Media Portrayals of the Charlie Hebdo Shooting

Posted on May 1, 2015 by


On January 7, 2015 a major event for France and the world took place in East Paris. It was a shooting of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper office. There were 12 deaths and the country declared the highest level of security in Paris. While no one can argue how terrible this event was, it is important to note the different perspectives on the situation. Talking specifically about the media and its portrayal of the event, victims, attackers, and related terrorist groups. Many of the articles from major news sources portray the situation in slightly different ways. The major difference between news stations was the emphasis they placed on the act of terrorism, or else on the terrorists themselves. Another major difference is the portrayed validity of the Muslim faith, as some stations treat it as a social group, others as a religious institution. Follow along as several news reports of the event are analyzed, discussed, and compared.

The first thing to be discussed is what did news sources say about the shooting. Sorry to disappoint media hating conspiracy theorists, but all the stories told the basic facts the same. It was how they said it, and what exactly they focused on that matters. Pretty early on into looking through different articles there was the realization that there are two distinct ways news sources approached the event. The first way, and the most common, was emphasizing the terroristic attack, rather than the terrorists.
This video, from, is a news report of the incident. They specifically say carnage in the title. This is a term used to describe the shooting, and they talked mostly about the shooting during the broadcast. Seven out of ten articles that I read from major media sources went about reporting in this way. Now, the other way focused much more on the terrorist groups that the two shooters dealt with as can be seen in this article. While both the event and the terrorist groups’ involvement are horrible, for some reason they seem to focus on one or the other. Some questions to ponder include, why would they go about it like this, is it conscious, or unconscious, does it serve a purpose, and to whom?

First to be discussed is why would they focus on the terrorist groups more than the terrorist act? Well, there could be countless numbers of reasons, but one is probably to look at the bigger picture. Yes, I’m sure every news source, hopefully, would agree that the act is terrible, but why it happened is very important. One of the media sources that went on extensively about the radical group connections was Here in this article, you will find many details about their lives and people they associated with over the years. Does this mean, the group “hired”, the shooters in Paris? Probably not, since the groups usually work in single cells. So, why is it such a big focus? Well the article specifically says this, “It’s likely, Dina says, that they received some military training.” Obviously they mean training from the radical militarized groups in the Middle East, but they say likely. Likely sounds more sure, than it’s proposed that they have military training. While, really no one knows, as this article confirms, although it goes into detail about the attackers and their associations as well, it makes the event that more tragic and worth watching, if it’s basically hinted that the these are Al Qaeda or ISIS. News worthy means it is worth being on the news, and the news report what people want to here. People want to hear what might be troublesome to them, no matter how unlikely, it might. So, by using words like, likely, it assures the people watching the news, or reading, that it is news worthy.

On the flip side, why would news reports focus more on the shooting? Well, obviously, this is more emotionally connecting than speaking about the why’s and what not. This article talks about more about the actual shooting to do just that. The first sentence uses pathos to grip the reader, it says, “For three days, two al-Qaeda-linked brothers and an associate who seized a kosher grocery, sowed panic in France and shook the world.” Regardless of if it’s true or not, it cannot be denied that this sentence is more moving than say a sentence that says “Three suspects caused panic and France and the world.” Of course, they caused panic, it’s a shooting, people are dead (peace to those who have passed due to this event), so why fancy it up? It moves the reader more, that’s why. It recreates, that feeling of dread when people first hear about the shooting…over and over and over again. Not that it is bad to do that, that’s for another discussion, but that’s what they do.

Another interesting thing that pops up upon researching the articles I’ve looked at about the Charlie Hebdo shooting was who did and didn’t use the word prophet behind Muhammad. Out of the ten articles I researched, three mentioned Muhammad. Two of those, used the word prophet first. I believe this is an increasing respect for the Islamic faith. Maybe thirty years ago, few people probably knew exactly who Muhammad was. Now, he is known for what he was, a prophet. Whether you follow Muslim faith or not, he is their prophet. Just as Jesus was Christian’s prophet and Buddha for Buddhists (In a way). The question is why didn’t they say the Prophet? In this article, they specifically say “There have been constant threats since the Mohammed caricatures were published”, nothing on him being a prophet which explains why it was so offensive to Muslims. Focusing on the main issue, the shooting, took away from the reason it happened. While almost all Muslims will agree shooting an office building up as retaliation for showing images of Muhammad is crazy, it can still be understood why they did it, although the reasons they took the situation so far is misunderstood. Either way, it may be plausible to say that using the term “Prophet” in front of Muhammad is a sign of respect as seen in this article. (The first paragraph, not the title)

So what can we understand from the different ways the media portrayed the shooting in Paris on that fateful day? Well, from those who focused more on the event we can realize and connect emotionally on just how sad it is that this happened. We can join together, and feel for those killed, and be perplexed by the perpetrators. We can understand the pathos of the situation better. What can we understand from those articles that focused on the shooters and their connections to terrorist groups? We can logically try to understand how and why this all happened. These men got mixed up with people who do terrible things, and in that they did terrible things themselves. We can face the hard, cold facts that the world isn’t perfect and we can logically see this by descriptions of those not so perfect things. On a side note, we can see a growing respect for Islam by the use of the word prophet in front of Muhammad’s name by looking towards some media sources. Remember, there are different ways the media portrays things, so it’s helpful to look at multiple sources to fully grasp a situation. Regardless, the shooting really was a tragic event. Tragic for those lives lost, and tragic that those men had become so corrupted that they felt the need to take the lives away from others.

-William Salisbury

Works Cited–11-people-dead-in-paris-shooting-381003331584

Articles not linked, that were looked at





Posted in: Islam, Uncategorized