Real American Heroes

“They came to the Elysée palace in colorful polo shirts” –


Fashion columnist Vanessa Friedman recently commented on the latest smart-casual trend in a New York Times article. The piece traced news coverage and social media reactions to the three Americans [and one Briton] at the Legion of Honor ceremony. Adorned in polos and khakis, the “more relaxed, though unquestionably neat and respectful” clothing worked its way in the mainstream discourse. Other articles in American and German media focused on contrast of the casually dressed travelers to the formally dressed President Hollande and the Elysee Palace in Paris. The author of “Heroes in Polos and Khakis” attributed this attention to the larger narrative of the men heroically acting “when they were off duty, effectively backpacking through Europe… away from home (and their closets).”

As in the other European countries, Germany covered some of the more peculiar details in the honoring of the three Americans [and Chris Norman]. President Hollande was frequently quoted with expressive lines: “The French people admire your courage, the cool-headedness, that you proved to have, the solidarity, that allowed you to overpower a heavily armed gunman with bare hands. I stress this, with bare hands.” In later articles, the American media reflected on a statement of gratitude from Barack Obama and other key political figures. The president of the United States also attracted some attention in Lithuanian media with a personal phone call congratulating the men.

Unlike the other observed sources, Russian media channels abstained from assigning any labels of heroism. Instead, and simply credited the Americans with “neutralizing” the gunman. recognized the individuals as “tourists, soldiers and American marines,” while noted that “among those who neutralised the terrorist, there were two American soldiers on vacations in Europe and a British businessman.” Russian sources strayed from the romantic narrative presented by observed American and European sources (the “three childhood friends” spontaneously purchasing tickets to Paris and bravely averting a potential catastrophe). No considerable effort was made to connect the travelers and their stories with the Russian audience.

“Dad, we took down a terrorist on a train,” said Emanuel Skarlatos, 65. “I didn’t even know he was going from Amsterdam to Paris.” Mr. Skarlatos’s father, Emanuel, said his son called him at his home in Roseburg, Ore., about two hours after the incident, “cool as a cucumber.” – The Wall Street Journal


German media immediately suspected the gunman of being a terrorist with ties to ISIS. recounted from other media sources that “the gunman was known at several secret services and was recently in Syria.” ISIS remained a hot topic in Germany, a country with numerous citizens presently involved in combating the militant group. Estonian Postimees and ERR also mentioned the gunman’s possible connection to ISIS. In addition to labels of a “Muslim terrorist” and a “criminal,” the two sources continuously stressed the man’s Moroccan origin. As a whole, mainstream American media sources were far more reserved in associations with ISIS or terrorist groups, as most of the related terminology was introduced through quotations or references from foreign sources.

In addressing the “terroristic” label, the Russian shifted discourse to state security in Belgium and the “Fifth Republic.” One author suggested that the French authorities delayed official statement “because they would need to explain to their citizens why armed attacks started to happen almost every month.” Further questions were raised on how a man with a weapon protruding from his backpack could have entered the first class coach. The article continued to suggest that the suspect should have been previously detained due to affiliation with extremist groups. In a less dramatic manner, The New York Times also claimed that states such as Belgium struggled “to deal with homegrown Islamist radicals, and with criminal gangs and terrorist groups.”

“Police detaining the suspect at the main train station in Arras, northern France, Friday.” PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


In several of the observed countries, the gunman was repeatedly associated with the iconic Kalashnikov rifle. Although mention was made of his pistol and box cutter, the gunman’s automatic rifle often dominated headlines in sources like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. American media interchangeably referred to the the weapon as a “Kalashnikov Automatic rifle” or a simply as a “Kalashnikov.”

The article “A Shot, a Glimpse of an AK-47, and U.S. Servicemen Pounced on Gunman on Train to France illustrated one passenger’s encounter with the gunman through the detail that “across the man’s chest, in a sling, was an automatic rifle of the kind favored by jihadists the world over: an AK-47.” Another article from the Wall Street Journal included a statement from El-Khazzani claiming that the machine gun was “a variant of a Kalashnikov pieced together with parts from other guns.” Lithuanian media also consistently employed the Kalashnikov label in articles such as “Subdued gunman kept begging to give him back his Kalashnikov.” Photographs of the weapon were included in a graphic slideshow with scenes immediately following the struggle.

Vice News featured an article with the iconic Kalashnikov rifle at center of discussion: “French Police Arrest A Kalashnikov-Wielding Gunman on a High-Speed Train.” The source previously devoted tremendous attention to the AK-47 rifle and political violence around the world. Coverage included a piece on the rebranding of the Kalashnikov brand as “weapons of peace” following imposition of sanctions by the United States in the past summer.


One thought on “Real American Heroes

  1. Pingback: A Name to the Refugee Crisis | Dubbed

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