Critical Commetnary World Religions MWF 12 pm

Posted on April 29, 2015 by


Kameron Hoock

Dr. Petersen

World Religions MWF 12pm

28 April 2015

Overview: For my Critical Commentary project I have chosen the Chapel Hill Shootings as my topic. For this project I will be analyzing the shootings portrayal through a handful of different media outlets: ABC, BBC, CNN, NBC, News & Observer, USA Today, Washington Post, and WNCN. Each news source will be broken down separately focusing on their content, language, and possible consequences of each outlets portrayal of the situation. The articles will be displayed in chronological order. After breaking down the sources I will then provide an overall analysis, comparing and contrasting my interpretation of the different sources.

ABC News — February 11, 2015

This article leads off by referring to the three students as “honor students” and “volunteers” right off the bat; yet the fact that the students were Muslim was not mentioned until almost half way through the article. At first I thought this was a good thing because the word Muslim often is not followed with the feeling of remorse in this country. As I read on my feelings about the introduction changed because I felt that the theme of the article was to oppress the possibility of a hate crime as much as possible. I also found it strange that the first photos displayed were of the shooter’s grieving wife, followed with quotes from her of how he supported equal rights for all. The story was being spun as a crazy guy who killed three innocent students, while down playing the hate crime alternative. This could be consequential because it overlooks the potential of a serious problem in our country that is experienced by people of many different races, gender, sexuality, and religions.

CNN — February 11, 2015

CNN wastes no time and dives right onto the speculation of the Chapel Hill shootings being a Muslim hate crime and saves the details of the victim’s personal life for the end. In this article you also hear from the father of one of the victims, where he claims they were all killed execution style with one bullet to the head for each. He proclaims that if that does not spell hate crime then he does not know what does. Photos for the article are directed more towards the victims and their families. They display two of the victims wedding photos, a picture of all three victims at some type of volunteer function and pictures of mourning people at a vigil. So it seems to me that CNN is definitely all in for the hate crime scenario, emphasizing it almost too much.

Washington Post — February 11, 2015

This article from the Washington Post does a really good job of explaining the situation and giving background on the people involved, without favoring one side or the other (that being hate crime or parking dispute.) I did not feel a sense of bias that I felt was present in some of the other media sources. It provides almost equal amount of information on all possible scenarios and paints the victims as both Muslims and exceptional Americans. I think that was the most important thing readers can take away from this article: you can be a “good” Muslim and a “good” American; it does not have to be one or the other.

USA Today — February 12, 2015

The USA Today story is another media outlet that comes off very strong on the hate crime possibility of the shootings, but this is mainly in the beginning and it takes a more neutral approach as the story reads on. Other articles had referenced on how the shooter was an Atheist, but were very brief in doing so; however USA Today digs a little deeper on that part of the story and quotes a Facebook post of his, claiming Christianity and Islam are the causes of violence and Atheism is the solution (I know ironic, right?) We also find out that he is a firm believer in the 2nd amendment. USA Today provides important information for this topic because it could lead to a jump from the Muslim specific hate crime to just a religion hate crime. This conclusion could be consequential however, because islamophobia is a serious problem in America and the classification as just a “religion in general” hate crime over looks that.

NBC — February 13, 2015

 This specific NBC article focuses primarily on President Obama addressing the shooting. In this short article there is a lot of strong and colorful language used to describe Obama’s disdain for actions of this nature. The headline also refers to the incident as a “slaying” while other sources used words such as killing and shooting. This article specifically reinforces the wrongfulness of religious hate crimes with its powerful language.

BBC — February 19, 2015

This BBC article gives a brief summary what happened before shifting its focus to what exactly a hate crime is and does it apply to the Chapel Hill shootings. It breaks down the complexities of a hate crime very well and makes it easy to see that it is not as black and white as it may seem. I think that ties in really well with what we learned at the beginning of the semester about communal boundaries and boundary definitions in regards to what religion is.

WNCN — March 23, 2015

I went with this article because it fast forwards a little bit to the sentencing and prosecuting phase of the Chapel Hill shootings. This is another source that displays the victims as outstanding Americans. This is the only article that mentions how one of the victims had a fundraiser that was in place to raise money for dentistry in Syria. WNCN also talks a little bit about the prosecution pursuing the death penalty and how the state of North Carolina does not have the same guidelines as the federal government when it comes to hate crime. Now, I am know law student, but stuff like this always baffles me since we are supposed to be one united nation you would think all the states would be on the same page when it comes to major issues like this.

News and Observer — April 5, 2015

The last source was very similar to the WNCN media source. One thing that stood out about this source was that it noted how inside the shooter’s house, were very detailed logs concerning parking and he had even taken photos. This helps enforce the parking dispute argument. But the story goes on to say that none of the victims cars were parked in any of the shooters spots the day they were killed. This has the opposite effect by enforcing the possibility that the shooting was a hate crime due to their Muslim background.

Final Analysis

While analyzing these media sources a couple things stood out to me that I was not expecting. The first being that I was surprised and relieved to see how much the victims accomplishments were emphasized and displayed. In almost all the articles it was made really clear that not only were the victims good students and people, but they were good AMERICANS. Another thing that also kind of surprised me was that only two out of the eight media sources I used mentioned the victims being Muslim in the headline. Going into the topic I thought this was the biggest part of the story. I have come to the conclusion that the reason that the victims being Muslim was not included in the headlines or was often not the main focus of the articles is because Americans (the white majority) are scared. It is well known that America has a terrible history of discriminating against anything that does not fit in with “us” aka the white, heterosexual, Christian male. While the majority of us have evolved from this dark past into loving and accepting individuals, the fear of being lumped in with Americans still living in the 1900’s is always in the back of our mind. In my opinion, white America is so afraid of this that we are willing to overlook any possibility of a murder stemmed from hate to an American minority, even if the alternative is death by parking dispute with no present cars to dispute over…

Sources Cited

Good, Dan, and Susanna Kim. “Chapel Hill Shooting: Murdered Newlyweds Clashed With Neighbor Before, Victim’s Brother Says.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

3 Students Killed in Chapel Hill Shooting –” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Sullivan, Kevin. “Three Muslims Killed in Shooting near UNC; Police, Family Argue over Motive​.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

“Chapel Hill “rocked” by Killings of 3 Muslim Students.” USA Today. USA Today, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

“Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shootings: Obama Calls Slayings ‘Outrageous'” NBC News. N.p., 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Chapel Hill Shooting: What’s the Definition of a Hate Crime? – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Durham DA to Seek Death Penalty in Chapel Hill Shooting.” DURHAM: DA to Seek Death Penalty in Chapel Hill Shooting. N.p., 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

“Death Penalty Hearing Set for Craig Hicks, Accused in Chapel Hill Shooting of 3 Muslims.” Newsobserver. N.p., 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

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