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Cervantes: When going postal is profitable

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | OCTOBER 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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On Sept. 11, I wrote a column examining the media bias after the Michael Brown shooting. Toward the end of that piece, I stated that there would most definitely be another occurrence of journalistic favoritism in the near future.

I’m actually surprised that it came so fast.

On Sept. 25, Alton Nolen beheaded a former coworker, 54-year-old Coleen Hufford, and then attacked another employee, 43-year-old Traci Johnson. Nolen had been fired the day before this incident. With this given information, it seems like another case of a man going postal. However, there is one factor that has elevated this incident to national news: Nolen is a recently converted Muslim. Both his victims are Christian.

That extra detail has completely changed the course of the story. Instead of a workplace-oriented murder, the case has evolved into an act of domestic terrorism. But does it really deserve to be classified as such, or is it merely publicized because of its content?

I think it’s safe to say that a good chunk of the publicity has come from the religious affiliation of those involved. This incident has been handled by the likes of Fox News, CNN, and CBS News. I guarantee that if the murderer were a Christian, the entire story would have quieted down by now.

After all, going postal (a term which refers to anger that results in violent outbursts, usually in a place of work) has been an occurrence in America since the 1980s. There are a handful of cases involving workplace rampages that do not receive the type of celebrity that the Vaughan Foods beheading incident has garnered.

Because of all the recent drama with ISIS and its favored use of decapitation, the general public feels as if atrocities that have been kept outside our borders have now come home. A horror that could once only be acknowledged from afar is now right in our backyard. If it could happen to a nice, middle-age woman such as Hufford, it could happen to anyone.           

Sounds scary, right? It also sounds pretty profitable, if you make money from news.

I went around and asked people their thoughts on the attack. What was surprising was the fact that so few of them knew about Johnson, the second victim. Whenever this tragedy comes up in conversation, it is always about the decapitation. Johnson, who is in critical condition,  has been overshadowed by the more explosive news of Hufford’s decapitation.

As I’ve said before, people are frightened at the idea that the terrible things they heard were going on in the Middle East could happen here. Fear and bad news have always been more front-page worthy than happy, feel-good news. And while any death and any murder is a tragedy, any extra terror adds a little extra profit.

This never had to be a terrorist case. It could have easily been just another example of  a disgruntled (former) employee utilizing his rage as a tool against his former place of work. Yet a man going postal is nothing compared to a domestic terrorist.

But hey, news is a business.


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