Terror in Texas

Here in Texas there was one terrorist attack (very likely by one or some of the rightwing Christians who were protesting the clinic earlier that day) on a Planned Parenthood office in Mckinney, and a thwarted attack of an AWOL soldier at Ford Hood. I look at a local news station (WFAA) to see how the two incidences were treated.

In McKinney, Texas—about an hour and a half drive from my home in south Arlington—is a Planned Parenthood clinic that does not provide abortions, but rather contraceptives and advice. Nevertheless anti-abortion groups pretending to be pro-life* have been protesting the office for awhile now. Just before midnight on Tuesday, July 26th someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the office. Luckily the fire was quickly put out and the damage was slight.

At the Fort Hood Army base near Killeen, Texas “an AWOL Muslim soldier who had been granted conscientious objector status earlier this year was arrested.” The attack was prevented thanks to a tip by gun shop clerk. Apparently Naser Abdo, the suspect, had explosives with him when he was arrested.

Two incidences. One carried out, and one thwarted. One presumably by rightwing Christians, and one by a Muslim. In today’s political climate (i.e. the rightwing tilt of the media, prevalence of Christianity and Islamophobia) patterns emerge where it is possible to see how the media treats “worthy” and “unworthy” news items. If we use the Propaganda Model as created by Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky we should expect to see how ownership, advertising, source, flak and ideology shape the two news items.

When I set out to do this experiment I had a hypothesis: the planned attack in Fort Hood by a Muslim soldier who went AWOL would receive more attention than the attack carried out in McKinney, Texas against a Planned Parenthood clinic. I also predicted that the incident in McKinney would not be called a “terrorist attack” whereas the incident in Fort Hood would be labeled as such. The reason is that in our racist, predominantly Christian society rightwing Christian terrorists are treated differently than Muslims who are enduring a climate of Islamophobia and wars of aggression targeting Muslim countries—these imperial wars are viewed by Muslims as being a War on Islam.

I chose local news station WFAA, an ABC-affiliated station because it is not FOX. Here is what I found:

As of today, and in regards to the incident in McKinney there was one news item that totaled 183 words; it was not referred to as a terrorist attack, though it was a violent attack for religious purposes clearly intended to terrorize Planned Parenthood into closing their clinic.

The incident at Ford Hood has received, so far, nine news items totaling 6,506 words with the phrase “terror” used 19 times.

For every word the incident in McKinney received, the incident at Fort Hood received thirty-five words. And even though the attack in McKinney was carried out, and there was damage, the attacker was not called a “terrorist,” but rather an “arsonist.” Compared to the planned incident at Fort Hood, the suspect was not limited to being simply called a “bomber.” No, the use of the phrase “terror” was used repeatedley to describe the incident and the suspect.

I also looked at the two main newspapers, the Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. Neither paper ran anything on the incident in McKinney but both ran numerous articles online with the Dallas Morning News including one in its opinion section and the Star-Telegram putting it on the front page of last Friday’s paper.

Just like with the terrorist attack in Norway, rightwing Christians get preferential treatment for their terrorism; as opposed to Muslims or other groups who are more “worthy” of being demonized by a mainstream media that are components of the dominant political and economic systems of power. Terrorism should mean something and its application should be consistent and not politicized. But the reality is it is highly politicized and is reserved for those who are not close to power.

* I take this jab because it has been my observation that anti-abortionists are not anti-war, anti-death penalty or opposed to certain political and economic policies that create suffering and death, but rather that the issue is something used to push through rightwing agendas that are often anti-life

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