News first started trickling in, mostly via Twitter, around noon East Coast time about a shooting incident in a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, WI. My first reaction, unfortunately tempered from years such attacks directed at Sikhs, was that this was one of those post 9/11 incidents, where the perpetrator attacks Sikhs thinking they belong to the Taliban or Mujahideen. Based on current report, this may very well turn out to be the case.
Initial reports were of multiple gunmen taking hostages at the temple. But when the dust settled, it turned out to be a lone gunman, Wade Michael Page, ex-Army and alleged skinhead. The first responding cops exchanged fire with the gunman; one was hurt and the other killed the gunman, but not before Page killed 6 others on the temple premises. These cops, “prevented a tragic situation from becoming even worse”. Satwant Kaleka, the temple’s president succumbed to injuries he sustained while trying to restrain the attacker, perhaps saving more lives.
Now on to the (American) media coverage of the situation, CNN had some decent updates about the situation itself but the reporters and anchors showed an appalling lack of knowledge about Sikhs, the worlds 5th largest religious group. For some reason, the CNN reporters and anchors were strangely defensive, almost hostile, to the victims’ and their families’ suggestions that this could be one of those typical post 9/11 hate incidents directed towards Sikhs. Additionally, CNN anchors and reporters, played thought police, insisting that this incident should not be classified as a terrorist incident (the FBI later classified it as domestic terrorism) and CNN anchors also were quite emphatic that this was not the time for debate on issues like gun control and hate crimes (the two major issues that most likely led up to this carnage). Having said that among cable news outlets, CNN was the one with the most coverage of the incident.
Fox News, when they were not discussing topics like “Liberal Media attacks against Mitt Romney”, had intermittent coverage of the incident. Even with lesser coverage, Fox still managed to commit a faux pas as one the reporters asked a member of the Sikh temple if there had been any “anti-Semitic acts in the past against the Sikh community”. MSNBC, the other media outlet, was busy covering the Olympics and had breaking updates now and then, but largely failed in it’s mission as a “news channel”.
The other troubling fact on the media coverage was the fact they kept mentioning that this was “misdirected hate” aka “hate directed towards Muslims but incorrectly targeting Sikhs” which leads one to believe that targeting Muslims would be “normal”, which speaks to the sad state of affairs in this country.
As of this posting, Wade Michael Page has been identified as ex-Army, 1992-98, (Toma)Hawk Missile repairman, and “psychological operations specialist”. Reports are also starting to flow in that he legally owned the guns he used in this massacre and was the leader of a neo-Nazi band called End Apathy.
Largely, the media coverage and outrage among Americans has been miniscule compared to the ones we witnessed after the movie shooting incidents in Colorado. Call me jaded by post 9/11 America but none of this comes as a shock.
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