A secular "martyr".
He wasn't the first to try to justify his actions in such a way, nor will he by any means be the last. Most notoriously, and most like an actual manifesto, Theodore Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, wrote a 35,000 word paper entitled the "Industrial Society and Its Future", which both the New York Times and Washington Post published, out of concern that further bombings would take place otherwise, and out of the hope that his writing style would help him to be identified. His brother recognized his prose, but not before a professor from the University of Wisconsin stated that:
It's good prose. The sentences flow well into one another, the paragraphs are coherent. The Unabomber even knows how to punctuate, and that's a very rare gift.
Cho's own message from beyond the grave bears little resemblance to the Unabomber's own verbosity. It soon becomes apparent, even from viewing the few parts made available from the full 28 video clips, that Cho was almost certainly influenced by those other martyrdom tapes which we've seen over the last few years, even though radical Islamist ideology appears to have played no part in his actual thinking. For that's what this most definitely is: a martyrdom video, albeit a secular one that makes clear his own inadequacy, insecurity and twisted reasoning. Some of his monologues more than reflect the reasons given by suicide bombers for their own atrocities, only with added profanity:
I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you fucked. I did it for them.
We can't say for certain just what Cho was suffering from, as a doctor diagnosed him back in 2005 with depression, but the severe form of it seems most likely. Apart from the above speech, which he seems to have motivated himself up for, in other clips he appears apathetic, speaking in a monotone, as if crushed by the world. He was however obviously planning for this event, and the reference to the two teenagers who carried out the massacre at Columbine, the 8th anniversary of which is tomorrow, will ignite speculation over whether it was in fact meant to happen tomorrow in a further "tribute" to them; the first shootings seeming out of place, especially as it was probably more down to luck and a failure of communication than anything else that he wasn't caught before he went on to kill 30 more students and teachers, his aim almost certainly being a mass killing spree.
While NBC is now coming in for heavy criticism for broadcasting extracts of the "manifesto" it was "lucky" enough to receive, it's perhaps better that it came out now rather than later, only to reignite the misery and pain suffered by those who lost loved ones for a second time. While it's been dealt with in the sensationalist style most associated with American TV news, one of the presenters tastelessly referring to it as "a legacy to NBC", it's doubtful if he'd chosen another network that they would have treated it any differently. The contents most certainly are sensational, even if it needn't be dealt with in a such a way. While Shriver argues that these massacres are all copycat crimes, and she has more than a point, it's difficult to criticise the media's coverage, other than for the way it's predictably demonised a man who seemingly could have been intercepted and treated well before he reached the point of no return. His two short plays especially, which have been described as disturbing, instead seem adolescent, puerile and attempts at dark humour which fail due to their stilted nature, and if they're meant to be frightening as some say, then there's a lot of people out there who should never go near the writings of say, Peter Sotos or even Chuck Palahniuk.
Dismissing him in this way seems part of the way of avoiding the questioning of modern culture itself. There have always been serial killers, murderers and terrorists, but never before have young men and teenagers in such a short space of time carried out such wanton acts of carnage against their own peers in the corridors of their schools. The easy availability of such lethal weaponry plays its part, but it doesn't explain why this epidemic has erupted in such a way, especially in the last decade. Teenage angst, alienation, mental illness and a thirst for revenge against both perceived and actual slights help us to understand why, but they don't tell the full story. These may be extroverted suicides, as Shriver also argues, and Oliver James seems to concur, but there are thousands who kill themselves and who want to end it all without taking dozens of others with them. We have to examine whether the pressures being put on children everywhere to succeed whatever the costs, especially in a dog eat dog world which seems to grow crueler and nastier by the year, and where failing and even being "different" is worthy of ridicule is helping to contribute to the malaise which is afflicting youngsters, even if very few of them are going to slaughter their classmates as a result.
The one thing that's for certain is that it will happen again, and next time the killer will most likely be trying to topple Cho's macabre record. Cho has spilt his blood, and to a certain subculture he probably will be a martyr. Most kids will grow out of it, but it's hard to predict who won't, and even then if they'll try their own luck at infamy, succeeding in one thing even if they failed at everything else. I don't have the solution or the answer, but if there is one thing that perhaps would help, it would be for more understanding both for those who suffer from mental ill-health and more attention to be given to those who do suffer from their own private demons while young. It just might prevent more re-runs of the current grieving than is necessary.