Media, Murder, and The Narrative

This morning brought the terrible news of the murder of three young people in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The victims, Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) — tragically, the first two were newlyweds — were all students at the University of North Carolina. They are reported to have been killed by gunshots to the head, in what sounds like an execution-style murder.

Police already have their supposed killer in custody, Craig Stephen Hicks (46), of Chapel Hill. Since the victims were Muslims, Twitter immediately exploded with outrage and, of course, a hashtag: #MuslimLivesMatter. My Twitter feed filled with rants that nobody cares about Muslim dead and where is the coverage? — when, of course, I saw little but media coverage of this horrific crime. Predictably, the Angry Muslim Brigade was out in force online, insisting that this is a clear case of Christian terrorism, while Islamic State barbarism says nothing about Islam, because they are not actually Muslim (really).

Everybody sentient knows what’s going on here. Our mainstream media loves The Narrative, as I’ve discussed before, and facts are entirely secondary in these cases. Victims of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds — particularly if they can be shown to have been victimized by the wrong kind of person, politically speaking — meet the needs of The Narrative; exceptions do not and are to be ignored when not actively suppressed.

Hicks looked promising as a culprit, as a white Southerner — pictures soon emerged of him riding an ATV, as if on cue — and immediately media figures were asking why nobody was talking about this “Islamophobic white terrorist” when, of course, everybody was talking about him. He could not be an MSM hate figure at the level of, say, Southern frat boys, but Hicks looked good enough for use in The Narrative.

However, doubts quickly emerged as Hicks turns out to be not a Christian fundamentalist, but an atheist of an angry sort, based on his online postings. His hatred seems to have been omnidirectional, aimed at all religions. His politics look like those of many normal progressives, actually. This turn of events is inconvenient for The Narrative and we can expect little more MSM coverage of Hicks’ motivations and beliefs. A National Conversation on violent atheism is not inbound.

It is interesting to compare today’s outrage with media reactions to the recent murder of Zemir Begic, a 32 year-old Bosnian Muslim immigrant who was beaten to death with hammers on the streets of St. Louis by black and Hispanic killers. Despite the fact that Begic seemed to have been targeted because he was Bosnian, i.e. white, the media showed so little interest in the story that the media began asking why they were showing so little interest, particularly when compared to the non-stop coverage of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, only a few miles from where Begic was butchered. On cue, St. Louis authorities suggested that the attack on Begic was “random” — a word that seems to pop up a lot in certain cases, even by President Obama — a case of  “wrong place, wrong time,” per a police spokesman.

Today, we are left with a terrible triple-homicide that very well may be a hate crime. We don’t know much about Hicks’ motivations to kill three innocent people yet, but we can assume the police will find that out, and we can hope the media reports it fairly.

It’s important that the “terrorism” label not be applied to crimes without some evidence. I recently argued that the media needs to raise the bar on the use of the term “genocide,” and terrorism is another term we ought not cheapen through overuse. Every crime, even every hate crime, is not terrorism.

In the real world, the line between terrorism and mere murder can be murky enough. In a case I cited in yesterday’s column, back in early 2007, an 18 year-old Muslim killed five people and wounded four more in a spree killing at a Salt Lake City mall. Sulejman Talović, who hailed from Bosnia, was killed by police gunfire, so he could not explain his motivations. Talović’s family (of course) insisted that their son’s acts had nothing to do with his Muslim beliefs — while indirectly blaming the U.S. Government for the mass murder — while the anti-jihad contingent (of course) insisted this was a case of homegrown jihad. The FBI ruled out terrorism in this case, which was controversial to some. What exactly motivated Talović to kill remains murky, and presumably will in perpetuity.

In real life, a lot of cases are like Talović’s. It can be difficult to establish firm motives, particularly when the killer is dead. Given the emotions surrounding terrorism, it would be wise of the media to not jump to rapid conclusions for which there is no evidence, or in the Hicks case, the evidence to date seems contrary to MSM assumptions. Fanning hysteria for the sake of ratings and The Narrative is not a public service.

UPDATE (1015 EST, 11 Feb): The Chapel Hill Police Department said Wednesday morning, “Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking … Hicks is cooperating with investigators and more information may be released at a later time.”