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World Media Frame Oregon Standoff in Terms of Race, Terrorism

Members of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters hug after Ammon Bundy, center, left, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, spoke with reporters during a news conference Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Oregon.

Several days into the standoff, the takeover of a national wildlife refuge by white, armed, anti-government protesters in Oregon is still front page news in the U.S. Abroad, it's been largely eclipsed by such stories as the Iran-Saudi rift and the release of a new Islamic State video.

Still, some international media see the story as offering a glimpse into the fraught issues of race and terrorism in the U.S.

“If they were Muslims, the word used would be ‘terrorists’ and it would have taken over today’s front page," writes Pablo Pardo, Washington correspondent for Spain's El Mundo. "But as they are not [Muslims], it’s an ‘armed militia’ and not relevant."

Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff's take on the Oregon standoff.
Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff's take on the Oregon standoff.

In a column for Russia Today, American writer Robert Bridge, based in Moscow, asks whether mainstream media has “gone soft” on the Oregon militants because they don’t fit the normal definition of a terrorist for which he offers: "Hint: has a dark complexion, does not profess the Christian faith, traditionally wears a heavy beard and seldom travels without foreign documents and explosives."

Racial double standard

Britain’s Telegraph expands that meme, citing a rise in police violence against black protesters across the United States and faulting U.S. media and law enforcement for a racial double standard.

“The message in America seems to be clear: white men with guns aren’t a threat, but black men are.”

China’s People’s Daily highlights the challenge such groups as the one in Oregon pose to authorities. It notes that even Republican presidential candidates, normally vocal in their criticism of the Obama administration, have said very little about the standoff, now in its fourth day, concluding that their silence “showcases the embarrassment [facing] the U.S. government.”

“If the government forcefully drives away the armed person, it will possibly lead to an armed confrontation; if he is left alone, the government and federal law will lose their authority,” the daily states, noting that because the government holds large tracts of land in the American west, similar disputes could continue to crop up.“The best way to handle disputes is in a low profile,” it advises. More significantly, perhaps, international commentators are viewing the standoff through the prism of the gun control debate, highlighting President Obama’s vow to reform gun laws.

“For campaigners and those watching the US gun epidemic from abroad, such steps may appear as woefully inadequate attempts to deal with the millions of weapons already in circulation,” the Guardian states, reflecting a sense common across Europe that proposed reforms aren’t tough enough.

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