It’s generally agreed that the Virginia massacre isn’t going to change US gun laws — you’d probably need about a half-dozen of them in the space of a month to do that.
However, what it will do is increase surveillance of students and psychological profiling in American universities, and by extension, here. Cho Seung-hui — the ”question-mark kid” who spoke to virtually no one and walked around in wrap-around shades — is the sort of person who’s scarcely unknown in arts faculties, especially in creative writing courses. Yet, one presumes that from now on every underground weirdo in trenchcoat and dark glasses is going to feel the eye of suspicion upon them.
Which is a pity because I can think of at least two academics, one editor of a national newspaper opinion page, and a bloke who now owns three pizza shops who would fit that bill from my own gun-spree-free student days.
More particularly, what is going to happen to academic confidentiality? Is every teacher now going to be perpetually on the look-out for the next mass murderer in classes where students are encouraged to explore their imagination in whatever direction it goes?
Take, Seung-hui’s play (parts of which were reproduced on Crikey yesterday) submitted for his class, and which led his tutor to wonder if she should call the police. The violent plot concerns a sexually overcharged family in which the family friend has killed the father in order to possess the mother, and the son is fuming with the thwarted desire to murder him.
Shocking really — for Seung-hui has clearly plagiarised Hamlet, which follows this plot pretty much to the letter. The violent discourse echoes an earlier, funnier Shakespeare work Titus Andronicus in which the heroine has to write her murderer’s name in the sand with a stick held between her arms because the hero has cut out her tongue, eyes and hands.
Looking for a more recent example, there’s almost an embarrassment of riches from Tarantino (‘I hate him. Must kill Dick’ — from Seung-hui’s screenplay is simply a rip-off of the Uma Thurman’s refrain ‘I’m gonna kill Bill’ in the eponymous film) or the whole Saw/Hostel genre of ultra-sadistic torture films. And the riffs about ”Richard McBeef’s face” by Seung-hui’s killer character have pretty much the same feel as Woody Harrelson’s riffs in Natural Born Killers.
So the means of the crime — over-the-counter pistols — will remain free while the fantasy — the free-play of the imagination — will become increasingly criminalised. This, as the second amendment notes, is to preserve freedom.
Oh, and at least 140 died in suicide bombings in Iraq yesterday. Check for their memorials on Facebook anytime soon.