Using fire to defame

In a previous post, I wrote about how fire is very much a socioeconomic disaster and how the media have all but ignored this. Unfortunately, it seems that the media are doing worse than ignoring this link. They’re exploiting it.

Earlier this year, a fire in the Twin Cities was covered nationally by publications like CNN. An article by the Twin Cities Daily Planet ponders why this event got so much large-scale play. “Neighborhood fires happen all the time; what is the national peg of a Twin Cities fire?” Lolla Mohammed Nur wrote. “I am not trying to take away from this tragedy, but, I’m sure there are many tragedies that have killed or injured more people or caused far more damage, but have not made it to national news.” The answer, it seemed, was that this fire occurred in Cedar Riverside, a neighborhood heavily populated by Somali Americans. Because Somalian militant group Al Shabaab headed the Nairobi mall attack in 2013, the neighborhood was under a spotlight.

“So every little move and happening in this neighborhood is now being paid a whole lot of attention to,” said Burhan Mohumed, a Somali American. Listed in the article were tweets by a media personality who instantly made connections between the fire and Al Shabaab, alleged perpetrator of the Nairobi mall attack — a connection deemed unfounded by the article.

This is extremely problematic. It’s bad enough that marginalized communities are more likely to suffer fires. But when a fire is used to further attack a marginalized community, that is hard to swallow.  

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