Following the Paris attacks, The Gryphon asks: Is it right to mourn the events of Paris on such a huge scale while neglecting to the same for non-western tragedies?
With the sound of gunfire still ringing in their ears, Parisians and indeed the world mourn the deaths of over 130 innocent civilians. The French grieve for the loss of their compatriots whilst the global community reels from the stark brutality of the assault. Amongst the identified victims, one British man – 36 year-old merchandise manager, Nick Alexander – was found dead in the Bataclan theatre. In light of such terrorism, we are asked to quantify our outrage.
Firstly, it must be noted that to claim that the West has ignored tragedies further afield is in many ways to sensationalise the issue, if not to altogether mythologise it. With attacks on Beirut and Baghdad as well as more recently, Bamako, we can observe a low level media focus on the overseas actions of radical Islamists. Whilst the interest of Western media in these events is by no means rivalled by that of the Paris attacks, it is expressed repeatedly across reports and given suitable focus across the Western world.
Secondly, it is important to notice that the argument charged against the motion hints at hypocrisy in the Western world’s overwhelming identification with the victims of this attack. It is not unreasonable that attacks which wreak havoc in a society so similar to our own, with such close proximity to our shores, should evoke greater passion and provoke our fear more readily than those further afield. Rather than underlining an inherent prejudice within the recent reactions to the Paris attacks, the overwhelming condemnation to them, highlights a shared outrage at the core injustice which lies at the centre of these attacks and any like them.
In mourning the victims of the Paris attacks it is not insinuated that the attacks are of any greater importance than others around the world. Nor is it to discount the travesty of foreign deaths in the favour of those with closer geographical proximity. Only the bluntest of instruments would point towards the coverage of the Paris attacks and derive that the people who mourn – who oppose fascism, brutality and oppression – are those who lack a moral compass. It is this generalised attempt at irony which the regressive left and various other mumbling apologists will offer us in the face of such events and which, for all intents and purposes, completely misses the point.
To mourn those who have died is our right, duty, and obligation. However, we must ultimately address the ideology which drives these killings and that constitutes a wider threat to the liberty of all those who stand for an equal and tolerant society. In doing so we grieve for those who have died anywhere, at the hands of those who are willing to employ violence in the forcible oppression of free speech, free movement and most dangerously, free thought. The answer to the overwhelming mourning of the Paris attacks is not to vilify those who mourn, but rather to highlight the extent to which radical Islam threatens all societies and not just those in the West.
It’s pretty likely that you knew someone who was in France or Paris during the attacks, and were worried about their safety until you managed to get hold of them. It doesn’t make you a bad person to be particularly concerned about that attack; Paris takes less time to get to from London than it takes to get to Edinburgh – it’s very close, and most of us have visited at some point. However, there is undoubtedly a problem with the way the attention has been focused upon Paris and the similar plights of other countries has been largely ignored by both the media and by us as consumers.
The main criticism from the many think pieces that have been produced has been the white washing of the news – the argument has been that we only care about the atrocities occurring in the West, an argument which undoubtedly has a point. The Boston Marathon Bombings weren’t physically near us, but because they happened in America it shocked us more than if it had happened outside of the West.
The most worrying part of this whitewashing rhetoric however, seems to be that we’re somehow allowed to care specifically about attacks on the West more because the attacks in the Middle East are so frequent they aren’t considered news anymore. This is an attitude that hasn’t just been taken with terrorist attacks; the refugee crisis dominated headlines for weeks, but now reporting on it has died down although people are still dying daily. We cannot allow ourselves to be inured to the atrocities going on in other parts of the world just because they happen more frequently – innocents are still being killed, and regardless of whether or not we have a personal connection to the place or the people, a loss of life is still occurring and it needs to be treated with the same level of respect.
This isn’t solely something we can blame on the media however, it’s important to remember that we should not and cannot underestimate our part in the representation of atrocities outside the west, particularly when it comes to social media. We have the power to say what we want to say, retweet what we want to see and get the stories that we want read out there. There was actually a lot reported on the other bombings, but not much of it gained traction from those reading it, despite the criticism levelled at news outlets. We cannot lay the blame entirely at their feet. If we are to make a change to the way the media represents its stories, we need to get involved and show them that we still care about the lives lost in other countries. We know the power of social media, and we need to utilise it.
Regardless of whether or not you agree, the most important thing to remember is to respond to the hatred shown through these acts with kindness. Every life lost is a tragedy, and we need to be on the side of life.
[Images: Associated Press & Reuters]