Comments for Debate on the Media and the Charlie Hebdo Murders

On Tuesday February 10 (2015) I will participate in a debate with researchers Marieke de Goede, Francesco Ragazzi, Jolle Demmers, and Julien Jeandesboz to discuss the role of the media, Islamophobia and the temptation of vigilantism in Europe in the aftermath of murders at Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7th of 2015. The debate takes place at SPUI25 in downtown Amsterdam, The Netherlands (this is a debate center operated by the University of Amsterdam).

My contribution to this debate focuses on two particular issues: the attacks on journalists as exemplary of the mediatization of society, and the problems  white, middle-class Western news media have covering an increasingly diverse, complex global culture in their societies. 

The Charlie Hebdo attacks signal the significance of singling out media in general, and individual media professionals in particular, as victims. See also the horrific beheading videos featuring freelance journalists by jihadist groups (since 2002). This fits in a broader 'mediatization' of society, where media as institutions have become central to the way we live our lives and, in particular, how we see ourselves and each other live. As Zygmunt Bauman commented after the Hebdo attacks: "In our media-dominated information society people employed in constructing and distributing information moved or have been moved to the centre of the scene on which the drama of human coexistence is staged and seen to be played."

A second observation deals specifically with the role of journalists covering such events: the problems western media have effectively (and with nuance and credibility) covering topics such as religion (in general, Islam in particular), minorities, migration, and class struggle. As a report by the Dutch NRC Handelsblad on February 3, 2015 showed, Dutch newsrooms employ almost no minority reporters and are otherwise extremely homogeneous, failing to address and reflect the complexities of today's society.

Looking forward to the debate and seeing you there.