Mass Shootings v Terrorism – Why Is There a Difference in the Media?

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MASS SHOOTER OR TERRORIST?

Note: this article was originally posted in 2019 immediately after the Christchurch NZ terrorist attack which left 51 people dead. The excellent response to the victims from the New Zealand Prime Minister seemed to help increase public awareness on the glaring differences in the media treatment of different shooting events. A slight improvement in the issues raised below may have occurred since 2019 but it is important to realise that the issue of media bias has not gone away.

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White Supremacy, terrorism, slavery and racism are not new concepts amongst human beings nor are they confined to the western world.

What I believe is relatively new however, is the concerted global campaign, originating in the western world’s media to specifically associate one of the world’s major religious groups with terrorism and in a negative light generally.

At the same time, there has been another parallel campaign to mask the links between white supremacist based acts of terrorism originating from another major cultural group, that of “white” people from western nations and a tiny minority of their inhabitants, in particular, the United States.

Americans and their media almost always refer to their multiple victim, domestic killings as “mass shootings”. You will have heard this term many times in your life I’m sure, for America has alot of these events.

Every newspaper and TV channel will soon be reporting the latest news on another US “mass shooting” incident. But is there anything about these “mass shootings” that is common to each?

Yes, there is. A mass shooting is when the person puIling the trigger is white.

If the shooter was not white, the Western media use a different term to describe that incident.

Terrorism.

Here’s a typical example from the New York Times, comparing their first day headlines of the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris (2015 non-white perpetrators), and their first day coverage from the Christchurch New Zealand terror attack (2019 white perpetrator),

Terrorists Strike Charlie Hebdo in Paris” (non white gunman)

vs

  “In Christchurch, signs point to a gunman internet troll” (white gunman)

NY TImes : HEBDO v CHCH

The two headlines could not be more different in tone. One is decisive, authoritative and definitive, using the words “terrorists” and “dead”, whilst the other seems rather off hand and generalized… you might even call it slightly disinterested. Early reports noted that there were more than 12 dead in Christchurch, the same as the final total in Paris, so it is not as if there was a marked difference in the nature of the early understanding of the two events.


So why the marked difference in headline tone and phrasing? 

Well, what is terrorism then ? 

Let’s consult the FBI….the American government agency specifically tasked with describing, monitoring and preventing it.

FBI Definition of “Domestic Terrorism” (from “FBI.gov” website),


“(acts) perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by, or associated with primarily US based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial or environmental nature.


eg: the June 8, 2014 Las Vegas shooting which the married (white) couple held anti-government views and who intended to use the shooting to start a revolution.”


So, there’s the official American government definition of terrorism, with a specific example included, to make it simple and clear for everyone to understand. To be clear then, the attack by a white couple in 2014, which took 5 lives WAS officially defined by the FBI as terrorism.

So how did the mainstream American media present this textbook example of terrorism?

The New York Times called the incident …. “a shooting rampage,”


NBC News called it ….. “a shooting spree,” 


CNN just called them …….“the gunmen”

The mainstream media used terms including, “Massacre“, “Rampage”, and even the-not-so-bad-sounding, “Spree“. But no major media outlet immediately featured the words “terror” or terrorists” like they did for the non-white initiated Charlie Hebdo attack.

The  2014 Las Vegas incident was the work of “shooters”, who can also be labelled as, “deranged”,  “sick”, ” lone wolves”,etc. But they’re still not terrorists.

The mainstream Western media uses every negative term in the book to describe these events – except the REAL ONE. Terrorism.


The Las Vegas shooting was a terrorist act carried out by white American terrorists – by US government definition!


So why doesn’t the US media say so?  Why doesn’t the mainstream media follow their own government’s guidelines?

Even when a young white male Dylann Roof, shot dead 9 black worshipers in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, with the SPECIFIC INTENT to start a race war, he wasn’t even charged with murder, yet alone called a terrorist !! 

Dylan Roof was only charged with “Hates crimes”. And he certainly wasn’t called a terrorist by the mainstream media. How can that be ? It is surely not a coincidence.

Check the terrorist attacks in United States since 9/11 carried out by white people and to see if the word, “terrorism” or “terror” or “terrorist” is used by the mainstream media to describe it. Occasionally, a local official might use these terms, but this usage does not generally feature in the bulk or tone of the media coverage.


There are 350 – 380 examples of this type of domestic terrorism every year in the United States killing hundreds of people and wounding thousands more. ONE HUNDRED people die each day from gun violence in the United States. Many of these incidents are terrorism as defined by the FBI, but media outlets seem reluctant to say so.


White people, it seems, are not terrorists and do not carry out acts of terrorism, according to our media.

The labels of “terrorist” and “terrorism” are clearly reserved for a different group of people.

Muslim Shooter = Terrorist;    Black Shooter = Gang Violence   

Military Shooter = Hero;    White Shooter = Lone Wolf, Disturbed, Deranged…

There is plenty of other every media output to support this notion of a concerted campaign of Islamophobia, such as a previous post here, “Racism in Full View Each Day.”

Racism in Full View Each Day

When taken altogether it seems unlikely that all of these media headlines and the differing media treatment handed out to the different subjects involved – based upon skin colour and/or religion – can be anything other than a co-ordinated campaign to portray different members of society differently.

This type of media reporting must be called out for what it is. Write to the media outlet concerned if you think you see inconsistencies like this. We can all do little things to make a big difference.

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"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." Goethe

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