Charleston Shooting: The Media’s Mind Bending Trick

Much has been said and written about the terrorist attack in Charleston. Yes, you’ve read it correctly: TERRORIST ATTACK. Unlike most mainstream media who chose to avoid this term by all means, I like to call things by their rightful name. The last time when I checked the definition of terrorism it said: “The unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. One must be pretty ignorant, blind or arrogant to deny that this attack fits in the definition of terrorism.

Media reflects the political environment of a country

This is not the first time and probably will also not be the last time that the mainstream media diminishes the severity of the attack of a perpetrator with a Caucasian background. Now imagine how the media would have framed this event, if an Afro-American or someone from a different background carried out this attack. The whole community would be asked to dissociate itself from the perpetrator. Politicians would try to gain some sort of electoral benefit from this event by announcing all kinds of thoughtless measures. Religious and cultural grounds will be given to explain this act of terror. But what we saw was how Dylan Roof was “humanized” by referring to his drug abuse or by letting his friends testify about the racist jokes he made. Labels like “hatred” attack or “shooting” have been used to this describe this act of terror.

Now how can we explain this kind of behavior of the mainstream media? The hateful commercialization of the media does not question the status quo in a particular country. Fundamental questions about gun control or proportional representation of different groups are not raised by the media. This introspective thinking does not take place, because media ownership is in the hands of the political and business elites who don’t want to see their power weakened. Take the protests in Baltimore or Ferguson for example. The media coverage of these protests were more episodic than thematic. The coverage focused more on the deviant behavior of the protesters than on why the protesters came out in the streets. This is what you get if journalists follow the laws of the market. Strong commercialization leads to sensational news coverage and this in turn leads to high viewer ratings and results in getting more money of advertisers. It is therefore embarrassing to see that we need a comedian like Jon Stewart to tell the mainstream media how correct news coverage should look like.

Because of all the above reasons I argue that the media is merely a reflection of the political environment in a country. In the US the political landscape is very polarized between the two parties, and so is the media landscape. In order to have better news coverage, we need to have a strong civil society who will monitor the media. In addition that, a strong public broadcaster should be developed in order to be independent of advertisers. Finally, the political system in the US should be reformed from a two party system to a more majoritarian system, so more different voices will gain access in the congress. But in anticipation of all these reforms, we’re luckily to have online activists and people like Jon Stewart of course who keep showing us the other side of the coin.

Written by Moussa Radi

Moussa Radi

Moussa Radi studies Political Communication. His main interests lie in the interaction between media, politics and public.