The coverage of the London’s Finsbury Park attack on the front page of Times newspaper in the UK has attracted much criticism. Darren Osborne, the 47-year-old suspect from Cardiff, Wales, who rammed a van into Muslim worshippers coming out of a mosque on Monday morning, is alleged to have shouted “I want to kill all Muslims – I did my bit” after ploughing into the crowd. The attack left one dead and 11 injured.
In the report, Osborne is not referred to as a racist, even though he reportedly racially abused a child in his neighbourhood a day before the attack. Instead the narrative chooses to emphasise other details such as mental illness. Many people have expressed their shock at the newspaper for not treating Osborne as a white Christian terrorist suspect. Here are some reactions:
— Waqas Tufail (@_WaqasTufail) June 19, 2017
— Alt-Rupert (@TheMurdochTimes) June 19, 2017
Have the Times ever referred to an Islamist terrorist as a ‘lone wolf’? http://t.co/Xike4K0u7J
— Beardy Andy (@lifescreams_) June 19, 2017
From today’s Times: ‘lone wolf’ ✔️’mental health problems’ ✔️Racially abuses a child & shouts ‘kill all muslims’ but ‘not racist’ ✔️ pic.twitter.com/z3gh6elJ8n
— Katherine May (@_katherine_may_) June 20, 2017
Fun fact: at 16 I was prescreened for learning difficulties, I was described as a lone wolf then. I have killed no one, wtf are the times-
— Tyla J Roxburgh (@UltimaRed) June 19, 2017
As various posts have pointed out, the double standard is apparent in the reluctance to talk about the racism of non-Muslim, white assailants and instead substitute it with a “lone wolf” narrative that highlights mental illness and family issues, while downplaying the ideology of racial hate they demonstrably subscribe to. As many commentators noted, this would not be imaginable if the attackers had been Persons-of-Colour, Muslim fundamentalists, as in the case of other three recent terror attacks. It also hasn’t escaped their notice that the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the international media magnate who also owns Fox News channel in the United States, well known for its right wing tilt.
But the issue is certainly not limited to just one newspaper. It is only one prominent example of the bias that frequently permeates the news coverage.
This “softer” narrative has been amply visible on various occasions when white assailants in various attacks such as the Quebec Mosque attack in March this year or the Church attack in Charleston in 2015, where a 21-year old white man fatally shot nine African-Americans, were not condemned in the hard language at par that used for ‘brown’, foreign terrorists. Often these far-right terrorists, subscribing to despicable, deep-set prejudices against various minorities, are dismissed as a “one-off” or a “lone wolf”, meaning not worthy of too much concern as a domestic phenomena, even as threat from Muslim jihadists is cried hoarse and repeatedly emphasized.