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Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere

Schools everywhere, understandably, are skittish. They will be for the rest of the spring semester, possibly into next year. I've happened to read a lot of student newspapers the last few days, virtually every one asking some variation of "What about us?" Local television news here reported an arrest today for e-mail threats sent by a university student in Missouri and another of high schoolers in Washington state who broke into a state trooper's home and stole guns they later carried to school in a backpack. A classmate there noticed and sent a text message to her mother.

And at my alma mater, Southern Miss, campus police arrested a student this afternoon on a faculty tip that he had sent threatening and violent messages over MySpace. Police later found "additional writings" on his computer and weapons including "long rifles, shotguns, a semi-automatic handgun and some ammunition" at his rural home. He appears in Forrest County court Friday morning.

I searched for the MySpace account belonging to the name in the Hattiesburg American and only came up with this. I'm not familiar with MySpace, if any readers can do better. The alleged threats and writings pre-date the horror at Virginia Tech, but it's a virtual guarantee the tip is never made without the tales from professors who "knew" or "should have known" coming out of Blacksburg. The university issued a prompt e-mail and said there was no immediate on-campus threat. The tip and arrest sounds initially like a job exceptionally well done, and that is only because of rank, disgusting fear in the wake of a barrage of images and surprisingly detailed personal information about an insane, armed-to-the-gills killer throughout this awful week.

The media's job in this case is to tell an honest story. What we know about Cho Seung-Hui is that he could have done what he did anywhere, that there was nothing unique, guilty or deserving about the university or the people who happened to be in the wrong place when a disturbed individual snapped. Any place could be the wrong place, and if the media's intrusive profiling and pop psychological history of what was only days ago a largely ignorable oddball has made any contribution to that recognition in today's arrests, or in any others as long as the nation remains rapt, the media has done more than its job.