However you slice it, the following story reported on Monday by the U.K. tabloid The Sun is tragic:
The devastated family of a nine-year-old boy who hanged himself say he took his life after racist taunts by Asian bullies.
Aaron Dugmore — thought to be one of Britain’s youngest suicides after bullying — was found in his bedroom after months of jibes at school, they claim.
Aaron’s parents said they noticed a change in him from his first day at Erdington Hall Primary School, in Birmingham, last September. The child’s stepfather, Paul Jones, told reporters:
He became argumentative with his brothers and sisters, which wasn’t like him at all. Eventually he told us that he was being bullied by a group of Asian children at school and had to hide from them in the playground at lunchtime. He said one kid even said to him, ‘My dad says all the white people should be dead.’
According to the boy’s mother, one of the bullies threatened him with a plastic knife, promising that next time it would be “a real one.” Police are now said to be investigating the cause of Aaron’s death.
The story is deeply troubling, but so is the reporting of it by The Sun and other media outlets that have picked up the narrative. First, there is no mention of the child’s tender age. Boston Children’s Hospital notes that suicide is on the rise among pre-teens and that “national news coverage has reported children as young as 7 attempting suicide.” Yet suicidal ideation, let alone commission, is still an anomaly at the age of 9 and, therefore, worthy of at least a passing reference in a news story.
View slideshow: Manipulation of news stories by the media
More disturbing still is the picture of Aaron featured under the headline and reproduced here. It is possible that the only photo that the boy’s parents had among their possessions was one shot when he was a toddler. It is also possible that The Sun went with this image to heighten sympathy for the family and to foment outrage against the “75 per cent of pupils [at the school that] come from ethnic backgrounds,” as the article’s authors memorably put it.
The website Jihad Watch takes innuendo to the next level by reporting that “The Sun frames this exclusively as a racial issue, but ‘Asian’ is the British media’s euphemism for Muslim, and it appears from the knife threat that Aaron was targeted by budding young jihadis.”
What the news sources are doing will be familiar to readers of this column. Much has been written in this space about liberals and blacks imputing racial “code” to outwardly innocent comments by conservatives. But isn’t that what Jihadi Watch is doing in its analysis, and especially in its wholly unfounded presumption that the bullies were “budding young jihadis”?
As for the photo of the dead child, one is reminded of the most widely circulated pictures of Trayvon Martin after his much publicized fatal run-in with George Zimmerman in February of 2012. Despite the eventual revelation of the Martin’s height (6 feet) and weight (160 pounds), the photo featured at (for example) the BET website was that of a fresh-faced preadolescent, no more able to subdue a 5-foot-9-inch adult than any other child. This was journalistic manipulation.
So is what The Sun and other media sources seem to be doing with this latest tragedy.
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