Monday, January 4, 2016

Media coverage of Oregon terrorists exposed

No, the media is NOT calling the white militias terrorists, and that's the point of the vox.com analysis of media coverage of the Oregon standoff. Here is what happened this weekend.

Over the holiday weekend, a group of predominantly white militiamen took up guns and began occupying the government's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Oregon, culminating in a tense standoff with law enforcement in the area.

It's a big story. This is an armed militia using the threat of violence to get the federal government to change the law — specifically, the gunmen want the feds to give up publicly managed land to local ranchers, loggers, and miners. And, yes, they are using the threat of violence: As Les Zaitz explained for the Oregonian, "In phone interviews from inside the occupied building Saturday night, Ammon Bundy and his brother, Ryan Bundy, said they are not looking to hurt anyone. But they would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them, they said."

Scriber digresses. You might remember the name Bundy. He's the father of the two guys mentioned above and the rancher who faced off the US government over his million dollar grazing bill that he refused to pay. Scriber thinks that's what this is about no matter what the media might call it: deadbeats all. They want to use public lands for their own private profit. But back to the main story.

One would think that an armed group taking over a government building would be a big deal. The public certainly seems to think so, with #OregonUnderAttack trending on Twitter and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge trending on Facebook.

But media outlets mostly seemed to shrug at the situation, at least at first. ...

What are the media calling it? AP: "peaceful protest." New York Times: "armed group." Fox: "armed protestors." But what do they call it if the protestors are black? "thugs."

Asked about the discrepancies [in media coverage], CNN law enforcement analyst Art Roderick suggested that the differences make sense because the Oregon protesters are in a largely empty rural area and "they're not destroying property, they're not looting anything."

To be clear, it's not that critics necessarily think the Oregon militiamen should be subjected to the same wild, unfounded accusations as black or Muslim people. The complaint, instead, is that the media seems to be quick to treat minority groups as violent, while giving a predominantly white group a pass even when it's heavily armed.

So why is that?

The public (and media) really do hold racial biases, even if they don't know it

Underlying the accusations of skewed reporting toward the media is what's known as "implicit bias," or subconscious prejudices that can change how we approach and treat people of a different race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. Researchers have shown that this phenomenon is real time and time again.

Check out the vox.com report for supporting evidence.

The fact these biases exist is at the very least something media outlets and pundits should be aware about in their reporting. Because the fact is such biases could be coloring how we approach these stories, even if we like to think that's not true.

The issue is really black and white.

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