Seung-Hui Cho

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Name: Seung-Hui Cho
Date of Birth: January 18, 1984
Occupation: Student, Aspiring Writer
Ethnicity: Korean
IQ: Around 120, estimated on the basis of his SAT scores[1]

Seung-Hui Cho was a truecel and the perpetrator of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. Cho killed 32 people before shooting himself in the temple.

Cho did this after being rejected/ripped-off by a hooker[2], being rejected by a female fellow student he was infatuated with, and having several disputes with authority figures at Virginia Tech, among other issues.

Mental health[edit | edit source]

Over the course of his short life, Cho had several run-ins with the mental health system, which categorically failed to assist him and interdict his violence behavior. In he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with 'selective mutism' as well as major depressive disorder in high school at the age of 15 following the Columbine Massacre, which he openly celebrated at the time. Cho was prescribed the anti-depressant Paroxetine.[1] Despite these diagnoses, it has been suggested that Cho actually suffered from Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism,[3] and a cursory glimpse at the descriptions of his behavior and his history of social maladjustment and bullying victimization also support this diagnosis. Selective mutism is also a common symptom of autism and may be associated with speech difficulties and social anxiety, both of which are often co-morbid with autism.[4]

Rejection by escort[edit | edit source]

The prostitute that rejected Cho

Seung-Hui Cho hired an escort named Chastity Frye a month before the shooting, but he got rejected after a short awkward interaction with her. The escort said that Cho was nervous and perceived a lack of interest and engagement from him.[5] His nervousness might have been caused by his previous rejections and his general social awkwardness.

"He was so quiet. I really couldn't get much from him. He was so distant. He really didn't like to talk a lot," Frye said in a interview. "It seemed like he wasn't all there."

Cho called the escort service she worked for and hired her to meet him for one hour at a Roanoke motel, about a 30-minute drive from Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus.

About 15 minutes into the performance for Cho, Frye said it appeared that he had no interest.

"I danced for a little while and I thought we were done because he got up and went to the restroom and began washing"[6]

Frye told the news station WSLS that she told Cho she was going to leave, to which he responded that he had paid for a full hour and she had only performed 15 minutes.

When she resumed dancing, Frye said that Cho touched her and tried "to get on" her before she pushed him away.[7] Cho then apparently respected her wishes, displaying his timidity around women.

Frye said she thought Cho looked familiar when she saw his face in the coverage of the Virginia Tech killings. She got a call from the FBI, which she said tracked her down through Cho's credit card receipts. Frye said that during a weekend interview, investigators asked her to describe Cho using three words. She chose "dorky," "timid" and a "little pushy." She also called Cho "creepy."

Issues with authority figures at university[edit | edit source]

Cho authored an email complaining about one of his professors, Nikki Giovanni, at Virginia Tech, who taught a creative writing class. Cho wore sunglasses to class to cover up himself and was accused of filming Giovanni and the students in the classroom. Giovanni claims that this 'disruptive' behavior made many of the students leave the class over the semester, as the students were allegedly intimidated by Cho's erratic and creepy behavior, which included Cho angrily lecturing the other students on the immorality of eating meat. He later claimed he made these comments as a 'joke' and not out of any particular philosophical or ethical attachment to vegetarianism. Giovanni also apparently perceived the content of some of Cho's poems as containing veiled violent threats, including towards her person. Despite this, Giovanni did not seek any further redress, nor did she accept the offer of additional security arrangements to be made on her behalf.

Giovanni consulted with other VT professors and threatened to resign, however, there was no formal basis for removing Cho from the class. Eventually, a compromise was reached where Cho agreed to be privately tutored by another English professor for the rest of the semester. Cho's grades in this class markedly improved after this transfer to private tutoring. Cho later received an A grade in the subject (pp. 43-45).[1] Giovanni also became angry at Cho for not taking off his sunglasses during class. It was clear Cho harboured animosity towards Giovanni, and he may have perceived her as a bully. After the shooting, Giovanni wasn't surprised that it was Cho. "I knew when it happened that that's probably who it was. I would have been shocked if it wasn't." [8]

Cho had further tensions with another professor at Virginia Tech, Carl Bean, who taught the subject of technical writing. Later, during his appearance before the investigative panel into the Virginia Tech shootings, Bean characterized Cho as a silent manipulator. He stated Cho knew how "to play the game (and) do as little as he needed to do to get by (in his schoolwork)". Bean further described Cho as "very intelligent" but stated that Cho's grasp of English vocabulary was poor and that his writing lacked creativity (p. 50).[1] Bean had a run-in with Cho where Cho had displayed uncharacteristic assertiveness in response to an academic dispute Cho had with Bean. Cho had wanted to write essays about such diverse topics as the American Revolutionary War, the April Revolution of 1960 that had toppled South Korean president Syngman Rhee and an 'objective real time experience' based on serial killers, respectively, as opposed to writing an essay on the set course material. Bean considered these essay topics unacceptable and Cho's overall work that semester to be unsatisfactory and suggested Cho drop the technical writing subject for this semester. This dispute eventually led to a heated confrontation in Bean's office. Cho later relented and sent an email to Bean where he acquiesced and agreed to drop out of the class.

Another English professor, Dr. Lucinda Roy, who tutored Cho privately after his conflict with Giovanni, characterized Cho's English assignments as marked by a clear theme of opposition to authority. In a letter to another faculty member, she said of Cho: "all of his submissions so far have been about shooting or harming people because he's angered by their authority or by their behavior. We're hoping he'll be able to write inside a different kind of narrative in the future, and we're encouraging him to do so (p. 45).[1] Roy had attempted to increase Cho's empathy towards other students by making him study the works of Yeats and Emily Dickinson, and his grades markedly improved for a period under her tutelage.

In light of his multiple run-ins and conflicts with his teachers at Virginia Tech and his general dislike of authority figures is possible that Cho's struggles and inability to submit to the rigid authority and teacher-student dynamic generally demanded by the tertiary education system also contributed to his subsequent decision to lash out at this system with extreme violence.

Stalking allegations[edit | edit source]

During his attendance at Virginia Tech Cho has received several verbal warnings for stalking female students and sending them unsolicited text messages.[9]

Cho had written these words, a quotation from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet on a whiteboard outside the room of a female student during his time at Virginia Tech:

By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am
My name, dear saint is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee

Had I it written, I would tear the word.[10]

Cho probably intended it to be a poem to show his interest in the woman, which is an example of his social awkwardness and lack of social awareness.

During his time at Virginia tech, Cho became depressed and wrote to his roommate that he wanted to "kill himself". He was put into a psychiatric ward briefly, and seemed to cease his erratic behavior for a period.[11]

Cho had a particularly strong unrequited infatuation with a fellow Virginia Tech student called Emily Hilscher.[12] Just a few days prior to the massacre, Hilscher was dropped off at her dorm by her new boyfriend. The appearance of the boyfriend likely enraged Cho, and the school received several bomb threats soon after.[13] Hilscher was possibly his first victim,[14] sparking speculation that her rejection of Cho precipitated the massacre.

Literary aspirations[edit | edit source]

Cho initially entered Virginia Tech as a Business Information Technology major. During his first year he studied biology, math, communications, political science, business information systems, as well as a course in poetry, and received decent grades. Despite his relative aptitude in more technical, quantitative subjects like those that constituted his major, and his mutism, in his second year Cho decided to switch his major to English. It seems that he was impressed by his English lecturer being a published author, as he wrote to her seeking her advice in finding publishers and literary agents (p. 40).[1] His sister later noted his enthusiasm towards his studies increased during this period and she noted that he pored over literary works and spent hours at his computer writing. His sister later recalled that he had shown her a rejection letter he had received from a major New York publishing house in response to a book outline he had mailed them (p. 41).[1]

He wrote several plays, including Richard McBeef[15] and Mr. Brownstone. During his stay at Virginia tech he submitted a poem entitled "Spear Me Down Heaven" to an academic symposium run by the institution. A social worker characterized the poem as a "cry for help" in light of its themes of "[an] externalization of the locus of control, self-loathing/self-destructive impulses [...] lack of hope."[16] Narratives of persecution and abuse perpetuated by authority figures and violent and discussion of conspiratorial acts also figure prominently in his recorded literary works.

Manifesto[edit | edit source]

Before his shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, Cho also sent a multimedia manifesto consisting of video, text and images to CBC News headquarters. The package included an 1,800 word statement and 27 QuickTime videos where Cho claimed he was a messianic figure who was seeking righteous revenge against the 'debaucheries' and 'hedonism' of 'wealthy snobs', presumably referring to his fellow students. He claimed he was walking in the footsteps of 'martyrs' like "Eric and Dylan" (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre). Cho declared: "You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. 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."[17] The 1,800 word written manifesto attached to the videos contained themes of persecution and assorted rambling religious references.

The core theme of the text and videos seems to be Cho's view of himself as a martyr who was continually tormented by society. In return for this treatment he states his mission is to: "Die, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the Weak and Defenseless people — my Brothers, Sisters, and Children — that you fuck".[18] This is a similar motive to Alek Minassian's self-professed leadership of an 'incel rebellion' and Elliot Rodger's writings in his own manifesto and videos where Rodger detailed his desires for revenge against 'hedonists' like Cho. However, unlike these two later figures, Cho did not identify as an incel or explictly mention sexual frustration as a motive, instead portraying his 'struggle' as a part of a more broad phenomena of the socially dysfunctional rebelling against their perceived persecution by society as a whole. Cho's specific focus on his fellow students 'hedonism' may indicate that sexual envy directed towards them may have been motivated by his own incel status, however. Some further evidence for this argument may be an incident at university where Cho had checked in on a new female student's dorm to see if she 'cool' but was angered as he only found "promiscuity in her eyes".[19]

A forensic psychiatrist named Michael Welner criticized the media's airing of Cho's videos after the attack. Welner feared the videos would spark copycat attacks and argued they did nothing to shed light on why Cho chose to attack Virginia Tech, stating his view that Cho's erratic and menacing behavior in the videos was not genuine, but rather a self-serving post hoc act designed to portray himself as a tormented figure driven to madness by bullying and social rejection. Welner stated: "They (the videos) distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character".[20]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6
  10. Suicidal Mass Murderers: A Criminological Study of Why They Kill By John Liebert, William J. Birnes, p. 32

See also[edit | edit source]