April 18, 2007

"Wow - You called it"

"Wow - You called it" writes one reader. "Damn, but you're perceptive," says a another. "Sometimes, you scare me" emails a third.

Okay, what am I blowing my horn over? My shot-in-the-dark guess on Tuesday that the Virginia Tech killer might have been influenced by violent movies from his native South Korea, such as "Old Boy:"

"Nonetheless, let me toss out a bit of wholly unwarranted speculation about the influence of recent South Korean pop culture. South Korean movies and music ... are super cool now in Japan. The trendier Korean movies are, I hear, awfully violent. I made it through about ten minutes before fleeing of the popular South Korean film "Oldboy," which makes Quentin Tarantino's movies look like Erich Rohmer's. It's part of a series with "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," which I managed to avoid completely. ... I have no idea if the shooter was a fan of pop culture developments in the country he left when he was about ten, but it's a possibility."

This evening, the New York Times' blog The Lede writes:

Updates on Virginia Tech
By Mike Nizza
An Image’s Ties to a Dark Movie
8:07 PM ET

Inspiration for Cho's Images?

A self-shot photo of Mr. Cho, above, and a still from the Web site of the movie ‘Oldboy.’

The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004. The poses in the two images are similar, and the plot of the movie, “Oldboy,” seems dark enough to merit at least some further study.

Following is The Times’s plot summary: The film centers on a seemingly ordinary businessman, Dae-su (the terrific Choi Min-sik), who, after being mysteriously imprisoned, goes on an extensive, exhausting rampage, seeking answers and all manner of bloody revenge.

In a Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote that the film’s “body count and sadistic violence” mostly appealed to “cult-film aficionados for whom distinctions between high art and low are unknown, unrecognized and certainly unwelcome.”

A Virginia Tech professor, Paul Harrill, alerted us of the similarity between images in the hope that it would shed some light on what led Mr. Cho to kill 32 on Monday before turning the gun on himself.

Keep in mind that this connection is hardly definite (and the pictures aren't exactly the same -- a one-handed grip on a hammer versus a two-handed grip), but the emergence of Cho's picture today is indeed suggestive that I might have been more on to something than on something.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Very insightful Steve.

You're good because you look at things others won't.

Ron Guhname said...

But all respectable people say that Sailer talks nonsense because he is blinded by racial hatred. God, curse us all with such blindness.

Anonymous said...

Steve is going to milk this for years, possibly decades.

Anonymous said...

"Steve is going to milk this for years, possibly decades."

Ollie also has the gift! ;) (He deserves the milking, of course) Now you can milk *your* prediction for decades!

Anonymous said...

Not to rain on Steve's parade, but that kid took a million pictures of himself, only one involved a hammer, and (as far as I know) Cho at no point beat up a bunch of dudes with a hammer, or harmed any live squid. The links between the two seem to be limited to 1. a picture of a hammer and 2. the hammer-wielder is of Korean descent. That's not very much, and I hope we all take the Matrix to task for the picture with him pointing two guns at the camera, and The Great Train Robbery for the shot of him pointing a single gun at the camera. That is to say--there is a plausible case to made for him being influenced by violent entertainment in general (the Matrix, god knows what further guys-with-guns movies, the wrestling that was the only television he was known to have watched, and--yes--Oldboy) but not by Oldboy alone.

Honestly--compared to the popular East Asian cinemas that preceded it (Hong Kong and Japan) Korean cinema is not that violent. It can be brutal, but it's produced nothing on the body-count level of The Killer or Battle Royale (to pick the most obvious examples.)

Anonymous said...

"Oldboy" is the wrong movie, if you imagine yourself as a victim of society. It's not a simple revenge movie. There is no clear good guy-bad guy split. It's really tricky. Watch it. Great movie!
On the other hand, if you watch Chos video testament, he seems to imagine himself as Jesus Christ, dying a martyr’s death in the name of the weak and oppressed, portraying America as a decadent Rome, calling himself "Ismail’s Ax"… So, don’t blame pop culture, blame religion.

Anonymous said...

Heh, even some major Swedish newspapers are splashing the "Oldboy" - "Cho" comparison all over their front pages... (see:)


Ali said...

Oldboy wasn't a very violent movie at all. There's maybe one sequence where he takes down some guys with a hammer that could be described as such. 300 was far more gory.

His mental and social problems seem to have far more to do with his murders than movies\video games\wrestling.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a tenuous link. You could just as easily link it to this standard North Korean motif

Anonymous said...

Steve may be wrong about the Oldboy connection (too soon to say definitively either way, I'd guess), but those who criticize it here by offering idiotic allusions to other things besides violent culture are orders of magnitude sillier.

Religion? First of all, didn't Cho supposedly rail against Christians in his little missives? His martyr/victim pose wasn't the result of a Jesus complex, it was from the fact that being a victim is the dominant currency of our crappy bathetic emotion-laden society.

And as for those who always jump up to say that violent movies, games and culture in general can't be responsible because media doesn't have such a strong influence on people: Madison Avenue would love to get that memo, I'm sure. It'd be nice for them to find out they;re wasting their time.

Anonymous said...

I hope we all take the Matrix to task for the picture with him pointing two guns at the camer

Sorry dude, the double handgun at the camera shot is the John Woo trademark.


This guy liked violent Asian cinema. Of course I find the idea that this is what *made* him kill ridiculous. Of course violent people will like violent entertainment, but that doesn't mean violent entertainment converts nonviolent people or even provokes violent people.

Extremely uncommon events can't be reduced to common entertainment. 300 was violent too, and every single male in my age bracket went gaga over it.


Anonymous said...


I was joking. Sure, it is silly to blame religion. Nevertheless, the killer made a lot of references to Christian Religion. We don't take that serious. And we are right so. All I'm asking is: why take a pop cultural references serious?

Anonymous said...

Correlation doesn't equal causation.To compare and contrast,I'll cut and paste this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for John Hinckley, Jr:

"After repeated viewings of the 1976 movie Taxi Driver, in which a disturbed protagonist, Travis Bickle, played by Robert DeNiro, plots to assassinate a presidential candidate, Hinckley developed an obsession with actress Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in the film[2]. When Foster entered Yale University, Hinckley moved to New Haven, Connecticut, for a short time to be nearer to her, slipping poems and messages under her door and repeatedly contacting her by telephone.

Failing to develop any meaningful contact with Foster, Hinckley developed such plots as hijacking an airplane and committing suicide in front of her in order to gain her attention. Eventually he settled on a scheme to win her over by assassinating the president, on the theory that as a historical figure, he would be her equal."

My point is,lots of people have seen Taxi Driver, including me.Neither I or them have killed anybody yet.Therefore it is unlikely that this kind of correlation implies causality.Cum hoc ergo propter hoc and all that.

Anonymous said...

And you wasted ink on that conclusion?

Anonymous said...

Another super-similar Oldboy shot from the Cho collection:


(Both now on Drudge)

I'm getting close to calling this one definately for Sailer...

Anonymous said...

Many if not most young men model their poses of toughness and masculinity from what they see on the movies and television. And if you're a young Asian guy, for a long time your icons of badass masculinity were pretty much limited to Bruce Lee-- who's actually a pretty positive role model, with his thoughtful books on Jeet Kune Do and emphasis on honor and restraint. But with the explosion of Hong Kong gangster cinema in the late 1980s-early 1990s, followed by the international success of Korean action movies, all of the sudden the icon of badass Asian masculinity became Chow Yun-Fat firing two guns at once. And whatever the specifics were, it's pretty clear that Cho had all of these images dancing in his head.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't get the sarcasm, which either shows how dumb I am (definitely possible, but in my defense on that point, I point to the fact that I posted it at 4:40 am) or how dumb some of the comments about the VT shooting have been.

See, e.g. Obama.

Anonymous said...

To all the wiser than thou folks...

Steve was right! Drudge just posted another photo.

The guy clearly saw these images and roles as sexy and to refuse to see that is obtuse.
Why is the Media continuing to air these when he clearly saw himself at his sexiest in photos in this last photo shoot?

Anonymous said...

Sky News via Drudge:
"Detectives say Cho Seung-Hui repeatedly watched the South Korean movie Oldboy in the days leading up to the massacre in which 32 people were killed.

The film's themes of obsession and revenge also occur in Cho's own writings.

In a chilling video sent by the student to the American TV network NBC he appears to re-enact scenes from the movie in a series of photographs.

In one he holds a gun to his own head and in another wields a hammer, images that appear in the film."

Will you now admit Steve was right? And none of the whining about well, sniff, well, it didn't create the monster, many kids watch it and don't do that.
Sure, most don't. He's at the extreme end of the bell curve. Most of the rest are just obnoxious jerks.
Also, somewhat related: What in the Hell is up with the young men, of whom there were dozens, when an old geezer Holocaust survivor is about the only one to risk his life and resist this guy?

Anonymous said...

"when an old geezer Holocaust survivor is about the only one to risk his life and resist this guy?"

Bell curves plus selection again? Surviving a nazi concentration camp would probably both select for toughness and make you tougher at the same time. Which would make the prof. extremely hardened compared to the average college kid?

Anonymous said...

for those who say video gaming/violent movies aren't the cultprit - you're right but they are the 'manifester', I think. in other words, he did some crazy stuff, but were he exposed to other media - if gratutitous violent media wasn't so readily available - perhaps he might have just dressed up as Gothe's character and killed himself, no?

Anonymous said...

Hats off to Liviu Librescu, Rest In Peace. His act of heroism brings a tear to my eyes. Even Jupiter would have to admit that guy was a hero.

What amazes is that this kid walked into rooms full of 10-20 people and shot them all, while their classmates sat their and vomited like sitting ducks. How long does it take to kill 20 people with a glock (and probably some missed shots along the way)? 30 seconds? And nobody fought back? What a disgraceful lack of survival instinct.

That Romanian Jewish Holocaust surviver was the only one to fight for human life. May he Rest in Peace.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. Sky News says that Cho watched "Oldboy" repeatedly. I had never heard of this movie before now. Hot Air has a clip from the movie and lots of updates on the case.

Bell curves plus selection again? Surviving a nazi concentration camp would probably both select for toughness and make you tougher at the same time.

Honestly, even just spending some time beforehand thinking about what one would do in such a situation probably would change the course of action a lot of people chose. But most of these students likely never gave a moment's thought to how they would behave and went with their gut instincts. Librescu, being a Holocaust survivor, knew exactly how he would choose to act. He didn't have to decide anything when the time came. For the record, I believe I've heard that one or two students did actually attempt to delay Cho as well.

Anonymous said...

The british press are reporting the oldboy "link too: daily mail

I think the poses are just standard psycho-with-weapons poses.

As for all the nonsense in the above comments about "only a holocaust survivor risked his life" - another student Waleed Mohammed risked his life too. I doubt if he was a holocaust survivor.

Anonymous said...

Definition of Holocaust survivor: one of the few million European Jews that the Nazis couldn't be bothered to kill.

Librescu, 8-9 years old in 1939, spent most of the war in the Romanian ghetto of Foc┼čani.

I give him more credit for surviving, indeed flourishing, for over 30 years under Romanian Commmunism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out Waleed.
That makes him, the professor, and three students who barricaded the door.

I hope we hear of others, but I'm disappointed. What about even throwing a chair?

Perhaps I'm being too hard, but it just doesn't make sense; it's weird. I was in a situation where I was with a group of friends and we found ourselves being robbed at midnight. We were at a lake when we went to investigate lights coming on in our car when a huge black guy came out. He didn't brandish a weapon or come towards us, so it is definitely different. He was between us and our car and there was no way out. We were only teenage girls. Everyone froze or turned around so they "wouldn't see themselves get shot". Finally, I just walked to the car with the rest following and had to walk right past this guy and pretend that I wasn't scared at all even though I was so scared that I could have thrown up. We get to the car and he ran after us and grabbed the last door before it could shut. I kept up my game "I'm bored" face; I talked to the guy casually, and he let us go but not before pointing out that all my other friends were scared and making lewd and sexual comments about redheads to me. I remember looking at my friends when he did this and being so angry with them for being cowards and cursing them in my head.

Ali said...

Christ. Have any of the anonymous armchair warriors here spouting off about those cowardly students have actually played John McClane when a crazy person was shooting at them in an enclosed, small space?

With that sort of thinking maybe the youth of America needs all the violent movies and video games they can get in order to train themselves to take down armed nutters.

The spinning's already begun. The usual suspects will start blaming lack of gun control\cowardly liberal culture\Hollywood\school administration\George Bush according to their political stripes.

Anonymous said...

hey ali read this from vdare:
The technical name for not fighting back is “cowardice.” One professor died bravely, giving his life in order to door protect his students. That’s courage, and he should be awarded some kind of medal. But compare it to the behavior in this email Michelle Malkin received:

We heard pretty much continuous shooting for the next minute or so, and I said, “Shouldn’t we barricade the door,” because we were sitting ducks with no way out inside that room if he opened the door. A couple more people floated the idea that “We need to barricade the door, NOW.” But I was too scared to even move, much less move the teacher’s desk.

Finally one of the guys in the front of the classroom was brave enough to get up and move the desk in front of the door to prevent outside entry. About twenty seconds later, the shooter rattled the doorknob trying to get in. When he couldn’t get in he fired two shots through the door (single solid piece of wood) and left. We heard him go in to 206 (the room across the hall) and shoot the people in that room. If we hadn’t put the barricade up when we did, I and all my classmates would be dead.[Michelle Malkin: Carnage at Virginia Tech;

Anonymous said...

Has anyone pointed out what's really scary about the case?

The fact that Cho killed so few. Technology is on the way that will put serious killing-power in the hands of men like him. Atomizing western society with mass immigration, pandering to special interests, etc, etc is a good way to ensure that the technology will find lots of eager users.

Unknown said...


I put a few links together vis-a-vis Koreans and "cognitive elitism."

Anonymous said...

This story has Tarantino's next film homage written all over it.

Anonymous said...

What are the issues involved?

Crazy people have always been with us and always will be, seemingly.

In times past such a lunatic would have been guided by popular culture into more appropriate courses of lunacy: suicide charges in military operations, various occupations on the frontier (miner, cowboy, etc.), or a lot of other things that would channel his violent aggression.

Steve: Passion invited the viewer to identify with the suffering protagonist and thus "forgive" or ask for forgiveness. I'm not surprised by it's effect and IMHO neither should you be. Not that I would ever watch it myself, not a fan of violence or suffering.

A movie like Oldboy in isolation is probably not harmful, however what's notable is how removed from overt messages of right and wrong popular culture has become. Part of this (or perhaps a great deal of it) has to do with the PC-Moral Relativism-post Modern agenda, of which yes Feminism is part.

If you read the Feminist Canon: Kate Millet's Sexual Politics, Greer's Female Eunuch, and Friedan's Feminine Mystique a large thread runs through it: fear and dislike of traditional masculine ideas of honor, responsibility, duty, right and wrong etc.

I'd be the first to agree that the right to absolute legal equality was essential in Western productivity growth, has made society better, and far more civilized.

However ... over and over again I've seen the statements of Feminists that there is "no right and wrong," that making moral decisions is "judgemental" etc. and advocating an Oprah-esque society oriented around feminine values of feeling not thinking, lack of moral values, and denigration of the idea that men are honor/duty-bound to physically put themselves on the line for those weaker and needing physical protection.

Wretchard at Belmont Club makes the point that the idea of suicidal attacks which first started in the 19th Century Anarchists (Nechayev, Princip, etc.) and morphed into Jihad Suicide Bombings has now returned as a virulent idea in the absence of a popular culture that expects and demands types of behaviors from males.

This lack of demands has had IMHO a disastrous effect on Western men because of the debasement of popular culture by post-moderns and feminists. It also IMHO explains why you find Jihadis from cultures under stress of modernization and not outside of globalized networks. Pakistan has a lot of jihadis, as it's tribal culture is transitioning from traditional to something akin to modern. Niger and Mauritania are hardly on the map of global trade and thus their traditional societies and men's places in it are not threatened.

Young men have to have something to do otherwise they cause trouble. They are also essential to protecting a society from envious neighbors, Western Civilization is built on mountains of dead white men, mostly young, who died protecting it.

The other issue is the passivity of the young men who were among the victims and survivors. I've read several survivor accounts of young men who said they heard Psych-Cho reload as he methodically shot the dead, wounded, etc. and "waited to die." Far different from those on Flight 93.

Contrast a bunch of unarmed Marines in that classroom. Some of them might have died. Others wounded. But Cho would have been dead dead dead very quickly.

I would not call the victims or survivors cowards. Instead IMHO they could not first perceive what was happening (because they had the illusion that life is safe, ordered, and not random) and had no mental template to act.

Which is the problem with a culture filled with Old Boy type films. Yes it's violent but so what? The problem is that it does not provide a template for first perceiving then acting to stop killers.

THAT is the problem.

Anonymous said...

In cases like these, the focus is generally on fear of physical harm. I think that something that is overlooked is fear of ridicule. Fear of shame or ridicule can be a very strong incentive, and fighting back seems to be regarded with condescending scorn: “playing cowboy,” “thinking you’re a movie hero” etc. Apparently, fighting back against somebody stronger is particularly ludicrous (when it should be seen as particularly praiseworthy). The principle of “active compliance” is based on the fact that an aggressor is likely to have the upper hand – and on the idea that it’s therefore silly, somehow shameful, maybe even vaguely immoral, to stand up to him; it’s thus perilously close to the principle that might is right. The very thought that an ordinary nerd could actually prefer to fight back even though it will render him serious harm is probably beneath contempt for many people. (You might want to try that one out on people you know.) Is it bizarre that the slur of, for instance, “immaturity” can be more intimidating than an armed gunman? Yes. Is it impossible? No. My point is, absurd as it may seem, that people’s passivity in these situations can be caused by (perceived) societal/peer pressure rather than physical cowardice.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it's true, but I've always heard that if a person in combat has a weapon, but is disarmed, it's disorienting to them - they have to find another means with which to attack/defend and often aren't prepared to do so.

It may be that people who have been weaned on non-violence experience something similar when it becomes clear that calm compliance with the aggressor's demands won't save them. It's just hard, in the heat of the moment, to switch gears, especially if the violence gear has fallen into serious disuse.

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking of Eloi and Morlocks.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many times Cho heard the phrase "white privilege" while he was in college?

Anonymous said...

Steve, it's a pity Cho never found the comments section of your blog.

His creative writing talents could have found worthy expression.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, at 4/19/2007 1:55 PM

best post on the matter yet. You ought to get a blog :)

Anonymous said...

here is a post from an oriental on the nyt blog (no joke):

I understand why the the student turned into a gunman. I knew that something like this was going to happen, and this may be the beginning, unless Americans become more respectful to non-white people (both verbal and nonverbal). Racism is constant, mostly nonverbal. I came from a similar background, although not exactly the same. During the junior high school, I was one of the few Asians at the school. Many students are racists and people called me many names. I also spoke constantly about killing people. I started lifting weights, and at the end of that year, I was the strongest in my school. I played with lots of bb guns and paintball guns. I started playing various sports (fball, wrestling, etc). My parents were also poor. Many immigrants either join gangs or some people play sports to release their anger. Fortunately, I was able to overcome the environmental factors, became very popular in high school, and overcame the adversity. It is a special challenge for immigrants and non-caucasians in America. I have an incredibly strong will power and through the help of God, I overcame adversities and constant racism. Now, I am very successful. Many people will not overcome racial adversities and this shooting could just be the beginning… My advice to all Americans:
1. Be respectful to all people (both verbal and nonverbal), all the time.
2. I don’t understand the gunlaw(biggest problem)
3. American media is full of junk (violence(WWF), sex(OC), drugs, and violent music. Get rid of them, now.
4. Understand that many people from other countries that have poor english accents are better educated than many americans here, with masters and PhDs. Be respectful to people in all places, but most Americans will never know what it feels like to be non-white, because white people are nice to white people.
5. The gunman had personal problems, but it is the media, and the americans that influenced the gunman. Again, the gunlaw is also incomprehensible.

p.s. don’t reply or leave my email address. I will not be pleased. Also, I didn’t check the spelling and the grammar.

— Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

"Definition of Holocaust survivor: one of the few million European Jews that the Nazis couldn't be bothered to kill."

Definition of asshole: someone who attempts to mock or minimize the mass murder of millions of innocent people.

Unknown said...

1. Be respectful to all people (both verbal and nonverbal), all the time.
2. I don’t understand the gunlaw(biggest problem)
3. American media is full of junk (violence(WWF), sex(OC), drugs, and violent music. Get rid of them, now.
4. Understand that many people from other countries that have poor english accents are better educated than many americans here, with masters and PhDs. Be respectful to people in all places, but most Americans will never know what it feels like to be non-white, because white people are nice to white people.
5. The gunman had personal problems, but it is the media, and the americans that influenced the gunman. Again, the gunlaw is also incomprehensible.

It'd be easier to just expel them all, or at least put an end to their immigration ASAP. More to the point, it'd be in our interests, and reciprocal (seeing how they're not inviting anyone in by the millions).

Anonymous said...

4. Understand that many people from other countries that have poor english accents are better educated than many americans here, with masters and PhDs. Be respectful to people in all places, but most Americans will never know what it feels like to be non-white, because white people are nice to white people.

So why don't you please leave the USA?