The Media & Chapel Hill

A tragedy struck Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Tuesday, February 10th at 5pm, when a White 46-year-old man brutally murdered three Muslim Arab-Americans. The mainstream media did not report the hate crime until late Wednesday morning, after Muslims and non Muslims alike expressed their outrage at the media’s silence on social media outlets, where the popular hashtags “#MuslimLivesMatter” and “#ChapelHillShooting” were born.

Initially, the media dismissed the horrific crime as a mere parking dispute, an incredibly absurd and poor excuse that makes no logical sense – why would anyone kill three people over one parking space? After growing social media pressure and criticism, the media finally considered the possibility that the murder is, in fact, a hate crime, late Wednesday night.

It should take no one by surprise that the media, which essentially perpetuates Islamophobia and intolerance, greeted the Chapel Hill shooting with loud silence. There was no constant coverage and updates on the incident, no national outrage, no White people apologizing and condemning the attack, like there would have been if the killer was Muslim. This only demonstrates the double standard entrenched deep in the fabric of our society and upheld by this decadent media.

The mainstream media’s deliberate indifference to the death of people of color contributes to the White, Western narrative that always places the person of color as the culprit and the White man as the victim. This apathy goes beyond Chapel Hill, it stretches to the media coverage of Ebola, of ISIS, of Boko Haram, and of ethnic minorities around the world who don’t fit the White, Western profile.

Ebola remains a prevalent and serious threat in West Africa, but it’s no longer an urgent topic in the news because no Westerner is infected. It disappeared from headlines, although hundreds of Africans are still dying.

According to a report conducted by the United Nations, ISIS, a growing heinous peril in the world, kills and beheads more Muslims than it kills Westerners. However, the killings of Muslims and the mistreatment of Muslim women by ISIS receives little to no media attention. The killing of Westerners, on the other hand, garners extensive public outrage and media attention, because it’s the story that sells.

Around the same time of the Charlie Hebdo attack, Boko Haram killed up to 2,000 people. This elicited little coverage compared to the events in Paris, which dominated headlines. For 10 consecutive days, the New York Times printed at least one front page story about the Paris attack, and scantly covered the attack in Nigeria, consolidating Western media bias and disparity.

Further, Muslims in Central African Republic are ethnically cleansed and brutally murdered by Christian militias in an ongoing civil war. This also does not receive front-page headlines or lengthy coverage, rather, it’s shoved in the back burner, because it presents Muslims as victims and not as culprits. Portraying Muslims as victims would only distort the image of Muslims as violent terrorists, which does not fit into the media’s strategic agenda.

The media prioritizes and values Western lives over non-Western lives, completely dismissing the fundamental humanness equally found at the core of each life lost.

However, where broadcast media has tremendously failed, social media has thrived. Social media fills the silence that broadcast media purposely creates in 140 characters, share buttons, hashtags, and Instagram posts. It spreads news and information at the speed of a bullet after the trigger has been pulled, quickly and fiercely. It establishes no distinction between Muslim, Christian, Jew, White, Black, or Hispanic. Granted, it has its imperfections and flaws, but essentially, it reports what’s consciously left in the back burner.

After all, it was social media that told the world the poignant story of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, quicker and better than any established media outlet.