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‘Troubled Loner’ vs. ‘Thugs’: Why the Loaded Language in Crime Stories?

robert-lewis-dear*Notice anything different with current news coverage surrounding Robert Lewis Dear, the man at the center of the shooting spree that occurred Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado and past coverage of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown?

If your answer is ‘yes,’ you are correct. A look at descriptions of people in crime stories shows a common trait that can be seen in black and white terms. The Huffington Post points out the contrast as it took note of the description given to Dear, a white man who ended up killing three people and injuring nine in the Planned Parenthood shooting.

According to the publication, while opinions vary in whether it’s correct to call Dear a “domestic terrorist,” the reality is that he’s been “portrayed as a ‘gentle’ rambling ‘loner’ with a ‘troubled history’ in the media. A pretty tame description for someone who’s been accused of animal cruelty, domestic abuse and being a peeping tom back in the day, despite him never actually being convicted of these things in light of the charges being dropped or never filed.

trayvon martin_michael brownOn the flipside, the description for Martin and Brown have not  struck as sympathetic a chord. In Martin’s case, the unarmed black 17-year-old, who was fatally shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in 2013, was labeled as a “thug” by the media. The description, the Post notes, was based on Martin’s profile pictures on Facebook, some of which included guns and marijuana.

For Brown, a black teenager with no adult criminal record, “thug” was also the description given to him by the media, which also referred to him as “criminal” and “bullyish.” The unarmed young man ultimately had his life cut short when Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot him to death.

To bring the point home even more is the case of Freddie Gray, whose death at the hands of Baltimore police triggered outrage among various protestors. So what were those people labeled as in the eyes of the media?

“Thugs,” of course.

So what say you? How do you feel about the loaded language used by the media to describe people in criminal case? “Is there anything the media can do to fix this?

Weigh in below.

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