Despite the fact that Muslims commit far fewer attacks, US media coverage increase by an average of four and a half times in those circumstances, researchers said.
“Terror attacks” carried out by non-Muslims in the United States receive considerably less media coverage than those committed by Muslims, a study has revealed, adding to an ongoing debate surrounding selective reporting amid increasing Islamophobic hate crimes in the West.
Despite the fact that Muslims commit far fewer attacks, US media coverage increases by an average of four and a half times in those circumstances, researchers at Georgia State University said, after investigating a number of attacks in the United States between 2011 and 2015.
“Whether intentional or not, US media outlets disproportionately emphasize the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims – leading Americans to have an exaggerated sense of that threat,” the researchers said.
“Given the disproportionate quantity of news coverage for these attacks, it is no wonder that people are afraid of the Muslim terrorist,” the study said.
In the four years investigated as part of the study, the academics found that Muslims carried out 11 of the 89 attacks (12.4 percent) listed by the Global Terrorism Database [GTD] – which, the study notes, defines terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”.
The study dissected CNN‘s website, as well as a range of print sources in the LexisNexis Academic database to decipher just how much coverage was given to each attack.
Some 24 attacks received zero coverage in those media sources, however, the small proportion of attacks conducted by Muslims was the focus of 44 percent of all coverage of such attacks.
The study showed the average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles, those with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average, while other attacks received an average of 18.1 articles.
“More representative media coverage could help to bring public perception of terrorism in line with reality,” the study said.
“Since the 11 September 2001, attacks, when most people in the United States hear the word ‘terrorism,’ they think of Muslims,” the researchers wrote. “But terrorism comes in many forms.”
Similar sentiments were shared by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday, after a white supremacist plowed a van into a group of worshippers outside a north London mosque, killing one person in what was later described as a “terror attack”.
Speaking outside her official Downing Street residence, May said the attack was “a reminder that terrorism, extremism, and hatred take many forms and our determination to tackle them must be the same, whoever is responsible.
“It was an attack that targeted the ordinary and the innocent,” the prime minister said.
A police statement confirmed all the victims of the attack were identified as Muslims who were visiting the mosque for Taraweeh prayers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
While the attack was widely reported in the United Kingdom, many pointed the blame toward the media for its role in fear mongering against Muslims, while others questioned why the assault, conducted by a white male, was not universally reported as a “terror attack”, as is the case in those involving Muslim perpetrators.
The full study, Why do some terrorist attacks receive more media attention than others, led by Erin M Kearns, Allison Betus and Anthony Lemieux, is available here: