Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Police rapid response team members respond to the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The suspect in the attack was a white nationalist, but President Donald Trump did not identify the incident as a terrorist attack. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Just Like Trump, Media Outlets Rarely Label Far-Right Attacks 'Terrorism': Study

A rare exception in the glaring trend came last month when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was swift to characterize the massacre in Christchurch as the work of a white nationalist terrorist

Julia Conley

A new study shows that media outlets frequently echo the instinct of political leaders like President Donald Trump when they refuse to label the violence of far-right assailants as "terrorism" while showing significantly less reluctance if an attack was carried out by an Islamic extremist.

The British media monitoring firm Signal AI found that most news sources are quick to draw links between incidents identified as "Islamist" attacks and terrorism, but are far less likely to do the same when an attack suspect is linked to far-right ideologies like white nationalism.

"Reporting on Islamic extremist attacks is quantifiably different to reporting on far-right attacks," wrote Ben Moore of Signal AI.

Suspected attackers claiming allegiance to the Muslim faith were three times as likely to be called terrorists, according to Signal AI, with 78 percent of the reports the group studied identifying them as such.

Meanwhile, far-right attackers were only called terrorists 24 percent of the time in the 200,000 broadcast scripts and news articles the group read, all of which had been aired and published in the last two years.

On social media, many critics were unsurprised to read Moore's findings but took the report as a call to action for media organizations.

The study noted that reporting on the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand last month were a notable exception.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately labeled the attacks as acts of terrorism and disavowed the suspect, who holds white nationalist views. As a result, Signal AI found, news outlets called the suspect a terrorist far more than they generally have when an attacker represents the far right.

"The Christchurch shooting is actually exceptional in how willing the media were to label the shooter a terrorist," reported Moore.

"We can see the impact [of] Ardern's comments in real-time coverage of the shooting," the study added. "The example set by Ardern immediately filtered into the media. Before her comments few publications labeled the attack terrorism; after them, few did not. Ardern's voice was powerful in setting the tone for the response to the attack."

Ardern's decisive action after the attack contrasted sharply with Trump's statement of sympathy for the white supremacists who staged a violent rally where an anti-racist protester was killed in 2017; and his refusal to call a white supremacist who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year a "terrorist"—while he has immediately done so after attacks perpetrated by people pledging allegiance to ISIS.

"Influential figures may have the ability to shift the narrative around events and topics," reported Moore. "Spokespeople's language filters into the media and, likely, into public dialogue."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo