3 of 100 DOCUMENTS

	The Boston Herald

	April 20, 2007 Friday 

	Society, heed the warning signs



	LENGTH: 575 words

	In the aftermath of the horrendous mass murder at Virginia Tech,
	Americans are asking what lessons we might learn to prevent a
	similar tragedy.

	Two conclusions seem clear from the materials sent by the killer
	to NBC News.

	First, as he is portrayed in photographs brandishing his firearms,
	Cho Seung-Hui wanted desperately to be seen as a strong and
	powerful figure and, second, he was not a Ted Bundy-type sociopath
	lacking in the capacity for remorse. Otherwise, he would not have
	felt a need to justify his crimes by producing a lengthy
	manifesto. Instead, Cho saw himself as a victim of injustice and
	the people he shot as villains who were responsible for all of his
	personal miseries. 
	Are there warning signs from which we can predict who will turn
	out to be a mass murderer? Clearly, school shooters including Cho
	share characteristics. They are chronically depressed and
	frustrated, blame everyone but themselves for their personal
	problems, are socially isolated, and have access to and training
	in the use of firearms. Yet we cannot predict, based on this
	profile, who will and will not turn out to be a mass killer,
	because hundreds of thousands of students fit the profile but
	would never kill anyone. Are we to lock away countless people for
	the sins of a few.

	There is, however, a way for warning signs to help. We should be
	using them to identify troubled students long before they have
	become troublesome - not to punish them, but to give them a
	helping hand. If you wait until a student has murderous
	intentions, there is really little if anything we can do to stop
	him. Recognizing that he was a potential threat to the students,
	one instructor at Virginia Tech tried to get Cho into therapy, but
	he refused to go. From Cho's viewpoint, why should he get
	counseling when he is the only sane student on campus.

	Cho reasons: Let my instructor get therapy; give it to my
	classmates. They are all crazy, not me.

	If someone had intervened much earlier, however, the killer might
	have been willing to take the help that he needed. Yet, until Cho
	looked threatening, he was pretty much ignored.

	We Americans are suffering from an eclipse of community. Many
	states - especially California, Alaska, Illinois, New York,
	Florida and Texas - have an abundance of strangers; individuals
	who have moved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles for the sake
	of a new beginning or a last resort. Not coincidentally, these
	states also have more than their share of mass killings. Moreover,
	when they arrive on campus for their freshman year, most college
	students are strangers to one another. Some make the adjustment
	with ease; others remain isolated.

	And it is not just students. Growing numbers of Americans do not
	have their support systems in place. Some have relocated to find a
	better job and are strangers in their new community; others are
	simply shy about making friends or getting to know their
	neighbors. Whatever the reason, they have no place to turn when
	they get into trouble; they lack family and friends to give them
	encouragement and support. Some of them solve their problems
	through the barrel of a gun.

	Warning signs are effective, but not to identify a mass murderer.
	We should use them to intervene as early as possible because we
	want to improve the quality of life for all of our students. In
	the process, we might even prevent the next mass murder.

	Jack Levin is the director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at
	Northeastern University.

	LOAD-DATE: April 20, 2007



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