WashPost Locates 'Eminent Criminologist' to Assert Media Boredom With Navy Yard Massacre Comes from... White Racism?

In Thursday's paper, Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi noticed the media have a shorter “attention span” on the Navy Yard shootings – mentioning how ABC seemed more interested in Britney Spears performing in Vegas.

But when it came to reasons for the media’s “ennui,” Farhi didn’t list faded Democratic hopes for gun control, the lack of an obvious political motive, or the vague sense that Navy workers were part of the military. He found an “eminent criminologist” to suggest "white America" (and the media that serve them?) was somehow racist in not being fascinated by black mass murderers. They find white villains more intriguing:

He was also African American, and this apparently matters, says eminent criminologist James Alan Fox. “It’s not nice to say it, but white America tends to be more intrigued about the minds and motives of white murderers,” said Fox, who is a professor at Northeastern University. “There have been black [mass shooters], but it’s hard to remember who they are. The D.C. sniper is an exception.”

One might argue that the D.C. sniper didn’t commit one mass shooting, but a series of individual shootings, and was weeks deep in the story before the killer John Muhammad was identified as black.

"The cynical truth is that the Navy Yard murders — we’ve yet to agree on the shorthand name for this event — had neither the kinds of victims nor the story that sustains media interest and public revulsion," Farhi wrote. "Those who study crime can tell you what excites and interests the public, which is not just about titillation. Outrage is important. Sustained public interest stirs the outcry for change."

Obviously, the fact that almost all of the victims were 45 and above made it less emotionally gripping than the six-year-olds slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary. But if Farhi had interviewed conservatives, he could have learned that the lack of an obvious blame-the-right-wing angle – the shooter wasn’t a conservative, didn’t use an “assault weapon,” wasn’t a white male, and hadn’t been warped by the “Bush wars” – could be added to the theory pile.

The Democrats and their close allies in the media clearly felt after Newtown that they did have and should have political momentum to pass a slew of gun-control laws. When that failed to happen, they were shocked and appalled.

This time around, if one believes our media outlets follow the Democrats closely and align their coverage accordingly, when the president barely offered condolences and pressed on to attacking the Tea Party in a previously scheduled economic rant, the signal was sent. Legislators like Sens. Harry Reid and Joe Manchin making it clear that there would be no gun-control bills reintroduced certainly sent a signal, too.

In short, no political gain, no need for extended media focus on pain.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis