Mass murder is an act whereby a person murders many people either at the same time or over an extended period. These killings are mostly made in the same geographical location. Most of the mass murder acts end with the perpetrators committing suicide (Duwe, 2013). A mass murder can be undertaken by a single individual or a large organization. For instance, in April 2007, there was the killing of many people at the Virginia Tech University. The perpetrator was Seung-Hui Cho, who shot 32 persons, killing them, and wounding 23 ones. He committed suicide after this. The classification of the shooting was a mass murder (Reid, 2007). In the history of attacks carried out by one gunman, it was the deadliest attack on the US. The massacre made national headlines and led to the sprouting of intense debates about the laws on gun violence. There are some reasons that the perpetrators have for committing these mass murders. The reasons could be mental health problems or legal issues. In this light, it is reasonable to discuss Seung-Hui Cho’s reasons for mass murder from medical and social perspectives.
Cho was born and raised in South Korea before his family moved to the United States in the hope of getting a better life. During his early childhood, he was believed to be mentally ill or selectively mute. He was a withdrawn child who did not say a lot or mix with the rest of kids. Further on, Cho was also cold and reserved, creating, a reason for concern among his family members. Despite being obedient and well behaved, he failed to show any affection or love towards his family members. He rarely embraced or hugged his grandparents or made eye contact with them. From the early age, it was clear that there was something abnormal about him. Children are usually extremely jovial and happy, but Cho was an exact opposite of the normal kids. Furthermore, Moran (2007) argues that this social awkwardness and inability to communicate with or relate to the people around him was a reason why he found that he could not fit in the society.
Cho was diagnosed with social anxiety in the middle school. He, therefore, could not speak to people and had been always bullied for it (Golden, 2007). He was socially awkward and exhibited some behavioral patterns that were even surprising to some extent. An example of it was looking down and failing to respond or even show any approval or awareness when called upon to speak. One of his teachers even remembers the time when he threatened to give Cho a lousy grade for not participating in class. He responded by reading in a strange voice. However, most of the bullies and teachers did not recognize that Cho was left with so much anger even after all these bullying acts were committed against him. At one point, he was told to “go back to China” by a student who did not even know that he was from South Korea. In fact, such bullying acts can lead to mental strain. Moreover, Levin and Madfis (2009) argue that mental strain is a result of difficulties and pressures, which will lead to individuals committing mass murder with the aim of eliminating the difficulties they face. Evidently, Cho’s social anxiety was not recognized, specifically by his teachers. These difficulties and bullying pressures could be the primary reason why Cho committed mass murder.
Cho had also been diagnosed with selective mutism from an early age. There was also a claim that he had autism, but it was dismissed as there were no records about it. His parents took him to church to address his problems. Notably, he regularly went there and understood the Bible correctly. However, he still could not speak in full sentences. His pastor was even surprised when he saw him pronounce complete sentences in the video he had sent to NBC news. According to (Lewis, 2007), his mother wanted the church to purge demonic power from his son as she was worried that his behavior had been related to demonic possession.
Cho was not an outspoken kid. It was, therefore, demanding to know what he was thinking and the thoughts that were going on in his mind. He did not communicate his deep feelings and emotional problems. If the root of his mutism and the lack of social interaction had been identified, it would have been possible to help him and eventually eliminate the evil in him before it was too late. However, it was not done.
Fascination with Violence
Cho was fascinated with violence from an early age. After the Columbine High school shooting, he was obsessed with the murder and was compelled to replicate it and even do better. There was a huge source of inspiration for him, and, in a school assignment, he wrote that he intended to repeat Columbine (Neuman, 2007). He was taken to a psychiatrist after a teacher told his sister about it. The classmate remembers sitting next to him in class and seeing some disturbing writing in Cho’s book. He wrote that he wanted everyone to burn in hell. This fascination with violence and presence of existing inspiration from mass murders such as the Columbine shooting were a considerable influence towards the Virginia massacre.
Inappropriate Social Behavior
In college, Cho’s action was very repelling and inappropriate. His poetry teacher removed him from his class because she could not stand his act. She described it as menacing. Cho had a mean streak, and his writing was intimidating. He would photograph the legs of female students under the desk and write poetry that was violent and obscene (Horwitz, 2007). When she requested the school administration to suspend him from the school, they could not do it as they had no actual evidence of cruelty. His poetry teacher even stated that she was not surprised that it was Cho, who had committed the massacre. She even said that she would have been shocked if it was not him. Another teacher claimed that Cho’s behavior as arrogant and obnoxious. Further on, he referred to himself as a question mark and wrote it as his name on the sign sheets during his stay at Virginia Tech. It deterred many people, especially from him, and this rejection fueled his anger. He stalked female students, and when commanded to stop it, he said that he would kill himself. It is believed what triggered Cho to commit the massacre was the rejection by a freshman, Emily J Hilscher. Coincidentally, Emily was the first student who was shot and killed.
In 2007, Cho was found to be mentally ill and in a dire need of hospitalization. He was found to be depressed and showed the symptoms of the thought disorder. The physician suspected that Cho was an imminent danger to himself; and, at some point, he was even detained temporarily in a behavioral center (Holmes, 2007). However, he was treated on an outpatient basis. The actual diagnosis of his mental illness is not known. However, there is the complete certainty that he was mentally ill.
Cho wrote a fiction paper about a mass school murder while being in college. In the story, the crime was planned by the protagonist who did not go through with the killings (Westcott, 2007). He also wrote several plays, which were described as morbid and grotesque. They were twisted and used weapons that were not even imaginable. They were like something out of a nightmare. His classmates even said that he seemed like the kind of guy who could walk into a class and start shooting people (TheDocumentariesRUs, 2007).
Since there was no proof of any mental disability, it was not illegal for him to purchase a firearm. He also made video recordings and wrote down several texts voicing his emotions. Cho mailed a parcel to the New York headquarters in New York during the period in between the murders (Johnson, 2007). The package contained the video, in which he explained the shooting. He said that society led him to commit the mass violence and that he had to do it (Borowsky, 2007). He railed against the rich kids and charlatans in school, comparing himself to Jesus Christ, claiming that his death would be a significant influence on defenseless people.
From this brief overview of Seung-Hui Cho’s history from childhood to college, the following fact is evident. He exhibited behavior that could have led to this mass murder. These behavioral problems caused him to find solace in violence, perceiving it as an only outlet and the solution to his problems. The mass murder was something that he believed to be the solution to his problems, seeing it as an act of good faith and service to other people like him. Such early signs detected in individuals should not be ignored but eliminated as early as possible to avoid the situation. There are some regrets from the people who could nurture the better behavior in such individuals. The blame lay heavily on the Virginia Tech staff as they did not recognize the danger that Cho presented even after they had been given several opportunities to help him and even possibly suspend him from school.