Why it’s a problem: Newsweek just did one of the most explicit ableisms but also self-revealing acts of journalism this year. In describing the potential motives of the suspect who stabbed five people outside of a school this week in Dublin, Ireland, the author writes, “Irish police, known as gardaí, are still establishing if the attacker is mentally ill or if he was motivated by political or racial hate.” Although one or both of these things can be true — we don’t know at this point — it’s very revealing that the limited boundaries established in political discourse on violence in marginalized communities only allow for two conceivable explanations: mental illness or terrorism. Again, while one or both of these things may turn out to be true about the attacker, it’s telling about the constraints within media coverage and political discourse, and the ramifications of that narrow discourse on public policy, that political elites and law enforcement think about violence in terms of only a binary of root causes, neither of which is particularly explanatory, but which often yield “solutions” that compel more funding for law enforcement and further target and harm marginalized communities.

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