Perspective is everything. The media, unfortunately, has the power to control our perspective.
The media has control by default. Citizens will always need news outlets and journalists to know what’s going on in the world. What makes this troubling however, is that these news outlets also have the power to shape narratives inaccurately, or with bias, and thus contribute to stereotypes and feed into societal problems.
I was reading an article recently on the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. The protagonist of this article was the shooter. He was named, sympathized with, and the article led with an innocent photo of his deceptively charming smirk. The article went on to mention his affiliation with the Marines, comments from acquaintances and an out-of-place anecdote of him dancing in a garage.
The article was a joke. Nowhere was the actual shooting mentioned, nor any names of the actual victims. He was a shining star in the eyes of this journalist apparently.
The writer may have just been trying to tell the story from a different angle, but she was unknowingly perpetuating stereotypes that permit these tragedies to occur unpunished. So often, we see that white suspects are demonized less harshly than people of color.
In fact, the media makes a point to sympathize with white terrorists while painting other criminals in the worst light possible, regardless of circumstances. They’ll excuse the shooter, portraying them as the victim of bullying which not only takes away from the real issue (gun violence) but unnecessarily humanizes the criminal and denies justice to the real victims. This practice typically is biased towards sympathizing with white suspects and tends to invalidate and emphatically demonize minorities, even when they are the victims of a crime.
Correcting article titles has become somewhat of a trend on Twitter. For example, this article officially titled, “California shooter Ian David Long was ‘weird’ loner, danced in garage,” I would correct it to “White terrorist takes innocent lives at another mass shooting.” No name necessary.
Our generation is hyper aware of how problematic wording can convey a false narrative. Literally, fake news.
Social justice warriors on social media are putting pressure on these respected journalists to do better. And we as readers and consumers need to as well. We will not be blindly fed biased news any longer. We will rightly demonize demons and say the victims names, not the perpetrators’.
Here are the names of the 12 victims of the Thousand Oaks mass shooting: