In times of terror, such as last week when the Boston Marathon bombings erupted into random attacks of violence by two unidentified suspects, citizens drew conclusions from past events to assume the cultural background of criminals and the reason for their attacks.
When it was confirmed that the bombings were in fact a terror attack, the automatic reaction from some Americans was to assume that Muslims were somehow behind this. For a country like America that prides itself on being accepting of different beliefs, the initial reactions show the reality.
While there was still panic on the streets of Boston, Fox News hosted Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County and notable anti-immigrant supporter, swayed viewers into thinking that Muslim immigrants were most likely responsible for the attacks. The assumptions are a true reflection of how the United States has not grown since 9/11 and still accuses Muslims first for violence.
Meanwhile, the media faced the pressure to be the first to report breaking news that confirmed or denied viewers’ suspicions. Media outlets that should be reporting the facts immediately reported the Boston bombings as a terrorist attack and confirmed alleged suspects without any affirmation from police authorities.
Two days after the bombings, CNN, along with other news sources, reported that an arrest had been made. An FBI agent had to go on CNN denying these reports. Similarly, The New York Post ran an inaccurate article headlined, “Authorities ID suspect as Saudi national in marathon bombings, under guard at Boston hospital.”
When everything is uncertain, it is not wrong for news sources to ask questions and discuss possible reasons behind the attack, but it is irresponsible to report unconfirmed speculations as facts.
Both media and citizens should wait for confirmation from authorities before making any accusations. Blaming an innocent person, or accusing a religious group for violent actions further spreads stereotypes.