Las Vegas Shooting And Media Bias – Time to Face Facts
It’s time for the media to check its implicit biases. This past weekend, a deadly attack took place at a country music concert in Las Vegas Nevada. The culprit? Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old white man. 59 people died and at least 527 were wounded.
The manner in which the media has covered this case, has been dangerous. Several outlets have gone out of their way to prove that as a white man, Stephen Paddock does not fit the description of a “violent” person. Here are some examples:
1. The media attempted to conceal the fact that Paddock was White.
I scrolled through articles struggling to find the face of the man that committed the attack. No physical description had been given except his age and his name, which was odd. News outlets are typically so quick to disclose such information. That was when I realized, without even seeing an image of Paddock, that the attack was committed by a white man.
Because irrespective of whether or not a person of color is guilty or innocent, the media is known to be swift at disseminating incriminating photos of them.
And of course, when an image finally emerged, it was one of him smiling with a drink in hand.
“Act of terrorism’ means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”
2. The media attempted to humanize Paddock.
“Stephen Paddock lived in a tidy Nevada retirement community where the amenities include golf, tennis and bocce. He was a wealthy real-estate investor, recently shipped his 90-year old mother a walker and like to play high-stakes video poker in Las Vegas.” – NBC New York
“Las Vegas Gunman Stephen Paddock enjoyed gambling, country music, lived a quiet life before massacre” – Philly Inquirer
“Paddock was a licensed hunter and had a license to fly a small plane.” – CBS News
“Nothing stood out about Stephen Paddock before Las Vegas shooting, people who knew him say” – CNN
This man had just committed massacre, yet somehow he was being illustrated as a regular, friendly man. This is not the first time a white person has committed a vicious crime and the media has painted them in a positive light.
3. The media labeled Paddock as anything but a terrorist.
Federal law describes terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
However, Nevada law does not require there to be a motive, for an attack to be considered an act of terrorism, “Act of terrorism’ means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”
Under this definition, Paddock is a terrorist.
Yet countless media outlets are continuously describing Paddock as a “lone wolf” with “no motive.” If social or political motive is what truly separates terrorists from non-terrorists, how come Dylann Roof, the white man who killed 9 Black people at a church, under the tenet of white supremacy, was not labeled or prosecuted as a terrorist?
Many have picked up on this inconsistency:
50 dead. Over 400 in the hospital. And we continue to call this a LONE WOLF? Call it TERRORISM because that's what it is.
— Emmy Rossum (@emmyrossum) October 2, 2017
The lone wolf. The local shooter. The gunman. Any and everything, but terrorist. Wonder why.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 2, 2017
Only in America can whiteness prevent the man who conducted the deadliest mass shooting in American history from being called a terrorist.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 2, 2017
The truth is, the media can play a powerful role in perpetuating or dismantling dangerous social narratives. It is only my hope that moving forward, more outlets will choose the latter.
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