On Monday June 19, there was a horrific terror attack in Finsbury Park on a group of Muslims going home after the tarawih (the evening prayers during Ramadan). They were attacked by a man who drove his white van into them, leaving one man dead and eleven others injured. When he exited the car, onlookers said that he was shouting the words: ‘I want to kill all Muslims — I did my bit’. This man is suspected to be 47-year-old, Darren Osborne from Cardiff.
What stood out to me about this story wasn’t the fact that yet another terrible tragedy has been inflicted on the United Kingdom this year — although that is definitely alarming. My issue were the tiny details that different news outlets were giving and how the attacker was being portrayed.
When you search for ‘Finsbury Park Attack’ the articles that come up give you the facts with little or no details, avoiding any bias. Although there was one detail that did irk me, posted by the Guardian. It said that the ‘man who died was already being treated for an untreated ailment and [the authorities or hospitals] are still investigating whether or not his death was related to the attack’. My problem with this statement is the fact that the authorities seem very set on making the attack seem less than it is. If the man in question died of other causes, then it makes this terror attack seem less significant, suggesting that people were only injured and not dead. It allows less blame to be placed on the attacker.
But then I decided to search directly for the attacker, Darren Osborne, and see what articles became available. Now this was a different story. The first result was an article from the Telegraph and what an enlightening picture it offered. The article was painting Osborne as someone with mental health problems, not a violent terrorist. It tried to humanise him with statements from his family that said he would never have done this. They gave intimate details about his life to make him appear more sympathetic to readers. Here are some excerpts from the article:
- ‘[His mother] claimed he was “disturbed” and had been on medication for mental health problems’
- She also said that her son ‘was a “complex” person’
- His sister ‘denied that her brother is political’
- They showed details of his life by saying that he had been ‘born in Singapore but raised by his parents, John and Christine in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset …’
These are only a few quotes from the articles but I hope they cast a picture on what the article was trying to achieve. I understand that this is only one article, but this is what the public are being shown. This man, who has arguably committed a terror attack (as Theresa May herself called it), is not being portrayed as a terrorist by the press. Had this man been black yet lived the same kind of lifestyle that Osborne had, the story told would have been very different. And this is the rule not the exception.
People of cultural, racial or religious minorities (basically anyone who isn’t white and heterosexual) are being demonised by the media if they are involved in any kind of violence. But if the perpetrator is male and white, then the scenario becomes very different, more positive and relatable.
By humanising Darren Osborne, it makes the attack seem less dangerous and chaotic. It makes him seem like a good guy with problems who just made a mistake. This pattern that the media keeps upholding is detrimental and despicable. What makes it worse though, is that reports like these can influence a judge to give a lighter sentence if the person convicted is found guilty. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this story plays out.