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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Shooting: Ismail Ax and Richard McBeef

Interesting discussions about Cho Seung Hui are going on around the web and especially over at Wired and boing boing. Some claim to have found a picture of him, while others speculate on the words "Ismail Ax", which were scrawled on the inside of his arm. No one knows for sure about any of this yet but they are some interesting theories out there. If you are interested, take a look at some of the data I have gathered so far...

A lot has come out about Cho Seung Hui, 23, the man police have named as the shooter. He was an English major at Virginia Tech, whose creative writing so disturbed his teachers that he was referred to the school's counseling service. He may have been taking medication for depression.

The most detail comes from the Chicago Tribune, which reports that Cho left a note in his dorm railing against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus. He died with the words "Ismail Ax" scrawled in red ink on one of his arms. (If you know what that means, let us know).

Police are reportedly searching Cho's computer for clues to what drove him. Surprisingly, though, there seems to be nothing on the internet. Cho has no apparent Google hits predating today. He's an English major who wrote creatively, but seems to have never shared his thoughts in a MySpace or Facebook profile.

Some press reports claim that Cho had been dating one of his first victims, student Emily Hilscher, and that she broke up with Cho two weeks ago. Other news reports say this is false. Hilscher has a public MySpace profile that's been abandoned since December, and is linked to nine friends, none of them Cho. One them has changed her MySpace handle to "R.I.P Emily Hilscher. You will be missed."

The Smoking Gun has unearthed a one-act play Cho submitted to a contest last year.

Reader Gabe points to this Flickr photo of a South Korean man who, according to the caption, uses the name Ismail "because his (real) name is very hard to pronounce, especially for Indonesian people. His real name is Cho Seung Hoo ....... or is it Jo Sung Ho? " The photo is dated July 17th, 2006. The author apparently writes more about this Ismail in this blog post, which needs translation.

BoingBoing has a long thread exploring some theories about "Ismail Ax." A growing consensus has it that the phrase is an oblique reference to Islamic theological history -- though so far nobody's described Cho as Muslim.

Xavier expands on the theory, and ties it to Cho's play.
The Prophet Ibrahim destroyed the villagers false idols to wealth and sex with an Ax in order to please Allah. Allah then saves him from the fury of the Babylonians for this act. He grants Ibrahim a gift, a prophet child. Ibrahim names this prophet child "Ismail." Ismail, the Islamic prophet, comes from Ibrahim's act with the Ax. The link I supplied goes into a little detail on the story, but there's more detailed accounts of the event all across the internet.

As well, the story you linked to from the Smoking Gun also has significance. Reading it, there's a few lines that support the idea that Ismail Ax references the founding of Islam and that Cho is a Muslim.

The boy calls his "father" a "Fat piece of pork."
Cho writes later: "No wonder your name is McPork--I mean, McBeef"
When Cho describes how the mother strikes, he describes her with the
line: "Takes off her shoes to strike him"

Pork is of course considered a sin to eat by Muslims, and it is a Islamic insult to beat someone with your shoes.


Here is a similar explanation:
"For those of you still searching for meaning in this phrase, written in ink on Cho Seung-Hui's arm and also how he signed his infamous note, it starts with the story of Ibrahim's Ax (Ibrahim = Abraham):

After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an ax. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. "Well, why don't you eat? The food is getting cold." He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them. He hung the ax around its neck and left.
--The Koran

Ismail was Ibrahim's son. It was Ismail that Ibrahim wanted to sacrifice for Yahweh (with an ax)."

Taken from Bangkokker

UPDATE: There are now more reports saying that "Ismail Ax" could possibly be his Xbox Live Gamertag for Battlefield 2. If so, that will not be good for the gaming industry

UPDATE: according to joongang ilbo (korean's newspaper) , this is cho's myspace - http://myspace.com/ChoSeungHui

UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that Cho Seung-Hui, the alleged gunman in Monday's Virginia Tech killings, sent a package of correspondence to NBC News before the mass shooting. NBC has shared the contents with FBI investigators:
"We received a package that included some images a lengthy diatribe. We believe it may shed some light on what he was doing between the first shooting and the second. It includes some images, and a disturbing, rambling, multi-page statement. (...) We are not going to give out any specifics of the information."

UPDATE: Check out MSNBC for the Multimedia Manifesto

UPDATE:
Update 3: CNN is reporting that the words were "Ax Ishmael"

Update 2: Cho Seung-Hui allegedly mailed a package to NBC News containing "rambling, manifesto-like" written statement as well as several QuickTime video clips of himself talking to the camera, and photographs, such as the above.
The return address of the Express Mail package was from "Ismail" (or Ishmael).

Why did Cho send the package to NBC News? The answer seems simple: Seung wanted a mass news outlet, and NBC News has the most memorable address: 30 Rockefellar Plaza, New York City.

Update 1: The Washington Post is reporting that the words were tattooed on his arm, not written in pen. Further, the Post contends that the spelling was actually Ismale Ax.

For those of you still searching for meaning in this phrase "Ismail Ax," written in red* ink on Cho Seung-Hui's arm and also how he signed his infamous note, it starts with the story of Ibrahim's Ax (Ibrahim = Abraham):

After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an axe. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. "Well, why do you not eat? The food is getting cold." He said to the statues, joking. Then, with his axe, Ibrahim destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them all. He hung the axe around its neck and left.
--The Qur'an

Believing his people were guilty of idoltry, Ibrahim smashed their statues with an ax. Ismail (alternate spelling, Ishmael) was Ibrahim's son. It was Ismail that Ibrahim wanted to sacrifice for Yahweh (with an ax or knife), and is a prophet in Islam. . .

A reader pointed out that "Ismail" is also a variant on the narrator in Moby Dick (spelt Ishmael), and although Cho was an English major, the relationship between Moby Dick's Ismail and an ax/e is less clear.

*Additionally, The Color Red brings connotations of death and bad luck in Korean culture.

Taken from Bangkokker

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