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Buffalo Shooting Narrative Trends

May 19, 2022Evan Robert
People pray outside the scene of a mass shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, New York, Sunday, Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

After the horrific shooting in Buffalo on May 14, conversations about race, extreme ideology, and political response are beginning to emerge among US Media outlets. EdgeTheory has produced a narrative intelligence brief informed by sources in U.S. Media to capture these conversations. Two questions that the media is seeking to answer following the shooting have become clear in examining trend analysis: “Why did this happen?” and “What are we going to do about it?”.

Source Bias Evaluation:

As source evaluation indicates, this narrative has been largely controlled by a left-leaning bias. 1,784 sources in U.S. Media have indicated varying degrees of a left-leaning bias while a right-leaning bias was indicated for only 726 sources. While it is important to consider this narrative’s bias, the sources amplifying were categorized as having high reliability.

Sources in U.S. Media covering the Buffalo shooting show a left-leaning bias

Why did this happen?

It is clear that the media wants to know not only what happened in Buffalo, but also why it happened at all. Many top phrases from the narrative are consistent with the simple facts of the shooting such as “Buffalo supermarket”, “Payton Gendron” (the shooter’s name), and “mass shooting.” Beyond the obvious, however, the media has gravitated towards understanding the deeper meaning and underlying causes of the attack.

New York Post Top keywords surrounding the Buffalo shooting narrative

Americans do not have to look very far to find the motivations behind the monstrous attack. The shooter, Payton Gendron, previously published a 180-page manifesto in which he outlined his racist ideology and plans for the attack on Tops Friendly Market. This manifesto, along with the fact that 11 of 13 victims were black, led to “hate crime,” “white supremacist,” and “racially motivated” taking over many of the top keywords. Further analysis, however, gives a more detailed look at the racial motivations behind the attack. 

One example of a less obvious theme is the significant mention of the “Great Replacement Theory”. This theory states that nonwhite immigrants are being brought to the United States in a larger effort to replace white Americans as a part of a political goal. The theory is one that the shooter cited in his manifesto that he completed prior to killing 10 people at Tops Friendly Market. In the days following the attack, replacement theory is one that left-leaning critics have argued mirrors some conservative figures’ philosophies. The graph below shows how as connections have been drawn between the shooter and certain conservative ideologues, this narrative has steadily taken the spotlight.

Mentions of the Great Replacement Theory grow in the days following the attack

What are people doing about it?

In addition to searching for answers about why the attack took place, the media is turning to politicians for measures to stop this from happening again. One of these leaders includes New York’s own governor, Kathy Hochul. In her appearances following the shooting, Hochul has been vocal about targeting what she believes to be the main causes of the shooting with legislative action. The proposed actions include requiring counties to submit plans to confront racially-motivated threats to the state, dedicating a Police Unit to investigating these threats on social media, and even investigations into the social media platforms themselves that allegedly radicalized the shooter. These proposals also include “closing the loopholes” that New York state gun laws allow. With Governor Hochul’s 279 mentions, it is clear that Hochul’s comments are shaping the narrative around the Buffalo shooting. 

U.S. Media mentions regarding the Buffalo shooting

Additionally, Joe Biden is a significant factor in the narrative. In a visit to Buffalo a few days after the attack, Joe Biden gave a speech condemning the "hateful, perverse ideology rooted in fear and racism" that led to the attack. Biden even mentioned The Great Replacement Theory as a result of internet radicalization. Though Biden did not explicitly offer much in terms of policy, the significant media mentions show that the public is looking at Biden for answers.

As the city of Buffalo grieves, a significant national dialogue is taking place online. Using narrative intelligence, our briefs help break down aspects of that dialogue, who’s talking the most, and the potential impact the narratives have on legislation, public perception, and more.

This brief will automatically update as the Buffalo shooting narrative develops through court, legislation, and more.

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