Who's asking: Everyone, especially the Virginia Tech community
No. Not yesterday, not this week, and maybe not at all.
Psychologists and sociologists can debate the existence of a "Werther effect," a theory based on the observation that the suicide rate spikes after a highly-publicized suicide.
But it's just common sense that this young man -- I am not giving him his name, for reasons that will be clear -- was unnoticed even by his suite-mates last week. A couple of his suite-mates weren't even sure he spoke English fluently, he was so quiet and so consumed with his inner world. This week, everyone knows his name and his rage, and almost everyone has now seen him as he wanted to be seen.
The message here is obvious. By killing 32 people, this young man gave himself a world-wide platform. He is finally getting the attention he wanted. We want to understand him, when we ignored him before.
What's hard about the decision to say NO to this? He doesn't deserve our attention or our understanding or our sympathy. News reports now suggest that many people made efforts to help him while he was alive, many people offered him understanding. He lost his right to that when he drew the first gun.
Let's forget his name. Let's stop talking about him, and let's continue to refer to him as a creepy loser.
Let the news media instead spend the next month profiling each of the victims of the massacre, who will never have the opportunity to make one last speech to the public.
The other thing that airing this young man's video has done is turn the media themselves into the story. It's too late to roll back this tide, but it's time for someone to say this again: the reporters are not the story. The TV producer's decision is not the story. They should have sealed up the package, handed it off to the police, and let the police decide whether and how to publicize any of it.