The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome (Part 2)

You are a very privileged girl.

You are Brown..

                       Dark-haired.

                                    Dark-eyed.

                                                    Arab.

                          Fit the mold of Western-media-as-politics perfectly.

arab-woman-manIf you die at the hands of an Arab man, everyone in the Western world will know about it before your blood dries.

Your (preferably) veiled face, your context-free story will saturate Western mainstream media. 

Reporters will sensationalize your tortured Muslim female weakness and oppression. Only the parts of you which fit their ideology shall be spoken. Negatives will make headlines. Nothing shall challenge their dominant image of Islam.

News coverage of majors wars, economic crisis, celebrity gossip, and even U.S. coverage of minority male criminals will be obliterated in the light that shines upon your dark fate.

Never fear, exotic one.

The media is all yours. 

You have no competition. 

You, dusky one, are the most important dead girl of them all. At last, favorable enough to share a marquis with the fair-haired ones…

Does this scenario make you angry?

Why?

Because you believe it is a lie?

Or the truth?

In U.S. news coverage of missing/murdered girls, there is an entire social group eliminated from the spotlight, a strata of society systematically ignored.

Non-white missing and murdered girls.

This White Girl Syndrome in U.S. media news coverage brings to light the issue of categorization and stereotyping. There is an element of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in U.S. news coverage of missing/murdered girl stories: ‘us’ being white girls, and ‘them’ being virtually invisible non-white victims who, in few-and-far-between reports, are largely presented inside Western cultural stereotypes.

Interestingly, it seems that missing/murdered minority girls are reported on in the same manner as foreigners in U.S. news media. Just as these news outlets view international news items as incidental, non-white missing/murdered girls are also marginalized.

The exceptions are such cases as Amina and Sara Said, two teenaged Arab-American girls in Texas who were killed by their father. These two murdered minority girls remained a top story in U.S. news for nearly a year. Headlines blared, “Muslim Honor Killing in America,” and grisly recordings of the dying victims’ 911 calls were broadcast repeatedly.

honor-killing-victims-amina-sara-said

These girls received extensive, overtly Islamophobic news coverage, and where I could barely find photos of other missing/murdered minority girls in mainstream U.S. news media, I had no problem finding dozens of photos of these particular minority girls in every major news outlet.

amina_sara_said

The coverage of this story exposes journalism-as-politics, as well as a journalism of exception – the former in the nationalistic, out-of-context manner in which the story was reported, and the latter in that while U.S. mainstream media awards prolonged coverage to missing/murdered white girls as a rule, it generally reports on missing/murdered minority girls only under extremely dramatic circumstances and with minority stereotype characterizations.

Glaringly present in our news media’s Missing White Girl Syndrome reporting, is an element of the hidden dimensions of culture studied by renowned cross-cultural researcher Edward Hall.

This element is called “high-context messaging.”

Though not spoken directly, a high-context message of race is being conveyed and understood by American viewers who have been exposed to Western media long enough to absorb and recognize unspoken cues denoting the importance or irrelevance of individuals in a news story (i.e. the “in-group” and the “out-group”).

natalee_holloway

 

 

For our U.S. news media, missing white girls are definitely “in.”

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Your thoughts?

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See Part 1 of this report.

Read my Op-Ed on “The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome.”

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World News Wednesday

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9 thoughts on “The Journalistic Notion of Objectivity: Missing White Girl Syndrome (Part 2)

  1. The kind of orthodox Islam the news shows shouldn’t be common in my opinion. The Muslims I grew up with adhered to their traditional type of Islam in which the Qur’an is openly interpreted, debated and thought about. Several interpretations can exist because of the way it’s worded. This is important for Muslims because of the changing world (in my opinion its a gift from Allah swt). There are whole schools in Egypt (where I grew up) who continuously interpret its meaning until this day. Hadiths on the other hand are straight forward and leaves little room for debate but they’re seen as optional by a lot of Muslims (including myself). This is because according to traditions Hadiths are based on hearsay while only the Qur’an is the official word of God. There are 6 separate occasions the prophet of Islam said destroy all writings of himself and leave only the Qur’an (you’ll find them included in the hadiths). The hadiths wouldn’t exist if the Muslims obeyed Muhammad’s (pbuh) orders and destroyed them. However, It came into existence 200 years after the Prophet died. They are still important but they should always be optional and never enforced on Muslims (hijabs). Egyptian Sufi Muslims are moderate while still following their religion to a tee in my opinion. I think most Muslims follow or would rather follow this type of Islam.

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  4. Another good one. I would love to leave a better comment, but I got to the other one first and should really be doing other things at this point…

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