Little Coverage of the Wrong Sort of Terror


Pavlo Lapshyn.

White supremacist killer Pavlo Lapshyn.

US journalists have a hard time knowing what to do with terrorism stories when the culprits are not Muslim, even though, in their own country, the vast majority of terrorism is carried out by non-Muslims (Extra!, 8/13). 

Pavlo Lapshyn was sentenced to 40 years in prison in a British courtroom on October 25 (Guardian, 10/25.) Lapshyn  was convicted of stabbing to death 82-year-old grandfather Mohammed Saleem on April 29, as he returned from evening prayers at a Birmingham mosque; and planting at least three bombs targeting Muslims, one that  authorities say would have been lethal had a scheduled mosque prayer service not been postponed. 

“I have a racial hatred,” Lapshyn told investigators. “I would like to increase racial conflict, because they are not white and I am white.”

This story of terrorism hardly registered in US news media. According to the Nexis news database, Mohammed Saleem and Pavlo Lapshyn were mentioned in just 10 US newspaper and news wire stories, most of them brief Associated Press and States News Service wires (e.g., Associated Press, 10/25; States News Service, 19/25). The New York Times was alone among major newspapers, running a detailed report on October 23

Saleem’s story can be contrasted with that of British Army Sergeant Lee Rigby, murdered by Islamist assailants in a London street a few weeks later. Rigby and his killers, Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, were mentioned in 570 US newspapers and news wire stories.

There’s more than one reason for that. Rigby’s killers stayed at the murder scene and were videotaped talking about killing the soldier. But it’s hard to deny that one reason Rigby’s story got  than 50 times the coverage of Saleem’s is that it fits a false and damaging media narrative about who are the perpetrators and who the victims of such horrific acts.


About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.