By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Was the brutal murder of three Muslims in North Carolina this week a case of “random violence,” or were the three targeted because of their Muslim faith? And why, of all the murders committed across the country this week, did these three grab so much national media attention? The FBI has now joined the investigation.
Perhaps the lessons learned from Jared Lee Loughner’s shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January of 2011 could inform the answers to these questions, and serve as a reminder of the dangers of biased reporting on murder cases. But, unfortunately, the mainstream media continue to perpetuate a confusing double standard when it comes to reporting on the deaths of innocents.
Why, for example, did the deaths of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina gain traction at The Washington Post, Reuters, and many other media outlets which speculated that it was a possible hate crime, while this black teen murdering a white classmate and taking a selfie with the corpse didn’t receive anywhere near the same treatment? And what about the murders occurring in Chicago every day? Don’t those deserve headlines, and candlelight vigils too?
“However, I do think it’s fair to say that attributing political motives to individual killings is much more of a phenomenon on the left than on the right,” argues Mark Hemingway for The Weekly Standard in a column regarding the recent execution-style shootings of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
The alleged shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, liked the “Huffington Post, Rachel Maddow, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Freedom from Religion Foundation, Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy,’ Neil deGrasse Tyson, Gay Marriage groups and similar progressive pages” on Facebook, notes Hemingway. Maddow didn’t mention any of that on her show when talking about the incident.
Hicks displayed a habit of posting snarky pictures with slogans like, “Democrats aren’t perfect but at least they haven’t been shoving poor Jesus up my c—ch and Ronald Reagan down my throat.” Another picture he promoted reads, “So Rick Santorum thinks that when people get educated they stop believing in God? Best advertisement for Atheism I’ve ever heard.”
And Hicks commented on Ground Zero: “Seems an overwhelming majority of Christians in this country feel that the Muslims are using the Ground Zero Mosque plans to’mark their conquest’ [sic] Bunch of hypocrites, everywhere I’ve been in this country there are churches marking the Christian conquest of this country from the Native Americans. Funny thing is the Christians did that while defying our Constitution, and got away with it!!”
“It was logical for some people to hear about the shootings and wonder if recent news involving the Islamic State—including the deaths of a Jordanian pilot and an American hostage—could lead to some sort of reprisal against Muslims, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” reported the Post regarding the three deaths on February 11.
In 2011 the SPLC’s Richard Cohen blamed the shooting of Rep. Giffords on Sarah Palin’s political rhetoric, citing the work of staffer Potok. The Discovery Channel plans to air a documentary, “Hate in America,” this month with the SPLC as a partner helping “examine the current realities of intolerance in America.”
The SPLC runs a hate crimes racket, and the media—desperate to promote headlines that fit their pre-existing left-wing narratives about race, inequality and religion—are quick to swallow their propaganda.
“I think it’s perfectly natural to guess that this is anti-Islamic,” Potok told the Post in the interview regarding the triple murder. “Not just because the three victims are Muslim, but because there has been so much terrible news in recent days about extremist Muslims.” Potok also appeared on MSNBC on the morning of February 13 with the news anchor Tamron Hall, and there was no mention of Hicks’ political leanings, which appear to be consistent with their own.
It is ironic that Hicks, himself, may have, at least in part, allowed the SPLC to fuel his own brand of hate—if it was hate, and not a longtime dispute over parking—that caused Hicks to allegedly kill three innocent people.
“We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was…But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers,” wrote Paul Krugman of The New York Times after the Loughner shooting.
“Keith Olbermann had a special edition of his ‘Countdown’ show on MSNBC the night of the shooting, in which he had a series of guests on who all speculated that Loughner was influenced by ‘right-wing extremists’ and that the Right was far more guilty of violent and hateful speech than the Left, creating a climate conducive for this sort of action,” I reported back in 2011.
Have the media learned from their past attempts to politicize violent shootings, or does the marked omission of similar rhetoric regarding the Hicks case simply indicate that the mainstream media hope that the progressive ideology of this alleged killer will not actually be used against them?
If Hicks was a champion of liberal causes such as gay rights and abortion, and one’s ideological background has any bearing on the decision to brutally murder someone, then why isn’t the media likewise exploring in depth Hicks’ motivations—his likes, dislikes, ideology, inspiration, etc.—as they did when they erroneously blamed the right for Loughner’s shooting of Giffords? Instead, the Post published a story on the “particular tensions between Islam and atheism” which allowed atheist groups to denounce and separate themselves from the killer. If Hicks had any deeper motivation rooted in progressivism, you wouldn’t find it there.
On February 11 The Washington Post authors quoted from the SPLC, then linked to Hicks’ Facebook page, and failed to inform their readers of Hicks’ admiration for this group.
And the motivation of the attack remains in dispute, despite the hate crime allegations. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime,” said the victims’ father Mohammed Abu-Salha. His evidence: “This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt.”
More recent news reporting by the Associated Press indicates that when Hicks “talked with them with his gun in his belt,” as the father described, it was likely during a dispute over a visitor’s parking space. According to the AP, a resident of that condo “said Hicks complained about once a month that the two men were parking in a visitor’s space as well as their assigned spot.”
It continued: “He would come over to the door, knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying ‘you guys need to not park here,’ said Ahmad, a graduate student in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. ‘He did it again after they got married.’”
The victims in the most recent case appear to be the type of Muslims whom many in America would embrace as fellow patriots, rather than as radical fundamentalists who prompt what some term “Islamophobia.” The murdered couple was active in charity efforts. “Barakat had recently posted about providing free dental supplies and food to dozens of homeless people in Durham, something he had done twice in recent months, buying toothpaste, brushes, floss and mouthwash that he put into individual bags for each homeless person,” reported the Post. And his wife had traveled to the Turkish border last year, not to join the Islamic State but to “deliver dental supplies to a Turkish town…”
But then again, Barakat and his wife met while helping to run North Carolina State’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) chapter. Perhaps they weren’t aware of the origins of that organization. The MSA is a Muslim Brotherhood front group, and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is the group that spawned al Qaeda and Hamas. President Obama has embraced the MB at home and abroad, and this is a subject that the media should thoroughly explore, while there is still a chance to diminish their influence. Unfortunately, very few in our media are willing to investigate the MB—or even acknowledge their influence—instead they treat them like some benign, charitable group such as the Kiwanis International.
While it would be convenient for the media, and its allies on the left, to proffer evidence of a violent Muslim backlash when speaking about the culture of hate in a world full of news reports about Islamic State militants beheading their captives, or the Charlie Hebdo murders, not every murder’s newsworthiness should be coldly calculated based on the race, faith, or the known ideology of its participants—or perpetrators. There is an average of about 40 murders a day in this country, most of which we never hear about until the media find one that fits a narrative for them. Or at least they think it does. And then it takes on a life of its own.