Media

Quiz: Can You Guess the Race of a Mass Murder Suspect Based on the Headline About Him?

The racial double-standard shows no signs of going away.

Sayfullo Saipov, who killed 8 people in New York in 2017, and Mark Anthony Conditt, the Austin bomber, have been treated very differently by the mainstream media.
Photo Credit: CNN/Screenshot; Danene Conditt/Facebook

Major media outlets have very different ways of describing white Christian suspects and near-Eastern Muslim suspects. It gets tiring constantly pointing out the racist implications of the way these networks describe violent attacks. When Muslims kill, headlines point out the suspects’ religion and prematurely suggest connections to major Islamic fundamentalist networks while using coded, racist language. White, non-Muslim killers, on the other hand, are often described as “troubled” or “lone wolves.”

The double-standard has become so common that whenever a bombing or shooting occurs, you can expect a bigoted tweet or headline from the New York Times or ABC News within a few minutes.

Progressive media critics have been pointing this out for years, but the legacy media corporations that feed Americans most of their breaking news don’t seem to be listening. So instead of the usual lecture about how violent white men deserve to be called domestic terrorists and not “lonely outsiders,” here’s a nifty quiz.

By trying to guess the race of the person described in these headlines about recent, highly publicized mass killings, see if you can spot the racial double-standard at play. (The location of the murders and the names of the killers have been removed so it's not too obvious who they are.)

1. ABC News: “Police: shooter was apparently lovesick teen.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Attack suspect's family was 'very mysterious,' neighbor says.”

3. New York Times: “The suspect was a quiet, ‘nerdy’ young man who came from a ‘tight-knit, godly family,’ said Donna Sebastian Harp, who had known the family for nearly 18 years.”

4. Washington Post: “Gunman enjoyed gambling, country music; lived quiet life before massacre.”

5. Washington Post: “Suspect in shooting, a Muslim, asked Army to discharge him, aunt said.”

6. New York Post: “Terror eyed as couple slaughters 14. MUSLIM KILLERS.”

7. New York Post: “‘Clean-cut American kid’ suspected of race murders.”

8. Global News: “People who knew truck attack suspect say he was ‘aggressive.’"

Answers: 1: white; 2: Uzbek Muslim; 3: white; 4: white; 5: Palestinian-American Muslim; 6: Pakistani and Pakistani-American Muslims; 7: white; 8: Uzbek Muslim

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Liz Posner is a managing editor at AlterNet. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, Bust, Bustle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @elizpos.