attacked vs. attacking

I caught this article in my local paper today about a disturbed young Mormon (returned missionary even) opening fire in a St. Petersburg courthouse.  I don’t attribute his actions to Mormonism, so don’t attack me for that.  Even so, it does indicate there are good Mormons and bad Mormons (not debated, generally, but I like reiterating that point :)  ).

Granted this just broke yesterday, but I find it intriguing that there is very little coverage of this and no headlines saying, “Mormon opens fire on courthouse deputies.”  Contrast that with,  “Mormon teens suffer attack” or “Parents of Mormon boys attacked speak out“.  I can probably guess why “Mormon” figures prominently in these headlines but not in the shooting headline: being Mormon is the cause of the attack of the boys, but there is no evidence yet that Mormonism was the motivation for the shooter.  Even so, that doesn’t seem, “fair”?  I don’t know… Just seems odd to me.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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15 Responses

  1. john f. says:

    In the case of the teenagers being attacked, their Mormonism is relevant because their attackers asked if they were Mormon and then attacked them upon receiving an affirmative answer.

    In the case of the shooter, his membership in the Mormon Church was not relevant to his act of opening fire in the courthouse.

    Therefore, it is right for church membership to be brought up in the article about the teenagers but not about the shooter.

    In the same sense, unless there is some other tie to religion on the face of the story, it would not be relevant to include a perpetrator’s religion in the headline of an article or focus on it within the article where a Baptist has committed a murder, or a Catholic has been convicted of child abuse, or an atheist has raped children in Thailand.

  2. William Morris says:

    Although what john f. says is a good way to go about reporting, imo, that’s not what happens in practice.

    Any long-time media watcher knows that Mormon always comes up — and often in the headline — if a member of the LDS Church (with whatever association no matter how slight) is involved in something illegal. I’ve asked reporters about this. The answer always is: well it’s relevant because of the hypocrisy angle.

    Catholics also tend to get mentioned. So do Scientologists. And Sikhs. Members of various protestant denominations — not so much.

    I thing a big part of that is simply that it makes for an easy identifier. I don’t think that it’s some conspiracy (although, in general, reporters and editors and opinion writers have biases and a certain amount of ignorance when it comes to religious issues).

  3. profxm says:

    John, I agree with why it is framed that way, but I think what bothers me about this is that it kind of illustrates a media bias: When Mormons are attacked, that’s big news. When a Mormon attacks, it’s the attack that’s the news, not the Mormon connection. Is that as it should be?

    Maybe why I ask is: People in the US still think atheists are immoral and want to sneak into their homes at night and eat their children (hyperbole). Maybe if each news story was accompanied with someone’s religious affiliation people would get a different perspective on religion/irreligion?

    (Thought: This would make for a cool web portal for someone – take every news article that makes big news and list religious affiliations.)

  4. Seth R. says:

    Well, as a general matter, it seems like good form to give people and institutions the benefit of the doubt – all other things being equal of course.

  5. Hellmut says:

    Although I tend to agree with John, the hypocrisy justification gives me pause.
    There is a bias in our culture that fellow Mormons are essentially better than non-Mormons. From the perspective of our non-Mormon neighbors that has got to be galling.
    Here are a couple of manifestations of that bias: claims that only Mormons have good families, inter-religious dating prohibitions, and scams targeting Mormons by exploiting our religious biases ranging from marriage fraud at the expense of Mormon widows to the proliferation of multi-level marketing schemes.
    In that context, I have come to conclude that the incessant demands of members to be good examples probably contribute to those pathologies.
    A little bit of humility and neighborliness towards our non-Mormon neighbors would go a long way in dispelling some of the bad feelings that motivate unfair attributions in the media.

  6. William Morris says:


    You may be right in these two particular cases, but in general, the Mormon connection is always brought up by the media. I just don’t see this as much of an issue in the way you seem to be making it.

    Although when you get to more abstract level (like with Hellmut’s comment), then I’m more in agreement and see more the value of the discussion although as always — it’s a two-way street.

  7. Steve EM says:

    Ok,figured it out. His wife left him and he was a Morg masturphobe. No release of sexual tension resulted in a mental breakdown and this tragedy. In the end the LDS church stands at least partially responsible.

  8. Seth R. says:

    And his mom made him wear a white shirt and tie as a boy Steve. Don’t forget the white shirt. It’s very important.

  9. Hellmut says:

    I don’t see any reason to blame the LDS Church for this incident. Divorce is a crisis for many people regardless of their religion.

    Of course, there are plausible scenarios either way but there is not enough evidence in this report to corroborate any such account.

  10. profxm says:

    Morg masturphobe… That’s pretty funny.

    White shirts! Aaaaaahhhhhhhh! I’m scared just thinking about them. And clip on ties… those fracking clip on ties!

    (Note: I was very clear in my original post – it does not appear Mormonism had anything really to do with this other than the person was Mormon. But I guess that doesn’t mean we can’t make jokes about it, right?)

  11. Steve EM says:

    For the record, my comment was a joke, albeit perhaps in poor taste given the tradegy. It is too bad for all the shooter’s mental illness wasn’t urgently dealt with.

  12. john f. says:

    My observation agrees with William’s in # 2. A Mormon connection is virtually always headlined in a story or at least brought up somewhere within the body of the story, no matter how irrelevant to the actual story. Therefore you get headlines in the Guardian or the Times — or other papers/internet news sources — such as “Mormon women abuse children” or “Mormon man disappears from cruise ship” etc. where aside from making sure to mention that the person or people involved are Mormon in the headline and first line of the story, their religion has no relevance whatsoever to their crime or to the story itself.

  13. john f. says:

    (The same is not true for atheists. I have not noticed that newspapers headline or mention in their stories that the people being discussed believe there is no God.)

  14. Hellmut says:

    To be fair, the Mormon women in London invoked religion to justify their behavior.

  15. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I think the Black-and-White mentality of LDS individuals & culture is harmful in many, many instances…
    Without a reasonable sense of proportions, people think any remedy is appropriate for any wrongs… and many think that a ‘lessor wrong’ might rectify a ‘greater wrong’; witness the harm that comes to gays & people of other cultures in our society that seeks to right ‘wrongs’ in a complex society.
    Add to this the incessant focus on the outward appearances in LDS culture, and it’s easy to justify cruelty, violence, etc.
    In my experience, the Basics of christian living receive no where near their proper due, incl. the Biblical injunctions against retribution-retaliation….
    those thoughts just aren’t on the LDS radar.

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