For The Media, Not All Gangs Are Created Equal

When’s the last time you read a headline about a suspected gang member being arrested for something that wasn’t explicitly gang-related? It’s not overly common. I know, I read an awful lot of crime story headlines on a day-to-day basis.

To be fair, most of those are only suspected of being gang members and since their arrests aren’t tied to the gangs, it’s not overly relevant who they spend their time with.

Yet there’s a double standard at play with the media.

What they don’t do is identify minority criminals as being members of gangs. If it’s a white dude, though…

A suspected neo-Nazi was sentenced to 30 months in prison on a weapons charge Tuesday after he and a reputed hate group leader were pulled over in Texas late last year.

Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh, 23, pleaded guilty to possession of firearms and ammunition by a prohibited person in January, the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the Northern District of Texas said in a statement.

Bruce-Umbaugh was a passenger in a Ford Focus driven by Kaleb Cole, the alleged leader of the Washington cell of the Atomwaffen Division, when Cole was pulled over for speeding in Post, Texas, in November.

Authorities found three rifles and a pistol in the car as well as a small canister of marijuana and a vial of THC oil. Bruce-Umbaugh said he was the owner of the guns and drugs, according to federal prosecutors.

The guns in the car were described as an AR-15 rifle, two AK-47 rifles and a Sig Sauer 9 mm pistol.

Now, had these been two members of the Bloods street gang, would the story read similarly? Most likely not. Instead, it would simply read that two men were arrested after police found weapons in their vehicle after a traffic stop and one pleaded guilty. That’s about it.

However, this isn’t about providing information, it’s about shaping opinions.

Look, groups like the Atomwaffen Division aren’t exactly ground I have a great deal of sympathy for. In fact, I have none. I have no use for their ideology or proposed methods. Yet they’re no more or less violent than any other gang out there, though their goals can be quite different.

When the media presents this information, they want you to associate neo-Nazis with criminal activity as a whole. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Groups like this commit a number of crimes and tend to use violence quite readily.

I don’t have a problem with this.

However, the problem comes why other alleged gang members aren’t given the same treatment. Members of street gangs commit any number of crimes, many of which are violent. Yet when they’re arrested for anything other than explicitly gang-related crimes, the media remains silent. They don’t want you associating these gangs–gangs in which most or all of the members are minorities–with being violent criminals.

Sure, they may do an in-depth piece on MS-13 and talk about how violent they are, but when two MS-13 members are arrested on gun charges, they don’t want to include that information.

The reason is that they know repetition plays a role in people retaining information. The more you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it and accept it as fact. By talking about neo-Nazis being violent and being involved in illegal activities, it burns that information into people’s minds.

Yet by failing to do so for other gangs, it prevents people from really understanding just how violent many of these gangs actually are. People don’t realize that gang members are involved in any manner of illegal activities and not just some “innocent” dope dealing on the street corner.

Oh, those in the media might well fear racism charges if they gave all gangs the same treatment, but the news is the news. Facts are facts and they can shield themselves from criticism, at least to some degree, behind that. At least, they could if they actually cared about being balanced.

None of them do.

So while the public sees neo-Nazis as violent thugs, they’re forgetting about a far more plentiful group of thugs just miles away from them.