Last week someone set off some kind of explosive device outside the office of the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP. This happened the day before news broke of the shootings in Paris, which completely overshadowed any reporting on the bombing, so you may not have heard of it. A week later, we still know very little about what happened. The FBI is investigating. Local law enforcement is searching for a person seen fleeing the scene.
At least some people are arguing that the NAACP bombing doesn’t deserve more extensive coverage because no one died. But the firebomb didn’t kill anyone only because the main gas can didn’t ignite. Yes, that means the attempted terrorist is incompetent at bomb making (or at least at deploying the bomb), but incompetence can still kill. The incompetent often kill more people than the competent, they’re just more likely to kill unintended targets.
The effort to which some rightwing groups are going to in an attempt to claim that the bombing didn’t actually happen doesn’t jibe with claims that the story isn’t being covered merely because no one died. When known racists start claiming that the people of color are making it up, that’s a pretty good indication that a lot of less obvious racist forces are also at work trying to sweep things under the rug.
Not to say that there is a vast conspiracy. There are several reasons this story doesn’t lend itself to the circus-like atmosphere of a good 24-hour news cycle story.
- No one died. Because no one died, the networks can’t show you pictures of the victims. There are no images of grieving relatives to exploit. There are no images of bodies in body bags they can show you. There are no images of ambulances gathered around the site of the attack.
- The amount of damage done was minimal. There are no dramatic images of a burnt-down building, or smashed windows, or collapsed walls that they can plaster on the screen again and again.
- Authorities don’t have a specific suspect, yet. They especially don’t have any images of a suspect that falls into any of the usual categories we like to trot out as the perpetrators of such a crime. No mug shot-esque photos of swarthy-skinned men with middle eastern-sounding names that the talking heads can repeat over and over.
- No hate groups have taken credit. There is no dramatic footage of protestors on the streets. They can’t dig up old stories of past incidents involving the group to repeat again and again to fill up time on their broadcast.
The media has certain narratives it knows how to exploit, and at the moment this one doesn’t neatly fit into their favorite terrorism narrative. While there are reasons to believe it is a race-motivated hate crime, we don’t yet have the details that fall into the media’s typical narratives for those, either.
Those things all contribute to the lack of coverage, but they aren’t the only reasons. Race-motivated crimes against people of color, when the perpetrator is believed to be a white guy, are always dismissed as the actions of a single, disturbed individual. Even when a bunch of people die. So in case like this, when, thankfully, there are no casualties, hardly anyone is going to give it a second thought.
But if we don’t give it a second thought, we’re just enabling the next incident.