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On Occasion, The Media's Silence Is Just As Worrying As Inflammatory Headlines

09/08/2017 14:05 BST | Updated 09/08/2017 14:05 BST
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Silence speaks volumes. After a recent bomb attack on a mosque in Minnesota was met with a deafening silence not only from sections of the US and global press, but also from the current occupant of the White House. Here is a commander in chief who is so keen to keep Americans safe that he's willing to send B-1 bombers to fly near North Korea but isn't even willing to offer a mere tweet condemning a bomb attack on his fellow citizens' place of worship or reassuring a community that faces daily harassment.

Yet the harsh reality is that I don't expect President Trump to offer condemnation or seek to reassure religious or racial minorities. He has never sought to portray himself as a President for all Americans, he knows that and so do those who voted him in, just take for example his decision that transgender people cannot serve in the U.S. military. For businessman Trump who cannot separate his corporate identity from his political identity, the world is divided into two simple camps, winners and losers, and as far as Muslims are concerned, in his worldview, they're on the losing side.

All the more worrying is that behaviour of the press. Sections of the media, as expected, took their cue from Trump when it comes to determining the news agenda and followed suit in their deafening silence. Whatever issue Trump tweets about is the news, everything else is a sideshow. From the headlines that did follow there was barely any mention of the word 'terror' that is so often deployed in reference to other bomb attacks. There were none of the sensationalist headlines slamming the ideology that could have given rise to such a hateful attack on people exercising their right of religious freedom. There was no speculation on the motives or the background of the attackers. If you read the headlines one would be led to think that the bomb made itself and then launched itself through the mosque window.

That such double standards are now glaringly obvious is an understatement, yet maybe these double standards are only visible to those who are on the receiving end of them. The decision of the media not to give the mosque attack the same level of coverage as other terrorist attacks, compounded by its failure not to ask the same soul searching questions that often occur in the aftermath of such an incident, putting aside the sensationalist and inflammatory headlines that usually occur when an attack is committed by a religious fanatic, shows just how far the double standard has come.

It sends a message that such an appalling attack is not viewed as an attack on the country as a whole because Muslims are portrayed as the suspect 'other'. According to such a view, the Muslim demographic is not viewed as part of 'us'. The response of The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to offer a $10,000 dollar reward in order to incentivise people who may have information on the attackers to come forward, rather than relying on humanity itself, is telling. Many Mosques in America are used to receiving threatening phone calls and messages, this has become normalised. Yet it is a sign of how far the dehumanisation of Muslims has come that even a bomb attack against a mosque is not considered worthy of eliciting the same level of response as other terror attacks.