Saturday, July 23, 2011

Skin color and the Oslo attacks

Breivik, the white, right-wing, Christian fundamentalist,
terrorist suspect in the Oslo attacks.
I wanted to direct you to a good article about the media's coverage of the tragedy in Oslo, in which a white, right-wing Christian terrorist killed 92+ people, including children in a youth camp swimming in the water while he was dressed as a policeman. You will probably never hear those words associated with him because, like Joseph Stack, Jared Lee Loughner, and many others, he is simply crazy and not a terrorist with that background. For the press, it seems only brown people can be labeled terrorists, and only with them can we make sweeping generalizations about their race, nationality, political ideology, or religion.

Thus far, the same is being done with Anders Behring Breivik. While his background is being brought up, few seem willing to say that there might be a problem with right-wing extremists, white supremacists, and extremist Christians, all of which might characterize Breivik. Indeed, much of the press coverage initially jumped to the conclusion that Muslim extremists were behind it...with little evidence. Indeed, even when we found out the terrorist was a white Christian, journalists spent much of their discussion connecting these attacks with Norway's NATO connection to the bombings in Libya, and not to the domestic issues, namely Breivik's anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant views. Also...little mention of him as a terrorist. Only Muslims commit terrorist acts. No surprises so far.

Finally, regarding the outpouring of sympathy, which is the right thing to do... it is interesting that when most of the victims have darker skin color, there is nowhere near the same emotion. You know, like the civilians that are killed by errant bombs dropped from 20,000 feet or launched from predator drones that may or may not be relying on good intelligence. We almost never even hear about those. I'm not saying we shouldn't show sympathy for Norway - quite the contrary. I'm just saying we don't do the same when the victims tend to have darker pigmentation and our own government has complicity in their deaths, whether they be scores of innocent peasants in Pakistan killed by frequent drone attacks, women killed in Afghanistan by overzealous NATO troops who tried to cover it up, civilians mowed down without provocation by Blackwater militiamen in Iraq, or Oscar Grant.

1 comment:

Frank Adams said...

The media coverage was indeed shameful, with plenty of speculation and assumption with very little fact (or even official statements) to back any of it up. It will be interesting to see if any editorial board or pundit retracts their statements now that we actually have some information.

That said, and as a way of saying "probably not" to my latter statement above, I wonder if you were equally disappointed / disgusted with the media when they made- and persisted in for days- the equally baseless accusations that Jared Loughner was a Tea Party supporting Sarah Palin website visitor who fell under the spell of violent messages on Fox News. Were the media's actions in that case less shameful because they drew their suspicions from the narrative they wish to write regarding a political movement, rather than a religion? Likewise, should we look to the media or political figures to remind us that "not all right-wingers are violent extremists - this deeply disturbed individual does not reflect the broader movement or other individuals" as we typically hear after an attack / attempted attack by someone committing acts in the name of Islam?