A deadly knife attack in Japan claimed the lives of 19 people and sent 26 others to the hospital a week ago, yet few major news outlets in the United States picked up the story. Instead of discussing the underlying issues that led to this mass killing or helping the public understand that weapons have little to do with the problem, U.S. outlets often prefer to cover attacks perpetrated by Islamic terrorists or gun-toting madmen, either to satisfy public demand or to perpetuate editorial preference.
Last week’s deadly Japan mass killing took place in the small town of Sagamihara.
Satoshi Uematsu, the 26-year-old murderer, was known as a quiet man by his neighbors, which left locals in awe of the violence he was capable of committing, The Guardian reported.
In what many have called the worst mass killing in Japan since World War II, this brutal slaying was particularly unique because it took place in a home for the disabled where the murderer once worked.
Moments after stabbing persons with disabilities to death, Uematsu wrote on Twitter, “May there be peace in the world ... Beautiful Japan!!!!!!” He then turned himself in, telling officers, “It is better that disabled people disappear.”
The deadly mass killing place in the middle of the night. Just before 2 am, Uematsu drove his vehicle to the facility, where he had worked until February of this year, before breaking a window with a hammer to enter. Reports claim he began stabbing residents while they were asleep. Many of the victims had their throats slit.
As he left the building and entered his car, witnesses claimed to have seen a lot of blood on the seats. Authorities found a bag with several “knives and other sharp-edged tools,” reported The Guardian.
While reporters focused on Uematsu’s targets, details concerning his previous stay at a hospital after he wrote to the Japanese government surfaced. According to Australia’s Daily Life, he had been hospitalized involuntarily for two weeks after telling the government he had a desire to euthanize “person[s] with multiple disabilities.”
The letter sent to officials showed Uematsu’s desire to “revitalize” the world economy and prevent World War III because “[t]he disabled can only create misery.” The murderer added that“now is the time to carry out a revolution and to make the inevitable but tough decision for the sake of all mankind.”
In a 1996 New York Times article, writer Nicholas D. Kristof wrote that Japanese society may be “one of the most sensitive and civilized societies in the world,” but those who are considered different are outcasts. At the time, Kristof interviewed a wheelchair-bound Tokyo resident who claimed, “People think it shameful that I like to go out and about. They say, ‘Remember, you’re handicapped!’”
According to Kristof, “Japanese society emphasizes conformity,” which is often passed on to children “from the moment they set off for the first day of school” in the form of a popular proverb, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”
Detailing several stories of disabled individuals living as pariahs in Japan, Kristof went on to add that many Japanese visitors with disabilities come to America to find themselves being treated and “acknowledged as inhabitants of the same planet,” not as pariahs “who do not seem to fit.”
But in America, the disabled victims of this tragic murder spree are not being discussed at all.
Amid a series of attacks involving Islamic terrorists and copycats, the bloodiest Japanese massacre to date since the second World War remains a little-known tragedy to Americans. And as they overwhelm social media websites with hashtags showing solidarity with the victims of other massacres, such as the ones in Paris, Nice, and Orlando, the root cause of such attacks is seldom discussed.
So why is the Sagamihara mass killing so underreported? Could it be that what we define as terrorism is only applied under certain circumstances? And if so, why is terrorism so much more newsworthy than mass murder?
According to an article published by The Atlantic, the media may be partly to blame.
“When [the mass media reports on suicides], the coverage is careful, understated, and dampened,” the article states. Why? Because reporters often follow guidelines that help to avoid “sensationalizing such deaths especially among teenagers,” which could help inspire copycats. When it comes to terrorism-related incidents, however, even if the initial reports do not confirm the murderer is, indeed, of the Islamic faith, caution is thrown to the wind.
Zeynep Tufekci, the sociologist who wrote The Atlantic article, adds that “it’s important to recognize that such incidents are not mono-causal, and sensational news coverage is, increasingly, part of the mix of events that contributes to these rampages.”
The culture of sensationalization may boost the ratings for outlets covering the terrorist attacks, but when mass murderers target the disabled in Japan with a knife — producing a more deadly result than many other gun-related mass murders — the media fails to see the news value.
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