Spotlight on Paris: Selective Global Outrage

Written by Sakshi Kaur – Grade 11

On Friday November 13th, the actions of 7 perpetrators from the group ISIS shook not only the city of lights with its vicious intentions, but also everyone else around the globe – and boy, are they enraged.

In a series of intricately planned attacks, gunmen and suicide bombers evoked unimaginable terror in Paris, France as they killed 129 people and injured an additional 433, with 80 amongst them who are reportedly in critical condition.

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It was near impossible to miss the terrifying events that took place in Paris this past Friday. A significant part of that was definitely because of the graveness of the case, but a good chunk of it also being due to the fire that social media platforms caught.

In hindsight, the mass media’s attention was a good thing as it raised worldwide awareness. Facebook’s “Safety Check” feature provided those in danger with help from other Parisians and alerted the world of the events, as did the hashtag #PortesOuvertes (“Open Doors”). Facebook even enabled a temporary filter of the French flag that users could apply to their profile picture to display support. However, amongst it all, many people brought an essential question to attention: “Where were all these features and resources and during the Beirut bombings?”

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The capital of Lebanon, Beirut, faced very similar horror only a day before the tragedy in Paris by the actions of ISIS, with two suicide bombings that resulted in 43 people dead and 249 injured. The attack was one of the most lethal events in the country since Lebanon’s civil war in 1990.

With the glaring similarities in violence and time period where both Paris and Beirut lost lives in the hands of ISIS, Lebanese individuals and many others are hurt by the inferno for France and the mere spark for Lebanon from mass media. It not only began raising awareness to the lack of attention towards Beirut, but also Baghdad, where 7 died and an additional 15 were injured at a funeral suicide bombing, once again lead by ISIS. With more facts on the board and more crises many had no idea about, two questions arose:

 “Is global outrage selective?

Is our grief selective?”

Where do we aim these questions to begin with? Multi-media or to its readers?

It’s easy to blame journalists and reporters for being the ones who didn’t cover Beirut and Baghdad as much as they did for Paris, or even any third-world country disaster in general too, but here’s the thing: they do – quite well, too.

Top newspapers and news channels in both the U.S and Canada all had detailed coverage on the events and their aftermath, yet it was only after the Paris incident that users of popular social media platforms started clicking on those articles more.

When we look at it closely, it ends up narrowing down to how the audience and readers respond to these events. The truth is, they just don’t eat up headlines about Lebanon and Baghdad like they do for a more western country, and these middle-eastern countries, amongst many others, are saddened by this reality. They’re forced to ask: “Are western lives automatically considered more treasured than ours?”

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The daily disasters and fright they faced never brought people from every corner of the world to pour their hearts out in sympathy like Paris did. There are many factors that could explain why; such as the mass assumption that countries in the Middle East are “familiar with violence and corruption” while a secure and industrialized first-world country could’ve never saw something so lethal coming.

Whatever all the reasons may be, they should only emphasize one point: we, as humans, need to be respectful and aware of the tragedies and the call for help from other humans.

Where do we get as a species ranking one tragedy over another? One race over another? One life over another?

Frankly, nowhere.

Although political leading figures around the world may not have tweeted about the lives taken in Nigeria after being bombed by Boko Haram, and even if national monuments didn’t light up with the colors of Kenya’s flag after over 147 university students were killed by Al-Shabaab, it doesn’t mean we can’t begin to take a step forward as individuals.

In the beautiful words of Karuna Ezara Parikh, “Say a prayer for Paris by all means, but pray more, for the world that does not have a prayer.”

 If you’re wondering on how to get started, the answer’s quite simple. You’ll reach every part of the world as easily as you reached Paris; with the tap of a button or touchscreen that your thumb occupies everyday.

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