On 13th November, there were atrocities committed in Beirut and in Paris. I want to send the deepest condolences to the people caught up in those attacks.
The killings in Paris, particularly, have had huge international attention, attention most terrorist attacks don’t receive in mainstream media. There are those who have pointed out the hypocrisy of showing solidarity to Paris when this violence occurs so frequently outside the western world, and is ignored.
I believe solidarity is important. But I take their point. I believe that rather than condemning support for Paris, we should see this new global conversation as a wake-up call. Because this is a huge problem in western media: if something horrible happens too frequently, if it happens too far away, if it’s confusing or has grey areas, if it’s not something we can relate to or something we can do anything about…far too often we don’t want to know. The story goes off the radar very quickly, or it doesn’t appear in mainstream media at all.
In that context, it makes complete sense that there has been so much more concentration on this attack in Paris. Not only because it’s in the western world – we can’t just dismiss it as one of those awful, violent, far-off countries where these things happen – but because it’s Paris. City of Lovers, City of Lights. Parisian is a word used in English, for crying out loud. It’s one of the most iconic cities in our culture, up there with New York and London. If you haven’t been there, it’s on your list of must-sees.
What’s more, it feels incredibly close to home. I live in Ireland, and we all know someone who is there or is going there or has been there recently; a friend of a friend, at the very least. Lots of us have friends who are French. And many of us have visited Paris in the last few years. These are streets we have walked. It is impossible to subconsciously dismiss as something that most-likely-won’t-touch-our-lives, because it already has.
So yes, the shock surrounding this atrocity makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I think it’s completely justified. This is the shock and upset that such a horrifying, inhuman massacre deserves. It only becomes problematic when you question why this same worldwide shock doesn’t follow other horrific atrocities.
And that’s when, rather than criticising the support being offered, we could bring other media-worthy violence into the picture.
(I want to finish with a quick reminder that this discussion must not be allowed to become black and white. There are people in need of help pouring out of the likes of Syria, and turning on these refugees – or turning them away – will not help anything. It is absolutely imperative that the minority is not allowed to define the majority in this issue.)