Yesterday, a lorry ploughed through the crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing 84 people and injuring many more. When I first heard the news, it was being reported as a terrorist attack, backed up by a statement from the French President, Francois Hollande. The driver of the lorry was believed to be Tunisian. A Muslim. A terrorist.
Since Muslim and terrorist seem to have become interchangeable words in the press, it isn’t surprising that the media immediately picked up on the story of a new terrorist attack, and reported it as such. But what evidence do we actually have that this man really was a terrorist and not just some nutter … OK, in the interests of political correctness, merely an extremely disturbed man with his own personal motives for ‘making a statement’ by killing as many people as possible?
As I write this, there isn’t any evidence. Although he does have a history of petty crime, he has no known links to terrorist groups, and no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the murders.
So, why is the media labelling this man as a terrorist?
Because ‘money’, of course.
Terrorist and Muslim (especially when put together) are sensational words. They get attention. They bring readers, viewers, sales, advertising revenue … They are words that people are hypnotised by precisely because the western media has already invested a lot of print space and airtime into making them appear synonymous and interchangeable – and terrifying. By stirring up yet more fear, the media can increase profits further.
The whole thing leaves a rather nasty taste in my mouth. It makes no difference to the people who have lost loved ones whether their killer was a terrorist or just a crazy man. If evidence is found that he was a terrorist, it will change nothing for them. It won’t make the people they loved any less dead. And meanwhile, the media is sensationalising the story, stirring up fear around the world, and profiting from their grief.
I’m a big supporter of freedom of speech, but I sometimes wonder if the media isn’t allowed to take it too far.
(Photo: a view along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, where the attack happened. No, I’m not going to post photos of the aftermath. There are plenty of those to be found elsewhere.)