Evil Is Always With Us

By Ted Frank
The American Enterprise Institute

Evil is always with us. Andrew Kehoe dynamited the Bath School in Michigan, killing 38 children and six adults -- in 1927. So is courage: look at Virginia Tech Professor Liviu Librescu, who sacrificed himself to save the lives of many of his students when Cho Seung Hui barged into his classroom shooting.

Today, however, we have a legal system that gives entrepreneurial lawyers the incentive to find others than Cho to blame -- but the deepest pockets, rather than the most culpable. This can lead to absurd results: A New York jury held that terrorists who exploded a truck bomb in the World Trade Center in 1993 were only 32% responsible, but that the landlord was 68% responsible for the losses from that crime.

We can expect the same blame-shifting over this week's tragedy. With 20/20 hindsight, some will blame Virginia Tech for not anticipating precisely where a spree killer would be; others will seek to hold gun sellers or video-game makers liable. Millions of dollars will be spent on lawyers and perhaps even extortionate settlements.

But ironically, that same legal system will not consider its own contribution: a professor notified authorities about the clearly troubled Cho months ago, but "legal hurdles" prevented intervention.

The responsibility for the Virginia Tech massacre lies with Cho Seung Hui. But if lawyers are going to ask us to point fingers at peripheral parties, let us look at the effects that fear of liability has had on the ability of schools to do the right thing.

Ted Frank is a Resident Fellow and Director of the AEI Liability Project atthe American Enterprise institute

Posted by Michael Corones |  April 18, 2007; 1:30 PM ET
Next: Not Every Tragedy Has a Solution


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This is a deeper socio-cultural issue of our entire society and systems creating, condoning, tolerating and benefiting from 'boys will be boys behaviors' -- stalking, sexual assault, sexual predators, child molestors, bullying, rape, voyeurism, stunted development, violence, sexism, misogyny, sexist attitudes, behaviors, statements -- all fall on a continuum considered OK -- just boys - males - men -- of all ages being typical boys ... lax laws, regulations and attitudes which continue to sanction such crap....while all males benefit from it.

Posted by: perversityinAmerica.com | April 18, 2007 05:30 PM

Liviu Librescu is just another Jessica Lynch type scam perpetuated by the media hoping to create a hero when there wasn't any. A 76 year old man defending a class full of students against a crazed 23 year old with two pistols is just ludicrous. The old geezer probably got shot trying to run away from the shooter, and sence he was a jew born in Eastern Europe prior to WW2, he became a holocaust hero died protecting his students. What BS! But don't expect the MSM to ask probing questions to find out the truth.

Posted by: Joe Nash | April 18, 2007 07:30 PM

Yo, Joe:

Thanks. You're an idiot.

Posted by: YoJoe | April 18, 2007 07:40 PM

and the shootings will continue. Funny how these "think tanks" are populated primarily by NeoCon a'holes . Just shows who's got the real money and power in today's society.
The NeoCons dont have to worry, they have plenty of security around their homes and workplaces. What do they care.
Takes the pressure of their Iraq war anyway.

Posted by: tdaniels | April 18, 2007 10:58 PM

"effects that fear of liability has had on the ability of schools to do the right thing."

Oh for heavens sake! The school did not take action because there was no action that could be taken back in December 2005. He hasn't threatened anyone or harmed anyone. He had committed no crime that would justify expulsion (and the only possible offense was one where the witness, a woman, refused to co-operate.)

If universities start expelling students for depression (the only diagnosis then), then they have to expel ALL student who ae depressed or go for counseling. The latest studies of mental health in college show that means kicking out 46% of the students.

This is a country that probably buys more Prozac than it does ice cream.

Potential lawsuits didn't "scare" the university into doing nothing - they had no grounds to do anything.

Being uncommunicative and weird are generally not reasons for being expelled. If the professors had had the intellectual honesty to flunk him for the poor writing, he would have been out for poor performance (and he might have gone off sooner and killed them from what we know now.)

So should the university refused to accept students who have or seem to have mental illnesses or problems functioning? That, of course, includes ADD and other faddish behavior labels. Some are minor, some are severe but all are a disability of some sort.

Get off your pet neo-con hobby horse. Its a bore and not consistent with the facts.

Posted by: AnnS | April 18, 2007 11:56 PM

That's right, the trial lawyers are to blame. Trial lawyers and evildoers.

The quote from Jesus is that the poor are always with us- but the antitrial people want to limit the right of the poor to claim a financial settlement if they are injured. The right wing are proclaiming that the kids at VT are all right as long as noone sues anyone. Next they will tell us to all go shopping.

Please, don't take down Joe Hash's comment- he is a typical supporter of these right wing paid lackeys and they should stand up with him in getting to the bottom of the death of an elderly holocaust survivor. I am sure the unholy alliance of religious zealots and business interests could never be better represented.

Posted by: meewv | April 19, 2007 12:06 AM

Someone PLEASE take down "meewv"'s and "Joe Nash"'s comments--we don't need anything similar to "hymietown" here.
And to "tdaniels": Which "neo-con think tanks" are you whining about now? Point me to their quotes on this massacre that support your point. By the way, stop reading the Democratic Party talking points--it is too obvious in your post.

Posted by: sleepy62 | April 19, 2007 01:11 AM

It's sort of a no-brainer, isn't it? You put a kid with extreme selfdoubts in a school where kids and faculty respond to him signing "?" with "Oh is your name question mark"--missing a classic signal of despair and loneliness--and then, when the kid reaches out in the only dumb way he knows how to a couple of women, bring in the police, and then, when he tells someone near him that this has made him feel like killing himself, you send him to involuntary commitment, and also when he tries to express his feelings in creative writing, you dump him from the class for being too (whatever) in what he's shown of his feelings. In short, he is silenced and further ostracized. Then we ask what made him do it? Of course, his particularities and the gun culture doubtless participated too, but the kid was correct that he was forced into a corner (even if not every animal in a corner attacks).

Posted by: friedman | April 19, 2007 02:13 AM

There was a lot of evil at the Virginia Tech, both among students, teachers, and school officials! The ostracism, vilification, demonization, stigmatization isolation, bullying, threat of expulsion, and character assessination! The sole object of this, for two long years, was one South-Korean student by the name of Cho Seung Hui! How much a fragile psyche of a young person can take? We have seen how much! The Virginia Tech has some answering to do to the American people and to the world!

Posted by: Bohdan Szejner | April 19, 2007 02:23 AM

My heart goes to all the victims oif this horrible tragedy. To them go my prayers and condolences. But we, Americans, cannot stand idle when we see evil happening, or else we will see more Columbines, September 11's, and Virginia Techs! This is why I here denounce the conspiracy to destroy the South Korean student at the Virginia Tech! I know how this feels, it was done to me at a similar but geographically different setting. Soon I voiced my Catholic opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and radical feminism in my English class, the stigmatization and character assessination of me had began by the feminist English teachers and school of Education officials! Sounds familiar? Two years later, like in this case, I was found "mentally insane"! My Teacher's Certification access was denied. My graduation was compromised. My thesis on God, the Most Excellent Spirit of Reading and Writing and Thinking was found unacceptable. I did not snap. But, after a monumental three-year fight in the courts, I lost my faith in America and was forced into exile! Sounds familiar, Signori studenti e professori di Virginia Tech, especially you, Sra. Giovanni? I was an innocent immigrant, just as Cho Seung Hui was. You sought to kill my career, as you did his! Why? Because you do not like people who think differently, who are better than yourselves! Had I been a homosexual, had I condoned abortion, I would have been welcome! Had I written in my creative writing about scatology, you would have found me one of your own! But I had chosen to write about God, and you gave me hell, just as you gave it to Cho Seung Hui! You will not fool America and the world! No wonder that the world increasingly hates Americans!

Posted by: | April 19, 2007 02:54 AM

This is one of the most ridiculous pieces I've ever read. This spokesman for the "strong on terror" administration says in essence that the nation is powerless in the face of madmen. What drivel. We've chosen to be powerless by doing all we can to enable their madness and provide easy access to the means to carry out their fantasies. What the writer is really saying is our nation is in truth quite weak.

Posted by: | April 19, 2007 06:40 AM

Reading these comments, it is clear that there are plenty of Cho wannabes running around. Listen, all you nut jobs with persecution complexes, Cho did what he did because he was an evil, pathetic, sociopathic freak. It is good that he is dead.

If you agree with what he did, or that he was "backed into a corner" then you should realize that there is a God who will judge you. Cho didn't escape judgement by killing himself. He is burning in hell now. Do you want to join him?

Posted by: Hal | April 19, 2007 07:28 AM

How did a student like Cho Seung Hui stay enrolled at Virginia Tech? Why wasn't he flunked out of the university long ago? He was not functioning on a college level. The two plays he wrote were inappropriate and poorly written. He did not participate in class and was a distraction to his professors and other students. In all the courses I took at undergraduate and graduate level (200 hours), about 1/4 to 1/3 of the grade was class participation which included discussions and oral presentations. Was he given passing grades because he intimidated his professors?

Posted by: Janet LaMotte | April 19, 2007 08:07 AM

Innocent people are getting blown up daily in the Middle East as they were in London and Madrid and as 3000 were in New York. Young men in the US play video games that mimic scenes like that at Virginia Tech. Human beings have a dark side. At one time I believed that reducing the number of guns here would help. I no longer believe that. Criminals and psychotics will always get what they need to kill with.

Posted by: | April 19, 2007 09:02 AM

I don't want to hear that professors are at fault for what their adult students do. Professors have no more training or power than the average citizen.

Posted by: steve muhlberger | April 19, 2007 09:36 AM

We CAN change laws to protect ourselves. Just like we ban the free sale of high explosives and dangerous poisons, and keep newly released prisoners on parole, we can ban guns. Did you know that the NRA has forced the enacting of a law that makes it illegal for police departments to share data on crimes committed with firearms? They know that free flow of such information would help educate the American public about the terrible price we pay for making killing tools freely available to all.

Posted by: Larry | April 19, 2007 11:06 AM

Here is a resposne to Frank's characterization of the first WTC related trial from Victor Comras' Civil Liability is Crucial in the War on Terrorism: A Response to the Wall Street Journal (via Tort Deform post)

Mr. Frank's op-ed is keyed to recent Federal District Court decisions denying motions to dismiss lawsuits against NatWest and Credit Lyonnais. Those suits allege that both institutions provided banking services for charities and other entities known to fund Hamas. He also cites in justification of his thesis an earlier case involving the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He derides NY Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Figueroa's instructions in that case which he characterizes as persuading the jury" ...that the terrorists who planted a truck bomb in the World Trade Center garage in 1993 were only 32% responsible, while the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was 68% responsible." That statement is really off the mark given that the allegations against the Port Authority in that case dealt with their alleged negligence and not any complicity with terrorism. (link)

Posted by: Cyrus Dugger | April 19, 2007 02:28 PM

The anonymous attacks and anti-Semitism are self-refuting, but I should respond to Dugger's spam, which though phrased plausibly with most of the words spelled right, is completely off-base.

For better or worse, Victor Comras criticized my comparison of the WTC bombing case to the NatWest and Credit Lyonnais cases where the bank was accused of complicity with terrorism. (Neither of the latter two cases are in my WaPo post.) Comras doesn't say that my characterization of the WTC bombing case itself is wrong, and if you look closely, nothing in that paragraph contradicts anything I've said about it.

My argument is that holding the Port Authority more responsible for the WTC bombing than the terrorists who performed the bombing is absurd. Nothing Dugger says refutes that obvious point, though in his amateurish eagerness to attack me and spam, he cuts and pastes the first thing he sees.

Posted by: Ted Frank | April 19, 2007 05:32 PM

Life imitates fiction? The similarity cant escape peoples attention. Before and after photos, the striking difference how Cho looked as if characters from films like Taxi Driver and The Matrix. First Cho looks meek and anonymous then his drastic change to that of a commando brandishing various weapons, radically changes his appearance when he seemingly sets out on a mission, like those film characters Cho rails against the worlds moral corruption and rich peoples hedonism. It was a stunning twist in the Cho story, with his manifesto Cho mirrors The Matrix story line of fighting against the system that enslave us all. I wonder if Cho was influenced in any way by such films.

Posted by: siberiafire | April 20, 2007 12:47 AM

Why innocent good people Virginia Tech students die young but evil bad people Bush Cheney Wolfowitz et Al live a long life?

Posted by: siberiafire | April 20, 2007 12:51 AM

Taking control of Iraq's oil is not the primary motivation behind the invasion of Iraq. The real aim is war-profiteering by Pentagon contractors, which - like tax cuts for the affluent - is a regulatory mechanism for shifting America's wealth from the lower and middle class to the top 5 percent rich ruling class.

Posted by: siberiafire | April 20, 2007 12:53 AM

Hal--Can you tell me how to get in touch with God, I have a few things I*d like to talk to him about.

Posted by: Bill MacLeod | April 22, 2007 10:04 AM

American Enterprise Institute plan for dissenters

AEI has (pre VT massacre) written executive orders for Bush/Cheney regarding how to treat official government story dissenters.

The plan involves having multiple lists regarding level of dissenting activity and has nothing to do with peaceful v. militant views.

The VT massacre is a pretext to a PNAC/AEI plan to start organizing lists to be used at a later time.

Part of the plan involves relating the scapegoat to anti-social/anti-rich/anti-government ideals (I think we can already see this one).

The next part involves gathering all people who take mood altering medication and cross referencing them with dissenters (already being done). This will be an excuse to call them crazy and take any weapons they have.

Another major part of the plan involves having friends and neighbors outing anti social people (Germany 1930s style). There will be numerous fake propadanda stories showing heroes saving American lives by outing anti-social people who were about to kill people.

This dissinformation campagn is in full swing and anybody who starts relating your views of 9/11 to the VT scapegoat is probably in on it (whether they know it or not).

Posted by: sane | April 24, 2007 11:57 AM

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