Mentally ill or terrorist? Jo Cox and the politics of the media
When 41-year-old Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in office on 16th June, she became the first MP to be assassinated since Ian Gow, who was killed by the IRA in 1990.
A refugee advocate and an avid ‘Remain’ supporter, the mother of two was killed in the height of an EU referendum campaign that featured propaganda and fear-mongering from a number of different organisations and individuals.
The media offered readers hundreds of headlines surrounding her death, and many argued that if it was an Asian person who had killed her, there would have been mention of ‘terrorism’ in the titles.
Instead, her killer, 52-year-old Thomas Mair – a white man - was more often than not described as a ‘crazed loner’.
Many argue that it is no longer surprising that white criminals are presented as ‘mentally unstable’ or ‘misguided’ individuals, whilst black and Muslim ones are represent a broad culture of violence.
A non-profit independent publishing platform, which aims to advance the discourse around race, identity, politics and popular culture - Writers of Colour - pointed to the contrast between The Daily Mail‘s handling of Mair in comparison to its description of the black man accused of killing soldier Lee Rigby in a 2013 machete attack as a prime example of the trend.
Mair is called a ‘timid gardener dogged by years of mental turmoil’ whilst Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale – Mr Rigby’s killers – were ‘Islamic fanatics’.
During his first appearance in court this month, when confirming his name, Mair said: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” a phrase that means different things to different people.
Though Mair has not yet been charged with terrorism offenses, he will appear in court under ‘terrorism protocols’.