Classification of Terrorism in the Media

Priscilla Bermudez, Senior Copy Editor

On Dec. 25, 2020, early in the morning, Anthony Q. Warner set off a giant explosive in downtown Nashville. The bombing resulted in the injuries of three people (including a police officer) and Warner’s death. Christmas morning, a usually joyous time, turned into one of panic and fear for those in Nashville. The bombing destroyed buildings and AT&T’s local phone infrastructure, disrupting phone service. This disruption meant people in danger did not have the ability to communicate with emergency hotlines like 911. Police investigating the case believe the reason for the attack stemmed from conspiracy theories of 5G cell phone companies having an impact on the coronavirus pandemic.  

The media’s response raised a red flag. This atrocious event, clearly meant to incite fear, did not receive the rightful label of a terrorist act by the media or the FBI. The event actually did not receive as much media coverage as it deserved. The suicide bomber put many lives at risk, but the media described Warner as a “lone wolf” to defend him, and did not refer to Warner as a terrorist, something he proved himself as. This reflects the media’s double standard; if a person of color had executed this bombing, the media would not hesitate to label them a terrorist, much less describe them as a confused lone wolf. 

Even more recently, on Jan. 6, 2021, insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol. The racial double standard that appeared in the downtown Nashville bombing incident with the media reappeared with this incident. At the beginning of the incident, the media described the rioters as protestors — far from what they were. The irony in labelling them as protestors came from the fact that during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests held in the summer of 2020, the media did not hesitate to call participants in these protests rioters. In addition, instead of being beaten, shot by rubber bullets and threatened with jail time by the president, these insurrectionists beat police officers, brought confederate flags into the Capitol, threatened elected officials and were told to go home peacefully by the president.

By choosing to villainize the actions of people of color and justifying the actions of others, one can see a double standard in how the media describes certain situations.