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April 21, 2007

Evolution of a conspiracy

by Feòrag

United States: The Virginia Tech shootings have given us an interesting insight into the way conspiracy theories, and other alternative viewpoints, develop.

On April 18th, Debbie Schlussel posted a picture she'd found on Flickr to her blog. It showed a young Korean man with glasses who bears no other resemblance to Cho Seung Hui, except that his name is Cho Seung Hoo - which apparently is quite different to a Korean. The young man is a computing teacher in Indonesia, and a Christian, and took the name Ismail while there because it's easier for the locals to pronounce. The picture showed him with this name written on his arm.

Schlussel suggested that this picture was of the murderer and that he was some kind of Islamist terrorist. When it was pointed out that this was not Cho Seung Hui, but a very different man living on the other side of the world, she took the post down, replacing it with an explanation this is not the guy, so I'm removing it. The photographer's explanation can be found near the bottom of this Boing Boing post. A less polite version of events can be found at The Agitator.

Anyway, case closed. Mistaken identity, everything's in the clear now, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, some people did not see the correction, and the story took off, fuelled by some good old-fashioned ethnic and religious hatred.

There are many theories being proposed as to the meaning of the words—ISMAIL AX found written in red ink on the inside of one of Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior's arms, the gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead. [The Followers of ISMAIL, David Johnsson]

A story that he put the name A. Ishmael on the package he sent to NBC and scrawled the name on his own arm just adds to the confusion, though the Daily Mirror did point out some explanations for the name, including one that makes more sense for an English student:

DERANGED Cho Seung-Hui may have seen himself as the lonely Ishmael character from the classic 19th century novel Moby Dick...

The novel by Herman Melville describes the voyage of a ship as it hunts for the great whale Moby Dick. The narrator introduces himself saying Call me Ishmael.

He tells the reader of his feeling of alienation from human society. Another theory is that Cho's reference is from the Bible. Ishmael was the son of the prophet Abraham.

We've already noted that Cho was clearly inspired by the Bible. Also, on the night the video was released, BBC News 24 reported that it included anti-Islam hate speech (no link, alas, but it was repeated during the non-stop coverage the channel was giving to the story) But the loons are still in denial, desperately trying to find some link to Islam, and heavily promoting the idea that he was a Muslim. The American Muslim explains, and also notes the hypocrisy that, these days, any criminal who might be Muslim is considered to be a terrorist:

Yet, the speculation over whether Cho had any connections to Islam continued because of the words Ismael Ax that were tattooed on one of his arms. What do these words mean? In the April 18 edition of the Chicago Tribune, Eric Benderoff wrote: In Islam, Ibrahim is the father of the prophets and, upset that people in his hometown still worshiped idols and not Allah, he smashed all but one statue in a local temple with an ax. Ibrahim's son is Ismail, who also became a prophet. He continued, This theory picked up speed because many bloggers wondered if the actions at Virginia Tech could be related to terrorism.

Once again, because of extremely dubious connections to Islam, Poof!...Cho Seung Hui becomes a terrorist. Once again, the moment someone who is Muslim commits a crime, it automatically becomes an act of terrorism. Never mind that Muslims, too, can be simple criminals and not lone jihadists ready to die (and kill) for Allah.

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Posted in Conspiracies at 17:09. Last modified on March 11 2009 at 12:09.
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1: Posted by: Eric | April 21, 2007 8:23 PM

Very interesting to try and link this act of horror and crime to Islam. Why don't we assume that there is indeed a direct relationship between Cho and Islam based on the fact that he is "Korean" which is close to "Koran" the holy book of Muslims! It is a conspiracy that started long time ago when he was born Korean and it is all pre-planned by the Islamic terrorists.

Why can't we accept the fact that this was a very sick person who had no relationship to any of the true teachings of any of the heavenly or non-heavenly religions?

It is time we look into the true reasons for this:
mental disease that is not treated well, horrible medical legal system that prevents physicians and authorities from proper communication among them and with schools and finally, a society that is ailing with pathological kids who have had no discipline starting from home and school.

2: Posted by: Feòrag | April 21, 2007 9:13 PM

Eric - some interesting points, but you are also engaging in the blame game that Red Wolf mentioned when you make assertions like a society that is ailing with pathological kids who have had no discipline starting from home and school. We have no idea what his home environment was like or how he was brought up. It hasn't been mentioned.

I'd also disagree that his rants had no relationship to any of the true teachings of any of the ... religions, but the only thing they have in common is that Cho and Jesus seem to agree on the matter of riches. It's probably coincidence, because it's a bit of Jesus' teaching that rarely gets mentioned by rich fundie evangelists.

Ultimately, he was a nutter who refused help for his nuttiness.

3: Posted by: Jim | April 23, 2007 1:32 PM

Cho Seung Hui is the product of having to live among people who rejected, shunned, made fun of, and bullied him. The attacks were unending. Finally he snapped and couldn't take life anymore.

At that time he considered almost everyone on earth his enemy.

I am not defending him, I AM condemning those who treat their fellow human being such as he was treated.

Hui was not an isolated case. Hundreds of thousands of children in America is being treated terribly by their classmates at this very time. They are ripe for suicide. It is time that bullying be classified as a terrible act, and to be punished severely.

Ben there.