The details are tumbling in willy-nilly and the cable news networks experts for hire are speculating, pontificating, and analyzing. In the end, however, it doesn't take much to understand exactly what happened early this morning in Virginia. America produced yet another crazed fuck, he was able to get his hands on a gun and then--like they all do--he used it.
So why has there been the day long, wall to wall, hub-bub on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX? Let's face it, as tragic as the incident is, it's just another nightmare in a long, terrible, line of them. And, while it certainly won't be any consolation to the family and friends of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, in the grand scheme of things, the body count was minimal.
In fact the media focus has been so intense on the murders of Parker and Ward the outlets barely even noticed James Holmes was officially sentenced in a Colorado court today and that whack job killed 12 people and wounded 70 a scant three years ago. For those still interested he got life for murder and 3,200 years on all the other charges.
For better, or worse, the gruesome answer to the question on the table is the shooter, Vester Flanagan executed his victims as they were broadcasting live on location via WDBJ in Roanoke, VA. As confusion meshed with horror, the studio producer, who was engaged to Ward, the morning anchors, and the station's audience watched the reporter, her photographer, and the woman they were interviewing go down in a hail of bullets while it was actually happening. Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward apparently died at the scene, while a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson was badly wounded. Vicki Gardner was transported to a local hospital and emerged from surgery in, "stable," condition. According to various sources, Brother Flanagan pulled off 15 rounds before fleeing.
Flanagan, a former on air employee of WDBJ who used the name, Bryce Williams, was quickly identified as the shooter. It didn't take an intervention by Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. Not only was he was he caught on camera by Ward, but the perp filmed the shooting himself. Then, as he took it on the lam, he posted a video of the savagery on Facebook and began to tweet his grudges against. Alison Parker and her photographer.
That's right America, thanks to a failed television reporter we have arrived at the dark and terrible nexus of murder and social media. Before he killed himself, you could almost hear Vester Flanagan saying to us, "Look at me! My production will be the standard everyone else is judged by."
He was right too. If you have any sort of real sense of this country you have to know there are some sick twists with glittering eyes sitting out there right now thinking to themselves something along the lines of, "What a great idea, I bet I can do it better." You also have to know those monsters either have a gun already, or they're going to get one soon with very few questions asked.
It's reported, Flanagan had been calling ABC in New York the past few weeks, promising them a big story. Early this morning he faxed the network a 23 page list of excuses for his barbarity. It was a litany of the usual suspects. He was the victim of racism, of sexual harassment, he was bullied, yada, yada, yada. Thrown in among the bitter complaints was an ode to Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech Shooter and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris who shot up Columbine High.
Yes, he might have wanted to be a Ed Bradley, but Vester Flanagan was a lot more akin to Charles Whitman. The problem being we make an Ed Bradley only once every few generations, while it seems like we're stuck with another Charlie Whitman every couple of weeks.
Welcome to the latest incarnation of reality TV, America. You might claim it's appalling, but don't insult me by saying you thought it could never happen here.
Given our society and technology, we all knew this sort of terrible shit was only a matter of time.
This morning, the awful bell finally tolled.