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Pet Sins July 2006

American fondness for Islamophobic stereotypes dictates level of media exposure - two tragedies from Kenya covered differently by US news

Did anyone else notice the difference in media coverage for these two tragedies: The 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya vs the more recent mall shootings in Kenya? The 2007-2008 violence was more horrific in nature (mass rapes were perpetrated in addition to killings), affected far more people, was longer in duration and had more casualties. (1300 dead compared to the 61-137 estimated death toll the terrorist incident). Yet few Americans have even heard of the 2007/2008 ethnic killings in Kenya in 2007/2008. In contrast, we hear about the Al-Shabab incident day after day on local news. WHY? Because it fits the popular American stereotype of the Islamic terrorist. The mainstream media only reports stories that fit the preconceived notions of their target audience.

Btw, the Muslim leadership and community in Rwanda behaved heroically during the 1994 genocide, protecting those fleeing from the massacres, reaching out across religious lines to save lives. Did we hear about it in the US? NO. Because it does not fit the picture that some people want to paint of Muslims, and it does not fit the formulaic story that the haters in the general public want to hear. Don't even give me the excuse that "we didn't report the 2007-2008 violence because Americans are not interested in Kenya." If that is so, then why give so much coverage to the Nairobi mall attack now?

The outbreak of the Kenya violence in 2007 was widely covered on Asian news networks and even American news networks operating in Asia (I was visiting the region during that time). So any excuse about Kenyan news having no global relevance doesn't apply. In contrast, the mainstream US news did not mention the massive loss of innocent lives in the Kenyan riots, while giving much coverage to Britney Spear's child custody troubles It is interesting how the inhabitants of a country whose actions disproportionately impact the rest of the world have so little interest in the rest of the world.

W.L.
Sep 2013