Volume 6, Issue 3, 2018
New Religious Movements and Violence
Gatekeeping and Narratives about “Cult” Violence
The McDonald’s Murder of 2014 in China
The sociological concept of “gatekeeping,” i.e., of filtering news for several purposes, allowing only some to reach the public, is useful to explain how often only negative news about “cults” are published by mainline media. This theory is illustrated through a case study of the murder of a young woman in a McDonald’s diner in Zhaoyuan, Shandong, China in 2014. The Chinese authorities, who were pursuing a campaign of repression against The Church of Almighty God, successfully allowed only information connecting the murder with that Church to reach the international media. When Western scholars studied the documents of the case, however, they concluded that the homicide had been perpetrated by a different Chinese new religious movement. They also realized that gatekeeping had the perverse effect of focusing the attention on the alleged connection with The Church of Almighty God, leaving outside of the gate essential information that would have allowed a serious study of the small group responsible for the murder, and a comparison with other crimes committed by new religious movements.