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Murder, Media and What We Read

When innocent men, woman and children are killed, it is called murder, so why does this not translate onto the pages of what we read as we ingest our daily fill of mainstream media? Writes Reuben Brand.

The gruesome murder of 16 innocent people, nine of whom where children, by a US soldier in Afghanistan is the latest tragedy to hit the already war ravaged country.

Only weeks after US forces burned copies of the Qur’an, preceded by US Marines urinating on dead Taliban corpses and posing with a Nazi SS flag (the list sadly goes on) Afghanistan is rocked by yet another tragic event, perpetrated by those purporting to bring freedom and democracy to the region.

On Sunday night, a US soldier broke into the homes of innocent Afghan families, went from room to room and woke his victims before violently murdering them in their beds and then burning some of the bodies.

The grim facts of war are often hard to get acquainted with, especially when those who are doing the dirty work are supposed to be the ‘good’ guys, if there is such a thing.  Obviously a lot of the mainstream media find it hard to call a spade a spade and instead prefer to use terms like “allegedly shot” when it comes to recanting the details of such a gruesome crime committed by the so called ‘good’ guys in this deeply unpopular war.

In any other country, at any other time, a person who breaks into three separate houses late at night, stalks their victims and wakes them before brutally killing them would be labelled a mass murderer. According to the FBI, a mass murder is described as “a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.”

FOX News is a prime example of how the mainstream media frame stories to suit their political bent. One article in particular covering these events highlights the discriminations and bias within their reportage’.

Instead of using such, let’s say, evocative terms as ‘murder,’ the flagship of journalistic integrity, FOX News (did I say flagship? Apologies, I meant shipwreck) decided to go with a more subtle approach. In a desperately pathetic attempt to re-package the tragedy that unfolded in Afghanistan involving the US soldier, FOX News, the “Fair and Balanced” media outlet, published a piece highlighting the imminent threats and revenge attacks vowed by the Taliban.

The first paragraph reads, “The Taliban is vowing revenge against the U.S. after an American soldier allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghan civilians in a Sunday rampage.” The use of the term “allegedly shot,” is an interesting choice considering there are multiple eyewitnesses and the soldier is currently in custody after returning to base, post the bloody massacre. There is nothing “alleged” about it, a US soldier murdered 16 innocent Afghans. Pure and simple.

This language continues throughout the piece with the opening paragraphs brimming with vitriolic threats from those unseen foes, the very nemesis and threat to Western civilisation itself, the Taliban, who promise to “take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.” Adding that “American savages” committed the “blood-soaked and inhumane crime.”

Quite the opening paragraph indeed and one that resembles a very poor attempt, by FOX News, at re-asserting in the minds of the audience that the Taliban is the real threat in this story. Which in turn numbs the pain for the fact that “one of ours” committed such a heinous crime.

The truth is a hard pill to swallow at times, but in this case it is clear that “American savages” did commit the “blood-soaked and inhumane crime.”

It is not until paragraph six that our friends over at FOX News reluctantly bring the perpetrator of these crimes into account and state that “The veteran American army staff sergeant allegedly left his base…” to carry out the killings. Again, the soldier only “allegedly left his base,” according to FOX News.

It is as absurd a statement as it would be for FOX News to report that “grass is allegedly green” and “water is allegedly wet,” although I wouldn’t put it past them.

To conclude, the article leaves the reader with Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, reminding everyone how the 9/11 attacks originated in Afghanistan. Once again, re-stating the idea that somehow Afghanistan is the real threat in this issue. Oh, he also said how the “alleged incident” could not be explained.

Interesting to note how the violent deaths of 16 people have progressed in the piece to become nothing more than a mere “alleged incident.” Well heck, perhaps it didn’t even happen at all? Obviously the authors of this mess that has been passed off as journalism don’t want to leave a foul taste in the mouths of their readers as they wrap up their coverage.

The closing paragraph is a half-baked attempt at a distraction from the unpleasantly of the issue at hand and leaves no doubt in the minds of the reader that the Taliban are the real threat – and in true patriotic style, FOX News leaves their avid audience with this tasty morsel to ponder.

“Panjawi, the town where the alleged shootings occurred, is inside a rural Taliban stronghold, and is just south of the birthplace of the militant group’s senior leaders, including chief Mullah Omar…”

If the birthplace of Mullah Omar isn’t enough to distract the less discerning reader from the fact that a US soldier just killed 16 innocent people, I don’t know what is. Suddenly the Taliban are once again the “bad guys” and everything is back to normal.

Now if this is but a case of FOX News taking the high road and giving the soldier his legal right of being innocent until proven guilty when using such terms as “allegedly,” then why do they not afford the same courtesy to others when reporting on such issues?

In other FOX News articles we see the stark discrimination within their reportage.

Two American soldiers were killed Thursday in a shooting by an Afghan soldier.”

Should this not read “…in an alleged shooting by an Afghan soldier”?

Or how about this, “Taliban suicide bombers armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a large police station in northwest Pakistan early Friday, killing four officers.”

Where is our favourite word?  If FOX News were playing by the rules it would say “…allegedly killing four officers.”

All is not lost though, for apparently FOX News does use such evocative terms as ‘murder’ after all – but only when Americans have been killed, of course.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is condemning what he calls the murder of two American military officers in Afghanistan’s capital.”

Such wonderful double standards.

To be fair, it is not only FOX News that succumb to their particular political bias when reporting, as it is prevalent in most mainstream media – but the way war is framed and the role the media play has been perfectly presented in these pieces of FOX News coverage – the undiscerning audience has no choice but to swallow the spin as it is laid out in the opening paragraphs and then re-enforced in the conclusion.

The taking of innocent life is a heinous crime, regardless of who commits it. The taking of innocent life is murder and in this particular case is also a war crime. These facts should not be skipped over or sanitised.

An Afghan man cries over the bodies of some of the victims of the shootings by a US soldier

An Afghan man cries over the bodies of some of the victims of the shootings by a US soldier

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