from coast to coast 24/7.  Media was mostly local, especially when it came to the reporting of horrific crimes.  People were less afraid because they weren't bombarded with the story of every nutjob who went off the deep end nationwide.

    Never thought of it that way (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 09:08:37 AM EST
    And of course you are right.  Grandma would want to have a cup of coffee with you.

    i'll wait for the facts to come in, but (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by chicago dyke on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:27:53 AM EST
    "who could've known that one murder would lead to 32?"

    i have a different take on it, if, and it's a big if, what i've read so far is correct. the initial murder, like another previously on this campus, had to do with a man killing/trying to kill "his" woman. there was a murder, and the police on campus seem to have taken the attitude, "oh well, we'll get him eventually, no big deal, no need to take additional campus precautions."

    my question: if the killer had first killed a male professor or university administrator, would they have still had such a relaxed response? there are videos of the cops standing around in front of the building where the 31 were killed, looking all surprised as the shots rang out. woman-killers "just" kill "their" women, so who could've known, right?

    like i said, i'll wait for the facts before i judge. but if what i've described is the truth, i'll be very angry as a feminist. because men kill "their" women all the time, and the ingrained reaction in our society is "ho-hum." or worse, "well, she probably did something to deserve it."

    Good question, CD (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Edger on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:43:14 AM EST
    if the killer had first killed a male professor or university administrator, would they have still had such a relaxed response?
    Hard to imagine they would. With a body and no one in custody I imagine they would have locked down the campus. So why didn't they in this case with two initial killings? I'd like to see the police chief explain their 'standard procedure', if they have one.

    Amen to that (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Carolyn in Baltimore on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:07:35 AM EST
    I can't help but relate this to the Kathy Sierra dust up - that violence against women is seen in a different light than other violence.

    Secondly the whole 'lovers' quarrel' thing rings really false. How can the word lovers equate with mass murder. I suspect that being lovers was only in his sick mind. I wish the cops and media would STFU about that. That involves her in his sickness.

    Geek campuses (CMU for example) have noted problems with non-social-skilled guys killing themselves. Many techy schools (CMU now, MIT) now try to admit students who have a life and accomplishments outside of their computer terminal. And many try to identify and provide counseling to geeky loner guys before they get unstrung.


    No buts, (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peaches on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:16:10 AM EST
    Wait for the facts to come in.

    Thanks Peaches (none / 0) (#11)
    by Slado on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:33:47 AM EST
    Starting your wild speculation with a but doesn't mean it isn't still wild speculation.

    I would seriously doubt that the VATech police would have acted differently purely based on sex.

    Maybe if a professor had been killed it would have been a bigger deal, or the dean, or the fooball coach or the state senator visiting or etc....

    Wild speculation is exactly that.


    LNILR (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 12:08:44 PM EST
    Thank you for your post, it is well received.

    The not-involved, not-responsible, 20-20 hindsight, finger-pointing, holier than thou Monday morning quarterbacks of this world, like the ones on just about every news channel the past 24 hours or so - and most of blogdom - should just stfu.

    cd, don't be an obvious idiot (3.00 / 2) (#7)
    by cpinva on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:57:49 AM EST
    surprisingly enough, not all ineptitude is gender or race based, sometimes it's just ineptitude. your assertions notwithstanding, you haven't a clue what they would have done, had the initial victim been a male. unless, of course, you can read minds, or have a crystal ball. please, do share with the rest of the class.

    the police stated that they thought the gunman had left the campus, after the initial shooting. what they have so far not stated is what caused them to think that. that is the critical issue.

    i have yet to hear what made them assume he had left. had they not made this assumption, perhaps the other deaths might have been averted.

    good advice (none / 0) (#3)
    by orionATL on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:10:22 AM EST
    well said.


    I fail to see how.. (none / 0) (#10)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:33:38 AM EST
      the inability to predict the unlikely possibility of tragedy on this scale, excuses obvious and inexcusable incompetence. Since when do  armed killers who know they will face extreme consequences if apprehended pose little danger simply because the first killing was "domestic" related.

       Sure, 30 more murders might not be reasonably anticipated but a carjacking, abduction, kidnapping, wounding or killing would seem to be such reasobably anticipated possibilites as to call for more than an e-mail two hours after the fact.

      Campus police are not experienced in crisis response and obviously, here there was a lack of adequate training or even a slight degree of prudence and common sense. Maybe an appropriate response would not have saved lives but we will never know because there was none. The President 9soo to be ex-, i am sure0 is so busy covering his butt he sounds addle-brained.

      College campuses should be "open" but, perhaps there should be a temporary restriction on openess in the immediate aftermath of a double homicide in a dorm and the escape of the killer? No?

       The campus is large and there would have been "holes" in any response, no doubt. That leads to the conclusion that therefore it wouldn't be a good idea to close as many holes as possible as expeditiously as possible? I don't think so.


    What are people smoking? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Slado on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:39:49 AM EST
    If this happened at IBM headquaters, or a shopping mall or at Home Depot would we be demanding anymore security or holding them to the standard that some are holding VaTech?

    Ask yourself...

    1. There are 26,000 students at VaTech, plus staff how big an operation would it take to garuntee that this thing didn't happen?

    2. How much security would be acceptable?   A Metal detector in every dorm, classrom, facility, restroom, library?

    3. How many security personell would it have taken to keep a single individual from entering any room on that campus where people would be?   How many camera's, salaries and electronic gadgets would it have taken to find this guy as quickly as some appear to demand and who's going to pay for it?

    The simple fact is that no one should or could have anticiapated this and no one could have stopped this guy from killing multiple people if he wanted to.

    That scares people so they react by demanding someone be blamed.


    What he said... (none / 0) (#14)
    by Slado on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:53:37 AM EST
    Today too early to fingerpoint? Then tomorrow. (none / 0) (#12)
    by MacLane on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:36:41 AM EST
    The Virginia Tech administration

    1. failed to send notifications about the first incident;

    2. made public statements to excuse not evacuating the campus or notifying students, faculty and administrators that they believed the gunman may have left the campus and possibly the state.

    They said "May"?  

    An incompetent prosecutor could tear the statements apart.

    They let classes proceed after the first shooting?

    They didn't bother to notify anyone about the first shooting until after the second shooting?

    Do you really believe that when the President of Virginia Tech begins making excuses  on day one for the inaction of his administration, that his word will be passed over in silence, out of some feeling of respect for the victims?

    Virginia Tech will not survive the lawsuits. Once the insurance policies are exhausted, the survivors and relatives of the victims will go after individuals and university assets. Virginia Tech will likely go bankrupt.

    Typos! (none / 0) (#15)
    by MacLane on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 11:53:50 AM EST
    "2." should read

    "made public statements to excuse not evacuating the campus or notifying students, faculty and administrators because that they believed the gunman may have left the campus and possibly the state."

    University administrations like to play it close to the vest. That's a way of doing business. It's typical of them to take their time to inform students, faculty and other administrators about matters that directly affect them. Reflexively coming up with excuses to keep others out of the loop is an internalized institutional value. It typically involves lying.

    Most of the time, this doesn't matter too much. But in a case like this, the consequences were catastrophic (it was the worst shooting in U.S. history, and not some "minor" domestic matter, which should have been taken seriously anyway) and as far as legal liability is concerned, there is no end in site.

    Now that the press is releasing names of the victims, anyone can read stories of lives of endless promise (and economic gain) senselessly cut short. And these will go on and on, and thanks to the magnifying lens of the internet, it won't be so easy to explain it away. In court.


    Nope (none / 0) (#20)
    by TomK on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 02:27:11 PM EST
    I live in a small town with a few thousand people.  My entire town is smaller then many college campuses.  Should we shut down an entire town every time there is a shooting?  Because that would make more sense then shutting down a large campus.

    Now would be a great time for everyone to go read bruce schneier on the psychology of fear, and the effecacy of security theater.  


    really sar? (none / 0) (#17)
    by cpinva on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 12:58:05 PM EST
    my comment is based on fact, reported by the va tech authorities. no blameless fingerpointing here.

    eh? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Gabriel Malor on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 01:03:46 PM EST
    I think SUO was talking about Last Night in Little Rock's (LNILR's) post, CP.

    cp (none / 0) (#19)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 01:51:06 PM EST
    My little rant (feels good on occasion) was in response to and in support of LNILR's comments.

    For the record, I very much support your response to cd as well.

    I don't for a second believe any reasonable person would expect the response of the school and/or police to have been any different had the initial murder been of a male student by his lover.


    Finger pointing is sickening (none / 0) (#21)
    by space on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 02:39:46 PM EST
    I will admit that when I first heard that there had been two incidents and approx. 2 hours between them my eyebrows raised.

    But after the facts have started to come out, I am not at all surprised that the campus authorities reacted as they did.  Anyone who tells you that it was logical to assume -- or even contemplate -- that there was someone who was walking around prepared to kill tens of people is lying...possibly to themselves as well as to the rest of us.

    By all accounts, the campus authorities had NO IDEA where the shooter was.  Sure it might have been presumptuous to think he had left the state, but even if you KNEW he was still in VA., you would never assume he was planning on going on a killing spree.

    I'm not saying that mistakes might not have been made.  Particularly, by the campus police.  But the finger-pointing at the school president, who is hired to be an administrator of an institution of higher learning, not an expert in police tactics, is beyond sickening.  I can guarantee you that no candidate for such a position ever gets asked in an interview what he would do in such a situation.  No doubt he followed the advice of the police, as any of us would.

    Again.. (none / 0) (#22)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 02:59:31 PM EST
    ... why on Earth is it necessary to assume a person might kill many people to take reasonable action to reduce the risk of any harm to any one person? Yes, the scale of violence was beyond what anyone would have anticipated, but one would have to a be a complete fool to dismiss the possibility of some further violence after the initial shooting.

      I don't blame the President for the utterly incompetent response. He probably did defer to the head of campus security (who should also be fired) I do blame the President for defending it after it was beyond question proven to be inadequate and for making statements that are beyond stupid.


    What is reasonable? (none / 0) (#23)
    by space on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 03:55:54 PM EST
    Sure the school should have taken REASONABLE precautions.  But much of the complaining that I have heard has been entirely unreasonable.  Let's look at the facts:

    1.  The campus is HUGE.  
    2.  Somewhere on the order of 20-30K people would have been on campus at the time of the second shootings.
    3.  The second incident occurred over half a mile from the location of the first incident.
    4.  The authorities apparently had NO IDEA where the shooter was.
    5.  Even had the authorities issued more timely warnings, most students probably would have shown up anyway, because they were already on their way to classes.
    6.  Most of the people were apparently killed after they knew a killer was afoot.  Even had they been warned, it is not clear that it would have helped.
    7. Telling people to stay in the dorms would not necessarily be helpful as, even if you knew the shooter was on a rampage, you'd have no idea that he wasn't planning to hit a dorm.

    Basically, the campus is a like a fairly large town.  If a similar shooting occurred in a random town of 20-40k people, would you expect the town police to impose a lockdown on the entire town?  If not, then why would one be appropriate here?  That just isn't how we expect to live our lives.

    My point isn't just that the police had no reason to be more aggressive in their warnings.  It is that there is no indication that any of the actions that they are being accused of failing to take would have been effective in the slightest.  And without a clear case of police/administration negligence, it is reprehensible to suggest that these people should feel responsible for this horrific crime.

    The VT officials ... (none / 0) (#24)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 04:24:28 PM EST
      are not responsible for the crime. The criminal is responsible for the crime. Some officials and the university might possibly be liable for negligence which was a substantial contributing factor in allowing the crime to occur.

      There are many interesting legal issues. Does the principle of in loco parentis still have vitality in the 21st century with regard to colleges and universities? If so to what degree?  Does it presently apply  to adult students who reside off-campus and enter the campus for class?

     To the exten ILP is still a viable concept does it suffice to establish a "duty to protect" sufficient to override the general rule of police immunity for failure to protect under the special duty doctrine?

       To what degree were any deaths or injuries reasonably forseeable? Can it be established that the failure to warn and failure to take adequate precautions proximately caused the deaths and injuries? Will the principle of intervening cause be a viable defense?

       There will be plety to keep lawyers busy for years. VT would be well advised to stop making stupid, self-serving statements attempting to deny the mistakes that were made, though.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jen M on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 06:02:30 PM EST
    The mass murderer was responsible for the killings, but he's dead. How do you seek revenge on someone who's dead. Angry people have to take it out on somebody

    So, because people are angry... (none / 0) (#27)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 07:03:16 AM EST
     their thoughts and feelings should be dismissed? Because people are angry their criticism of people who failed in jobs is wrong?  Because people are angry no one should be held accountable for mistakes?

    Fault (none / 0) (#29)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 09:49:20 AM EST
    Well, you need to understand.

    The government is always at fault. Especially the current government.

    The individual is never at fault. Unless he is a member of the current government.

    Humor attempt noted.

    BTW - Glad to see you back.


    It is perplexing trying to keep up here (none / 0) (#30)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 10:02:52 AM EST
     If this line of thought was carried over to say, oh, perhaps, THE WAR, would people be arguing that because we don't have ALL the facts and many are angry about it,  it is unfair or wrong to criticize the people responsible for its conduct?

      Somehow, I doubt it. People seem to think they have ENOUGH facts to find fault with the war and that the anger is  justified and does not make criticisms less valid.

      The ability to espouse,  simultaneously,  absolutely diametrically opposed arguments does seem as if it should create some cognitive dissonance. Of course, cognitive dissonance presupposes the existence of actual cognition.