It’s not hard to remember to chilling tale of the shooting that took place earlier this year in Tucson, Ariz. On Jan. 8, a gunman opened fire at a small gathering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was holding outside of a Safeway supermarket. The media had the country reeling in horror and disgust as the reports came piling in. In the end, 19 people had been injured, six of them fatally. After learning that the congresswoman had been gravely injured, prayers and sympathies went out to her and her family, and the country waited with bated breath for news of her condition.
Media coverage led the nation through the appropriate emotions: anger and disgust at the shooter, sadness and anxiety for those injured, and grief for those who had already died. But what about the other stories, those that the media didn’t deem appropriate for the spotlight? The ones with subject matter that was not considered worthy of the American public for whatever reason and was consequently glossed over as a mere five-second blip on the nightly news?
As an international student with a more objective view, it is clear that in the United States, bias in the media is far too common. The media is so intertwined with politics that it is often referred to as the “fourth branch of government.” It is essential to politicians because of its strong influence on the American public, a public that is manipulated at seemingly every opportunity.
There are several examples of the media glossing over inconvenient stories:
On May 30, 2009, Brisenia Flores, a 9-year-old girl was murdered in cold blood by Shawna Forde, the leader of a group of vigilante border patrols called the Minutemen, who was hoping to steal money and drugs to fund her movement against immigration. Though there was neither money nor drugs, both Flores and her father were fatally wounded.
Forde’s trial is set to begin this week in Tucson, Ariz., and due to the recent events, people are hoping that this heinous crime will finally get the spotlight it deserves. There is speculation that the lack of coverage may be due to strong racist undertones and the fact that the Minutemen are seen as a kind of neighborhood watch. It is puzzling why this particular act of violence hasn’t seen more media coverage, especially considering the chilling audio snippet of Flores’ mother’s 911 call.
Then there was the Tunisian Revolution.
The people of Tunisia began to demonstrate in December 2010 due to unemployment, food inflation, level of corruption and poor living conditions. The conflict reached a climax on Jan. 14, 2011, when the nation’s president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down after 23 years holding the reins of power. Shockingly, one of the most dramatic political and social uprisings in Tunisia in the last 30 years garnered very little interest from Western media.
For a country that so strongly promotes liberty, freedom and democracy, it is curious and somewhat disappointing that when the people of Tunisia realized their inalienable rights, nobody seemed to care. Maybe it’s because the falling government wasn’t Communist or there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction in play. Either way, the U.S.’ media was nowhere to be found until the dust had settled.
The media is not the devil. However, it is not a saint. The public is far too tolerant of its discretion towards what matters and what doesn’t. It’s time to pay closer attention. Brisenia Flores deserved to have what happened to her acknowledged by the American public, just as we gasped at the other shooting in Arizona. Why wasn’t a full-scale revolution given as much attention as the Oscar nominations? These questions need to be brought up and discussed. And changes need to be made so that there won’t ever be a reason to ask them again.
Nneka Jackson is a junior in the College. She can be reached at [email protected]. CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF appears every other Tuesday.