Before taking the lives of the journalist Alison Parker and his colleague, cameraman Adam Ward with eight shots from his rifle, Glock, early Wednesday morning, the ex-journalist Vester Flanagan took care to press the “Record” key of the camera he was pointing on them.
Shortly after, the killer on the loose jumped on Twitter, where he spoke under the pseudonym @bryce_williams7. “I filmed the shots see Facebook”, he wrote, to tell the public to go and see his video of the murder.
A perverse use of social media, which gave an echo rarely seen in a homicide related to labour relations, a type of crime that occurs more than 500 times a year on average in the United States.
“He knew that the use of social media would provide an instant impact to his crime, explains in the interview, Anatoliy Gruzd, director of the Laboratory on social media at Ryerson University, in Toronto. Journalists have been among the first groups of professionals to adopt the social networks, and I wonder if it played a role in the decision of the killer to distribute these images in real time this way.”
On its website, the magazine the american conservative National Review speaks of “the first murder, broadcast on social networks in the United States,” a notice that he does not share Mr. Gruzd. “We see this for the past few years, organizations such as the group islamic State and others have their own account on the social networks to disseminate their propaganda,” he said. The difference with the killings in Virginia, it is that people feel closer to the drama. It is closer to home.”
It also shows that anyone can now produce news. “There is more censorship or control. With a phone and a data connection, you can stream what you want. Twitter and Facebook remove the offensive material, but in the meantime, others have already released on other platforms, under other identities. There is more of an editor somewhere that says: “No, it does not broadcast it.” Therefore, the users should think before you retweet or share content.”
For Jean-Hugues Roy, professor at the School of media at UQAM, humanity has always produced the best and the worst with the technologies that it has designed. He cites nuclear power, a source of phenomenal energy, which has also been used to destroy entire cities.
“Today, amazing communication tools can be used to communicate the worst, such as decapitations, and this murder was filmed in the first person,” he says.
The decision of several media, including the tabloid New York Daily News, print an image of the victims taken by the camera of the killer has also been criticism, including those of Ken Paulson, former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper USA Today and current dean of the division of communication at Middle Tennessee State University.
“If a celebrity was raped and a video of the scene was shot, is what you showed?, he said to the AFP. I don’t think. Why is it that the murder of two people would be less obscene?”
Vester Flanagan, 41 years old, was fired from the tv station WDBJ two years ago, after having been warned several times, in writing, to modify aggressive and anti-social.
Shortly before the murder, the ex-journalist had received by fax a letter of 23 pages to ABC News, in which he explained admire Seung-Hui Cho, the killer who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007. He also explained that his action was motivated by the slaughter that took place at a church in Charleston, in June, where the white killer Dylann Roof has made nine victims black.
“Why I did it? I made a deposit to buy a revolver on June 19, 2015. The slaughter in the church, in Charleston, occurred on June 17, 2015. It is the slaughter in the church, which made me lose the pedals. I carved the initials of the victims on the balls of the weapon.”
Yesterday, the police of the city of Roanoke, Virginia, where the double murder early Wednesday morning, was said to have recovered the mobile phone of Vester Flanagan. After the drama, he sent a text message to a friend in which he said, “have done something stupid,” according to official documents.
The shooter has made a suicide attempt shortly after in a rental car that had left the highway after a police chase. He died the same day in a local hospital.