Media Demonizes WDBJ Gunman But Humanizes White Shooters

The media's coverage of Vester Flanagan is very different from that of Dylann Roof and Elliot Rodger showing that race makes a visible impact on how wrongdoers are viewed.

Amid the horrific tragedy that unfolded this morning with the televised killing of two journalists, the public has been weighing in on the incident as information has gradually been released leading up to the shooter being pronounced dead from injuries caused by a self-inflicted gun wound. 

There's a consensus amongst many people on Twitter that the suspect was wrong on all levels, but the reports about his character seem to exemplify a critical reason why racial tensions come into play in the situation.

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We know that the shooter of Alison Parker,24, and Adam Ward, 27, is a former colleague of theirs named Vester Lee Flanagan who worked under the alias Bryce Williams.

Flanagan is a Black male who lost his job at the Virginia news station, WDJB, where they all worked for reasons unknown.

Read More: When White Killers Are Treated Better Than Black Victims

We also know that following the shooting, a video taken from the shooter's vantage point was posted to Twitter from an account linked to "Bryce Williams" along with other tweets that claimed Parker had made racist comments to Flanagan and Ward reported him to human resources at some point.

With all that said, the "race revenge" concept is being portrayed by the media as a prominent factor in this senseless act of violence and the media is framing Flanagan’s character much differently than they have depicted White shooters.

Much of the coverage on the issue focuses on Flanagan's "history of discrimination claims" and him being "difficult to work with" or being described as an "angry, antisocial" person.

This is in direct contrast to White shooters, such as Dylan Roof, the White man responsible for the Charleston church shooting who was openly racist but still received some degree of compassion from the media.  

White or Black, Flanagan's actions are inexcusable — there's no question about that — but he evidently harbored anger from enduring discrimination within his career as a journalist.

Now, ironically, even as a murderer he's treated differently than his White counterparts in the eyes of the media.  

In a 23-page manifesto Flanagan sent to ABC News he explained that he had been experiencing bullying, racial discrimination and sexual harassment for being a gay, Black man. 

He said what really sent him over the edge, however, was the Charleston shooting back in June. He claimed he bought his gun two days after the incident.

“Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace….” He wrote.

"The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Flanagan also claimed in the document that he was influenced by the 1999 Columbine High School shooters and the Virginia Tech Massacre shooter, Seung Hui Cho, who all claimed to be victims of bullying and exclusion seeking revenge.

His letter elaborates on how his issues stem much deeper than race alone or revenge against the news station. But, if he had not explicitly addressed those details, would the media have bothered to look further than a surface level motive? 

If nothing else comes from the debate about how this is playing out, it's certainly food for thought. 

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