The Art of Defiance:

Recent Celebrities - August 26, 2007
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Seung-Hui Cho made headlines when he shot many people to death at Virginia Tech's university campus.

Natascha Kampusch made headlines when she escaped after being held captive for over eight years in a private home.

According to the media, both individuals were subjected to rare forms of relative involuntary social isolation in their adolescent years.

The case of Seung-Hui Cho seemed more appropriate for the 1980's. Before the internet, I can imagine why a socially isolated person would choose to major in English and send tapes and essays to NBC to make his views known. If he wants to make his views known in the internet age, he doesn't have to do it in an English class. He's more likely to find a sympathetic audience on the internet (me, for example). He can publish his essays and videos directly on his own websites where they won't be dismissed as rants without ever reaching the public. I have received thousands of replies to my website over the years, but no one came close to expressing the type of emotions that Seung-Hui harbored. An intense and uncompromising rejection of society is an invaluable asset. The great tragedy in our world today is that there aren't more people who harbor feelings like those of Seung-Hui Cho.

In the case of Natascha, we hear the media allude to the Stockholm Syndrome to help explain why she didn't take advantage of opportunities to escape before she finally did. It would have been better not to report anything for five years, rather than try to extract the maximum amount of information from her as soon as possible. The emphasis on breaking news and telling the story as it unfolds leaves the public scatterbrained with trivial facts. For example, many Californians spent countless hours following the power outages in the news earlier in this decade without understanding how or why it was happening. By the time the complete story could be told, they were already busy consuming the latest news on some other story.

Natascha gives the impression of a person who developed quite normally. No need to mention the Stockholm syndrome. Better to focus on the more fundamental principle that all humans are smug conformists. If Hitler had won the second world war, we could easily be living in a society that believes that concentration camps were a noble innovation of human foresight. The common theme is that humans are willing to accept whatever the majority believes. All our values and beliefs are a reflection of a courageous(**) tendency to agree with the powerful. All else being equal, a socially isolated person is less likely to agree with the powerful and more likely to be cowardly.

** If this sentence does not sound right, consider that President Bush used the term "cowardly acts" to describe people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their convictions. Courage is exemplified by the image of people waiting in line for hours at airports because someone may be carrying a shoe bomb.