In mid-July, Mollie Tibbetts went missing while on a run in Brooklyn, Iowa. After her killer was caught, he led investigation teams to her body hidden in a cornfield, and it came out that he was an illegal immigrant. This fact has caused her case to be highly politicized. As Mollie’s friend, she does not deserve this.
In the last eight weeks, news outlets have been both a very necessary force and a terrible side effect to the case. When she was first reported missing, everyone in the community and state of Iowa worked tirelessly to put Mollie’s name and photos across social media. Everyone just wanted her name and photo out there in hopes of her coming home. Instead, people across the nation used the information to draw their own conclusions, making assumptions of families and friends in a community that they had never met, much less had any right to judge.
Viewers became connected to Mollie through constant interviews with friends and family. I was interviewed three times – twice before she was found and once after. Every day, like clockwork, news vans would pull into town to get more footage. While we are grateful, we are just tired now. Don’t misinterpret my thoughts. I don’t hate the news for doing their job; I plan on being a journalist one day. Despite this, I can’t help but side against anyone choosing to use her story as clickbait or to enforce their political views.
The week after Mollie was discovered was torture. News anchors wanted to interview classmates and friends all over again even though many were too worn out to repeat their same heartbroken thoughts. Once the news broke that Mollie’s killer was an illegal immigrant hired at a locally-owned dairy operation under a false name, it brought on a new round of scrutiny. When the Lang family was forced to hire lawyers, hold their own press conference, shut down social media accounts, comb through everything regarding their operation and employees and be faced with hatred from around the nation, I felt more anger than ever before. Because Mollie’s killer is illegal, Dane, my cousin, had to watch seven of his 12 employees leave in fear. He had to downsize his milking herd, going from over 600 to 200 head. All of this because Dane & his family, along with the employees, are receiving death threats and people across social media are stating that they are terrible people and no one should do business with them.
He wasn’t alone in shutting down social media. I temporarily shut down twitter and eventually all of my social media accounts because over 100 notifications in three hours wasn’t a priority. Mollie and I shared a Twitter thread about Donald Trump and immigration, which took on a life of its own when people started laughing at the irony and calling us names that aren’t suitable for this article. Every new headline or notification that runs across social media and the televisions at night prevents Brooklyn, Iowa from moving on. No one in our community feels the same way. We are united in our grief, but we are also united in our anger at how Mollie’s case has been politicized across the nation. Donald Trump released a video where he spends very little time talking about her and instead used her death to ramble on about building a wall that angered me to the core.
Mollie’s case allowed people to make the assumption that immigrants or anyone that doesn’t look like they do are more likely to be dangerous. People with this view fail to realize that natural-born citizens and people of the same ethnicity are also capable of violence. It’s not about the race; it’s about the individual.
Those who criticize a situation that they don’t know the specifics of are no better. Anyone that doesn’t personally know my family or my hometown has no right to judge the situation, especially when Mollie’s own family doesn’t judge my cousins for hiring him. If someone didn’t know anyone closely related to the situation before Mollie hit national headlines, then don’t threaten to kill my cousin’s dog or burn down his family’s buildings because they simply hired someone they thought was verified to work.
Mollie was too great of a person to be remembered by the politics thrown into her case. Mollie can be remembered by her love for others and her love for running. The movements that have started because of her, such as Miles for Mollie, The Mollie Movement and more, are the only reason I don’t hate the media for spreading her face across the nation.