When three college students in North Carolina were murdered Tuesday night, it was a tragic story for their families and friends. Now CNN is throwing its resources into turning these murders into “hate crimes.” If there are any honest journalists left who work for CNN, I hope they’re still self-aware enough to be ashamed of their employer tonight.
This is a screenshot of the lead story on CNN’s website for most of the day Wednesday. (Click it for a full-size version.) I’m so disgusted by the manipulation and poor ethics of this graphic that it’s hard to know where to start. But let’s look at it quickly anyway.
We’ll start with the hammer head above the photo: “A hate crime?” Most of the time, when a news story has a question mark, it means, “This is what we want to believe, but we don’t have the facts to say it, so we’re just going to imply it.” In an opinion piece, there’s nothing wrong with it. Even in some news stories in which there’s legitimate mystery, it might be acceptable. But it is always a violation of ethics to place your own unsupported agenda into a headline and then use a question mark to weasel out of taking responsibility for what you’re claiming.
Next, why is the victims’ religion relevant to this story? The subhead says, “3 Muslim students shot in the head.” Is there any reason to think their religion had anything to do with the murders? Not as far as we know, but it pushes readers toward the sensationalist conclusion of the journalists. So why else would it be there? Would their religion have been mentioned if they had been Baptists? Or Mormons? Or Lutherans?
Third, the copy under the picture says that, “Police aren’t dismissing the possibility the killings were a hate crime,” which is technically true, but it’s still far out of line. Police also aren’t dismissing the possibility that space aliens are responsible. Police haven’t come out and said they don’t suspect Elvis has come back from the grave and possessed the killer. Police have said none of these things, but only the most irresponsible journalist would bring up something similar absurd and say police aren’t dismissing it. This is designed to lead you to believe what the journalists want to be true.
I don’t know why these three were killed, but this effort by CNN to push us toward a sensationalist conclusion is really, really bad journalism. It’s wrong. It’s unethical. It’s pandering. It’s shameful on a very deep level.
As far as we now right now, this was a heated debate between neighbors over a parking spot that turned passions into murder. But that’s not good enough for CNN, which wants you to assume something much worse.
This story also points out the insanity of the concept of a “hate crime.” Murder is a horrific crime. It’s already sanctioned by the most stringent laws that societies have, but it happens anyway. (It’s always going to happen as long as humans are fallible, sinful people.)
Is it any more wrong to murder three people because you don’t like their religion than if you simply hate them for other reasons? No. The actions are identical either way. The results are the same either way. The only thing that’s being criminalized further is the thoughts of the murderer. And that’s scary.
Whatever the motive for the murders, it’s horrible that these three people are dead. It’s equally horrible that journalism is dead, too.