Siva on Virginia Tech, techology and treatment for the mentally ill

Siva Vaidhyanathan has (at least) two thoughtful pieces on the Virginia Tech tragedy. The first, posted Wednesday, is one with which I generally agree:

As a culture, we are very bad at thinking about technology. We look to it either as something to fear or as a panacea for the flaws of the human condition. Technology is neither. It is merely an extension of our own wills and capabilities.

Americans at once will worship technological “advancement” while lurching to blame whatever is new and strange for maladies that have affected our species for millennia. We often view technology either as haunted by evil or neutral and independent of human interaction and intentions.

A follow up post from Thursday is just as thoughtful, although I disagree with where he comes down on NBC News’ decision to broadcast parts of Cho’s videos. (I fall more along the Winer/Doc access on that one.) He also takes up the mental health angle:

families of mentally ill people are worried that because of Cho’s attacks and his frightening visage on our screens, our society will further turn against their loved ones, moving from malign neglect to outright hostility.

We already systematically fail to provide care for the mentally ill. This neglect often results in tragedy but rarely ends in violence. Already we hear calls that the mentally ill are inherently defective or, as an op-ed in The New York Times on Thursday claimed, “born evil.”

It’s late and I have not submersed myself in the TV coverage of the last few days, so perhaps my skepticism level is low and I’m being naive, but I draw a different conclusion. It seems to me that Cho’s case is drawing attention to mental illness and the need for intervention, treatment, and community support. To wit, PRI’s The World carried an interview with “Iain Guthrie, who runs Mental Health First Aid Workshops at colleges and universities in Scotland. The workshops aim to reduce stigma and provide information about resources for treatment and support.” 


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