Yet his word seems to be good enough, both for the police chalking the murders up to a “bad day” and CNN, which devotes the bulk of its reportage to an interview with Long’s reported roommate at an addiction clinic who explains that Long is a “deeply religious person.” On the New York Times podcast, The Daily, host Michael Barbaro lets Long’s narrative frame an episode ostensibly devoted to explaining the difficulty of proving hate crimes against the Asian American community, opening the episode by explaining that the murders have “stirred fear and outrage among Asian Americans, who see it as the latest burst of racist violence against them, even as the shooter himself offered a more complicated motive.” This framework of “his word against Asian fear” permeates Barbaro’s interview with reporter Nicole Hong, who speaks to the difficulty Asian-Americans have had with having racially motivated crimes labeled hate crimes. “You have to call it what it is,” Hong says at the close of the episode.

But since Long says it’s not a hate crime, large American news outlets seem timid to contradict him, even as, again, Korean news outlets have seemingly managed to track down sources who saw him shooting and heard him say that “he would kill all Asians.” Why is this account worth less to English-language American media than the alleged killer’s own account?

The answer could lie in the fact that American reportage of mass shooters is nearly always more focused on the killer’s motivations than the violent products of those motivations. After James Holmes killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Tom and Caren Teves, parents of one of the victims say they could find more information about the shooter’s living room decor than the fate of their child: “So we’re turning on the television and all we could see was about the killer in the killer’s apartment. You couldn’t get information. It was chaotic in Denver. You couldn’t get anybody on the phone,” according to an interview with Jezebel’s Alexis Sobel Fitts for Wired in 2017. In order to address this problem, the Teves created the No Notoriety project, which encourages journalists to focus on the victims rather than aggrandize the perpetrator.


But that’s difficult when even the police seem to be speculating on the alleged killer’s state of mind, opining in Long’s case that he was having a “bad day” while also leaking reports to the media that he says he’s not racist—likely putting the authorities in league with Long’s attorney’s, who will surely use these reports to argue that the killings were not hate crimes, which would make them punishable by harsher sentences under Georgia’s new hate crime law. Information-hungry news outlets are also inadvertently building Long’s case for him by accepting his alleged assessment of his own motivation as truth rather than the unreliable statements of a man accused of eight violent murders, along with a public that, unfortunately, often cares much more about true crime storytelling than the bigger story—America is a dangerous place for Asian-Americans, and right now it seems like both the public and the media would rather listen to a white killer’s excuses than Asian-Americans’ experiences.