LONDON, United Kingdom — The Christchurch terrorist attack has plagued the world with horrific and fatal news, news which is at the corner of every media outlet across the globe. Coverage is aplenty from various news channels; from CNN and BBC to Al Jazeera and France24, the story is being paramountly broadcasted and rightly so.
From the moment news broke of the dreadful ambush of life at the Christchurch Mosque, in which adults and children were gathered at what was meant to be a sacred haven, the perpetrator’s identity was not only revealed days afterwards, but his true title as a terrorist was conveniently averted by the media, particularly that of the West.
History of terrorist attacks or mass murder/hatred attacks, depending on which spectrum you perceive it, has illustrated a number of things. Firstly, it is standard procedure that the media initially and immediately assume/presume the race or origin of the perpetrator to be of ethnic.
Secondly, it is an immediate action to associate the ethnic perpetrator’s role as a ‘terrorist’. Countless times and moments have worldwide and renowned outlets such as Sky News, BBC, New York Times, and CNN gone with the easy and customary assignment of linking an ethnic terrorist attacker’s past to radicalism, extremism, and of course, terrorism. However, it would be incredibly amiss for broadcasters and tabloids such as The Sun, the Daily Mail and so on to dare or let alone try to associate a non-ethnic, Caucasian (white) attacker’s role to radicalism, extremism, and of course, terrorism.
The 2011 Norway attacks brought the killing of 77 individuals; the deadliest attack Norway had experienced since World War II. The perpetrator at hand, Anders Breivik – a native – was immediately recognised as many things such as “gunman” and “attacker”, but ‘terrorist’ was far from the dictionary of the Western media outlet covering the attack 8 years ago. Breivik would eventually be described as a terrorist and extremist, and permitted the ability to defend his case in the court of law, whilst claiming “self-defence” for the death of 77 people, with 69 mostly being teenagers.
Scenarios as such as terrorist attacks have become not so uncommon in these grave times we live in. With an increasing rate of austerity and government division, most states – particularly in the West – find themselves vulnerable. However, what appears to be a common ground is the reporting of ethnic terrorists and non-ethnic terrorists and their representation, when attacks occur.
Breivik’s killing of 77 people and his mastermind plan for execution was beyond that of a mad man; a quick-fix title numerous broadcasters and newspapers were quick to deem him as.
Likewise, the 2015 Charleston Church mass shooting by then 21-year old, Dylan Roof, a white-supremacist, brought the mass murder of 9 individuals; an act which media outlets, broadcasters and newspapers alike used the “mental illness” narrative as they portrayed Roof as a child with a troubled home. Similarly, the tragic Christchurch attack on Friday; a heinous terrorism crime committed by a 28-year old man and white-supremacist with the terrorist addressed by tabloids such as Daily Express described the man simply as an attacker without being associating him with the apt role of a terrorist.
This is not the first (and perhaps might not be the last) time Western media pundits, outlets, broadcasters, and newspapers have conveniently coated the representation of white-supremacists and extremists when it comes to terrorist attacks. It must be made clear that by no means are ethnic terrorists of the past being condoned, but rather it must be highlighted and painted loudly that white terrorists cannot and must not receive white privilege when they are perpetrators of heinous terrorist attacks especially when ethnic members of society, such as the Muslim community of Christchurch, are the primary victims.
By associating logic and sense, it is indisputable to claim race or ethnic when it comes to radicalism, extremism, and of course, terrorism. Alas, it is the unfortunate case that to be ethnic – in the West – is to be a terrorist.