Terrorism, the media, and Virginia Tech
"Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."
These are the words uttered by the name now known across America-and much of the world; the name plastered on every newspaper headline, internet magazine, radio and TV station.
But very few networks or newspapers chose to emphasize this statement, or even publish it. It was relegated to the end of the text in almost every article I read on the incident.
Why then is there no media frenzy to uncover and parse to death every possible “Christian fundamentalist” connection that Cho might have had, even seemingly benign ones (“you belonged to the Christian fellowship you say? You attended a local church? The church once hosted a controversial right-wing leader? Your highschool roommate’s estranged cousin attended anti-east rallies?). You get my drift.
There is no question that Tuesday’s attack was horrific, and very sad.
What I am interested in though is-as is often the case-how the media is covering it?
The coverage initially started out by mentioning- between the lines- that this “did not seem to be an act of terrorism”. Ok I might be picking at straws here but if this isn’t terrorism, what is? Not politically motivated you say? Is that the standard common definition of terrorism anyway these days?
The attacker, as in the Baruch Goldstein case, is being described as a mentally unstable wacko, one screw loose too many and the attack as an unfortunate case where a gun that found its way to the wrong hands; an exception to the rule; this despite the fact that a special justice found his insight and judgment to be normal.
The methodical nature of his killing rampage and his pre-rampage preparations seems to add credence to this.
The question I’d like to pose is, given his statement above which was extracted from his so-called “manifesto” and aired on NBC: couldn’t this, too, be classified as an act of religious terrorism (by the same standards employed by this media in categorizing “islamic terrorism” or “jihadism” or whatever)?
Or more precisely, to make a fair analogy, couldn’t one say that Cho derived “his inspiration” from Christian doctrine or the “Christian culture of martyrdom”?
I dread to think how the mass media would even begin to speculate and evaluate this if those same words were uttered by an attacker who happened to be of Muslim descent (exchanging Jesus Christ with some other Muslim figure;):
Of course Cho, who was the son of South Korean immigrants that worked at a dry cleaners, goes on to deride the upper-class elite and all of their material pleasures and “hedonistic needs”, including their Mercedes, gold necklaces, and drinking.
The point is this: in this modern day post-nationalism and globalization, one can seldom make sweeping generalizations about the ideologies driving any killer, whatever the circumstance, whatever the background;
Muslim, Christian, brown, pink, or purple, there is usually more than meets the eye; politics are often the driving force, religion a mere cloak.
That, and of course, the fact that the western media and its members needs to wake up and realize they are not as professional and objective as they like to believe: even the best can slip certain routines and begin to utilize prejudicial, unhelpful, and sensationalist labels, taking more liberty to do so with certain groups than others.