Home > Human nature? > Mobbing And The Virginia Tech Massacre

Mobbing And The Virginia Tech Massacre

Who is to blame?

The Virginia Tech shooting (also known as the Virginia Tech massacre) was a school shooting that took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks (another six people were injured escaping from classroom windows), approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide.[6]:92[7][8]:78 The attack is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history and one of the deadliest by a single gunman worldwide.[9]

Massengill Report: “Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech April 16, 2007: Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel” (PDF). Commonwealth of Virginia. August 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 7, 2013. Retrieved April 26, 2014.


Memorials for the 32 killed.

Excerpt from:
Mobbing And The Virginia Tech Massacre
By Kenneth Westhues, Professor of Sociology
University of Waterloo, November 2007 


…The main reason for the inadequacies of the Massengill Report, and for simplistic attribution of Cho’s rampage to his allegedly evil character, is the human craving for scapegoats – a phenomenon that René Girard has analyzed with enormous insight.

The heaping of all blame for the troubles in a group on one or a few individuals, lets everybody else off the hook. Demonization and eventual elimination of the scapegoat symbolically cleanses the group as a whole, and strengthens the members’ solidarity with one another.

To point out that Seung-Hui Cho was mobbed at Virginia Tech is to say also that he was scapegoated. The words are synonyms. At least from the fall semester of 2005, Cho was an outcast in the English Department, an “evil presence.” He was not unknown, not a quiet boy passing beneath other students’ radar. He was known and noteworthy, singled out, marked out, exceptional, as a model of how not to be. Other students passing him in the corridor would have thought to themselves, “We are here; he is there.” Cho sensed this. This scapegoating, I have argued above, led to Cho’s depression, his suicidal tendencies, and in a downward spiral, to his crazed effort at revenge.

Once he committed mass murder, the scapegoating mechanism kicked in with overwhelming force, affecting everyone who watched the news, and confirming the prior demonization beyond all doubt. See? He was even more evil than we thought.

Only a true devil, the most hideous monster imaginable, could possibly do what he did. We can only be glad he is dead and pull together to heal. An adequate explanation of the Virginia Tech massacre requires becoming conscious of the scapegoating mechanism, transcending it, and then calmly picking through all relevant evidence, toward a factual, reasoned account of what happened and why. It requires accepting the awful truth of what John Donne wrote, that no man is an island, that every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main, that every man’s death diminishes me. This does not mean trying to excuse Cho’s inexcusable crimes. Nor does it mean trying to shift blame and scapegoat somebody else. It means trying to get at the truth of what happened: empirical identification of the sequence of events, what led to what. Sound scientific explanation honors those who wrongly and unnecessarily lost their lives or suffered injury at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, and gives promise of preventing repetition of the tragedy…
(Mobbing And The Virginia Tech Massacre)

  1. BABS
    August 16, 2015 at 12:50

    I am the scapegoat of an extremely rigid family. Anything to maintain the rigidity. They can hardly even ‘bend’.


    • August 16, 2015 at 13:53

      Dysfunctional families require a scapegoat. Welcome to the club!


  2. BABS
    August 16, 2015 at 16:33

    Thanks…what a club. They would sacrifice one of their own just to maintain a status quo.


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