Cho Seung-Hui’s Killing Rampage


Cho Seung-Hui probably felt lonely and depressed most of his life due to difficulties in communicating with people. It seems, based on what I’ve read, like he talked much less than I did in high school. I knew of maybe 2 other students in my high school (of maybe ~2k students) as untalkative as myself. I didn’t talk, not because I hated people or was “content to be alone” or had nothing to say, but because talking, at some point, for me, had become intensely embarrassing and scary. I was afraid to talk because I knew from experience that my neck/eyes might tremor and I might stutter and lose control of my body/face, feel dizzy, speak incoherently, blush, etc. I cried in bed sometimes even in college. Listening to music and reading lyrics and books by people who seemed to have felt like me, to any degree, was a little consoling and motivated me to “keep going.” I thought about killing myself sometimes but my self-pity (my sympathy, I think, with myself) would be so intense that I’d feel a kind of suicide-preventing excitement, as if I were in the presence of something rare and therefore valuable, or at least interesting, in my view. I had many friends in elementary/middle school that Cho Seung-Hui probably didn’t. I had some friends in high school and college. Cho Seung-Hui probably didn’t.


I didn’t feel bad, or anything, when Kurt Vonnegut died. While alive he was capable, I feel, of doing what he wanted and, if/when he felt depressed he probably also felt self-conscious, so was always a little outside his depression, viewing it with disapproval or amusement or interest. I don’t feel bad for myself, at this point in my life, either. I feel capable of doing what I want and of always remaining, to some degree, an observer of myself, positioned at least partially outside my emotions. I feel capable, in an increasing manner, of accepting whatever may happen: not getting what I want, unfair-seeming situations, feeling sad for “no concrete reason,” multiple amputations, terminal illness, being randomly attacked, dying. To me I’m already dead — and death is not painful or a form of suffering — so I don’t want to allow it the power to affect me, to cause me to feel sad, because if I feel sad I will be more inclined to behave in a certain way. Emotions influence behavior. I want pain/suffering to affect me, to be the source of my sadness, because pain/suffering, unlike death, can be studied, avoided, reduced. Sadness about death has no effect on death. Emotions influence behavior, and sadness about death tends to encourage behavior — reduced productivity, increased media attention on the insensate dead, decreased media attention on those in pain — that, in not reducing future deaths, or having any effect on the existence of death as a universal inevitability, has no logical function but does have the side effect of obscuring but effectively increasing pain/suffering. Whereas sadness about pain/suffering can — and is most likely to — encourage behavior that will reduce future pain/suffering, because people, discerning cause-and-effect, a natural law of concrete reality, can physically arrange things to reduce the future pain/suffering of themselves and/or others.


Many more than 33 people die each day. Many more people suffer more than those killed by Cho Seung-Hui. I’m not saying “33 deaths in one day does not matter because thousands die every day.” I’m saying that a person who earnestly wants to most effectively reduce pain/suffering, or lengthen the net amount of time of humans “being alive,” in the world, should probably always ignore “the media,” especially outlets whose existence depend on viewership size, and focus instead, as a computer would, on numbers.


Some people “freak out” when they see a PETA video and feel sad for 10 or 20 minutes. The person who earnestly wants to reduce pain/suffering in the world should internalize those videos and train themselves to be equally affected by “cuteness” and “ugliness” and by what they can and, at whatever moment, can’t see. If one, for example, earnestly wants to reduce pain/suffering in the world one would not stop jogging upon seeing a rabbit that’s been hit by a car but is still alive; one could better utilize one’s pain/suffering-reducing time by gaining money and spending it on organic vegetables, for example, from companies that are independently owned by specific people who have the option, unlike publicly-owned companies, to use profits in ways, like increasing wages or improving sustainability, that aren’t ultimately means for greater profits.


Cho Seung-Hui used many cliches in the video he sent CNN. He said things like “now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.” He said things against “rich kids,” which doesn’t reference a specific thing in concrete reality.


“I dislike [specific book or story]” can be a fact; “[specific book or story] is [abstraction, such as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ or ‘important’]” can not be a fact unless a context/goal has been defined and calculations have been made to discern if [specific book or story] benefits the goal, or not, taking into account a limited context of a range of time and area of space. Saying “[specific book or story] is [abstraction]” without adding “to me”/“in my view” or without defining a context/goal is like saying “I am the only person who exists and my opinions are facts” or “I am the entire universe and the universe is not indifferent but actually makes value judgments on specific parts of itself without knowing for what goal the specific part is valuable within what temporal and spatial context.”


Fiction writing has no universally agreed upon purpose. Something without a goal cannot be “good” or “bad.” It can only be “liked” or “disliked,” though even those are not completely accurate. Someone can accurately say “Stephen King’s writing makes my face feel like a giant pancake” or “this sentence by Stephen King caused my heart-rate to increase by 2 beats-per-minute.”


Some people rarely talk and are often incoherent and maybe spend most of their time alone. Those are facts, which are not inherently good or bad. Some people prefer people who talk a lot and can maintain eye contact without awkwardness. Some people prefer people who rarely talk and do not make eye contact. These preferences — and the way people uniquely, in each moment of space-time, convey a configuration of a behavior — are constantly changing, to some degree, for each person, so that what’s desirable can quickly become not, or what’s not can suddenly be very.


An extremely shy person who is in an environment intolerant to art (an environment in which the language of concrete reality, words like good/bad, is also used when discussing the world of abstraction/imagination) can’t communicate honestly, due to fear, or lack of earnest listeners, with other people. When a person cannot communicate with other people, other people come to be viewed differently, maybe like rocks or trees, except inherently “not good.” People mostly do not feel they have the ability to communicate with rocks or trees. I don’t feel bad if I kick or throw a rock or take a leave off a tree. If I viewed other people as things that I could not communicate with, and who could not communicate with me, I would not hesitate to do whatever I wanted to do to them as a means for other things, for example to relieve boredom, convey frustration/anger, exercise, see what happens, etc. For example I might throw a rock to feel entertained, or stimulated, by its movement through space.


Facts do not defend. A person can use facts to defend or attack an assumption, but only if they also define a context and a goal. It would be impossible, I feel, for me to convincingly defend or condemn Cho Seung-Hui unless the context was something like .000000000000001% of the space I’m vaguely aware of existing on Earth and .0000000000001% of the time in the future I can realistically comprehend and the goal was something like “eliminate killing rampages where more than 15 people die on a college campus.”


To censor or express “concern” about a person’s non-rhetorical writing is to censor or express “concern” about a person’s existence. Which is to stop a person not from maintaining, or being aware of their location within and alone, but from sharing their private world of abstraction in a carefree and honest manner. Which is to encourage a wariness and secrecy with — and something like fear of — one’s own imagination, different than anyone else’s, with unique and ever-changing guidelines, or tendencies, but no shared laws like concrete reality’s cause-and-effect or gravity.


Fiction exists privately and uniquely to each reader, not in the shared space of concrete reality. Applying concrete reality’s laws, of cause-and-effect, to the world of abstraction — to people’s imaginations, where dreams and thoughts cannot directly cause pain/suffering to others — is illogical and seems, to me, egregiously misguided, and is the main cause, I think, of censorship.


Noah Cicero wrote a story about a character who consoles himself by, among other ways, eating ice cream and pizza and not answering the phone. Instead of doing what the character did, and what he might have otherwise done, Noah instead wrote a story, which other people, when feeling depressed, can maybe read (instead of eating unhealthy food) to feel better. What happened in Noah’s story happened in the world of abstraction. It does not, even implicitly, condone eating ice cream, or not answering the phone, as ways to feel better. To those who view imagination and concrete reality as separate, the message, if anything, derived from the observation that Noah, at least during the time of writing, did not console himself by eating ice cream, but wrote a story about a character eating ice cream, would seem to be that it’s possible — and, to most people, more desirable — to write a story, when feeling bad, instead of eating ice cream. So the story, in that way, functions as encouragement to not “give in” to ice cream.


Reading literature where the characters feel undesirable emotions most of the time, but mostly only struggle internally, against themselves, reacting passively or with acceptance when in situations involving outside forces, such as other people, antagonizing them, has I think increased my ability to remain calm and accepting in situations where the reflexive response is frustration, the feeling of being targeted in an unfair manner. I feel more accepting, less likely to feel anger, blame others, or complain — and more likely to react calmly, in a sustainably productive manner, instead of with a killing rampage — after and while reading work by Jean Rhys, Richard Yates, Ann Beattie, Matthew Rohrer, Michael Earl Craig, Lydia Davis, Joy Williams, Frederick Barthelme, Kafka, Schopenhauer, Fernando Pessoa.



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Tao Lin

Tao Lin


I’m the author of Leave Society (2021), Trip (2018), Taipei (2013), other books. Visit my website at