It didn’t take long for national media outlets to begin framing the narrative of the standoff in Oregon. After a group of White armed men took over headquarters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, there was a delicate reaction to the seriousness of the group and the threats that they issued.
The group’s leaders, brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, claimed that they weren’t terrorists, but that notion was destroyed after Ryan allegedly told Ian Kullgren that the group of 150 people were “willing to kill and be killed if necessary.” The group is essentially attempting to protect two arsonists who burned land illegally and are awaiting five-year prison terms. They also want to force the government to give them 183 acres of land. Equipped with assault rifles and other ammunition, the group basically made a terroristic threat.
However, several national news outlets used soft terms such as “armed activists” (New York Times) and “occupiers” (The Washington Post) when referring to the group. ABC News sent out a tweet which said, “Peaceful protest followed by Orgeon wildlife refuge action.”
But the tone was much different during the uprising that occurred in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters were characterized as “thugs” by some in the media (such as CNN anchor Erin Burnett) and several politicians. Republican Mike Huckabee and Ted Nugent referred to the deceased Mike Brown as a “thug.” When discussing Baltimore, even President Obama and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the looters in Baltimore “criminals and thugs.” Rawlings-Blake eventually apologized.
There isn’t a doubt that if a group of armed Black men or Muslims had taken over a government facility that the reaction by the media and law enforcement would be different. The world witnessed tanks and men with military gear walk the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore for protesters who were possibly only armed with knives and handguns. But an equal amount of force has not been used to try to subdue the terrorists in Oregon.
Many on social media responded to the one-sided reactions by using hashtags to call the group #YallQaeda and #VanillaIsis. It’s was a comedic way to show how race and religion shape the narrative when the criminals are White. But once the laughs are over, the sad truth remains.