A funny thing happened to me this morning in connection with mass murder and the tragic extinction of human life.
I was walking to the office for another day of PHP-coding, and on Kirkland Street, I was stopped by a suit-wearing man whose close-cropped gray hair reminded me distantly of an evil landlord I once knew. He carried a microphone with, I believe, the CBS logo (I’m nearsighted and unobservant), and he was accompanied by another man carrying a TV camera. The microphone man asked, “Could we talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure,” I said. “What about?”
“The shootings at Virginia Tech,” he replied, although he didn’t use hyperlinks (most people don’t, in ordinary speech). “And the footage that NBC put out about the killer.”
“Oh, I hadn’t seen it,” I said, which was true. A bit of web-crawling leads me to suspect that this “video manifesto” is what they were talking about, or part of it. See also Google Video. I’m not sure if there was any reason they picked me as opposed to any other pedestrian, and I don’t know how many other people they filmed. Perhaps a guy in a black trenchcoat, black fedora and Sinfest T-shirt is automatically the best guy to interview about a school shooting; I dunno.
They said that NBC had put video online from the killer (Cho Seung-Hui), and they asked me what I thought about that. What were my very first words?
“Well, I’m a firm believer in a transparent society.”
Yessir, meeting David Brin at ICCS 2006 sure ruined my ability to talk like a normal human being. Oh, wait, I lost that a long time ago — never mind.
I said that the whole thing was a tragedy, but the best thing we can do is prevent future tragedies and in order to do that we have to understand what happened this time. If there’s something that dark in human nature, we have to know about it, I told them. They thanked me and we started walking our separate ways. As I strode off, I heard one say to the other, “Okay, we got it.” Maybe I’ll be on the local CBS affiliate talking about preventing disaster through understanding, but I sort of doubt it.
They should have asked me for my Bill Hicks impression. Now that would be worth putting on TV.
UPDATE: See what Joel Achenbach has to say about this. His thinking seems to match up with mine.
UPDATE THE SECOND: I’m on TV!
“Well I’m a firm believer in a transparent society and if there is something that disgusting in human nature we mind [sic] as well be aware of it,” said one person WBZ’s Joe Shortsleeve spoke to.
Interestingly, when I saw myself appear on the screen, I called out, “I’m on TV!” just as anybody would in that circumstance. A friend of mine then walked past the computer just as the female news anchor asked, “How does the public benefit from seeing someone on TV who is clearly mentally ill?” He burst out gut-laughing. I’m not sure what that means, but probably nothing good. So it goes.
UPDATE THE THIRD: WBZ-TV makes it slightly tricky to link directly to the video you want, but try this.