It's not a bad thing that the world grieves for Paris and not Beirut or Baghdad. We view the Middle East as a giant mess where such things happen too often to get worked up over it. Paris on the other hand, is viewed as "safe". Terrorist attacks there get much more attention. That's not a bad thing.<br></br>
flickr photo by Pedro Fernandez Photo http://flickr.com/photos/peterpanda1970/22373818323 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

It's not a bad thing that the world grieves for Paris and not Beirut or Baghdad. We view the Middle East as a giant mess where such things happen too often to get worked up over it. Paris on the other hand, is viewed as "safe". Terrorist attacks there get much more attention. That's not a bad thing.

flickr photo by Pedro Fernandez Photo http://flickr.com/photos/peterpanda1970/22373818323 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Yes, Paris Got More Attention than Beirut. Get Over It.

Seems like a lot of people who never showed any concern for Baghdad, Beirut and Lebannon attackes when they happened, have suddenly woken up. Now their complaint is that the rest of the world is grieving for Paris and ignoring bombings and killings elsewhere in the world. A post by a Facebooker Karuna Ezara Parikh has gone viral saying that “not one white person was killed” in Baghdad, implying that we ignore the deaths of all brown people.

She goes on to complain that “no one changed their status to Baghdad” like they did for Paris. Well, let me ask you Karuna – did you change your status to Baghdad when the bombings happened? No, you didn’t. So why do you suddenly cry for Baghdad after Paris?

Yes, it’s true. No one colored their Facebook icon in the the red and white of Lebanon’s flag after the attacks there – including people who are now demanding attention for these attacks. What they are saying is essentially “I never cared about the Lebanon attacks and neither did you. So how dare you suddenly care for Paris? You should be equally unconcerned about Paris as you were for Lebanon!”

That’s my first problem. Second – I’m perfectly ok with Paris attacks getting more attention than Beirut and Baghdad. This notion that everything must get equal coverage is nonsensical. Of course human life is human life, but that’s not the only measure of media attention. If it was, we would be hysterical everyday about the tens of thousands of lives lost to traffic accidents.

Like it or not, we have a limited attention span. We have to pick and choose what to get outraged over. And this choice is made based on whether or not a particular incident is unusual, interesting, or concerns us in some way or the other. The fact of the matter is that we view the Middle East as a habitual mess. Bombings and attacks happen far more frequently. So when another one occurs, it doesn’t show up on our radar. It’s not because we’re bad people – it’s because it’s not interesting or unusual. Sorry, but that’s just how it works.

Paris on the other hand is viewed as a safe place. An attack on this scale happening there is very different from another killing in the middle east. So obviously it gets more attention. That’s life – get used to it. And you know what? I’m glad that there are areas on earth that are perceived as safe. I’m happy that the entire world is outraged over mass scale murder in an otherwise stable country or city. It means that governments will take steps to ensure that safe places remain safe.

It has nothing to do with who’s white and who’s brown. It has nothing to do with West and East. Merely reducing the difference in coverage to simplistic stuff like this is lazy thinking and moreover exposes an ugly and not-so-subtle feeling of moral superiority. People who think like this have conveniently labelled the hundreds of millions of people showing solidarity with Paris as racists or bigots. Wow, you’re so awesome! You’re the only one here who’s not a racist. Happy now?

Instead of pretending to be a moral voice and pointing out the lack of attention to other bad stuff happening in the world, how about you start with pointing them out and drawing attention to these incidents? Write Facebook and blogs posts, start discussions, and organize candle light vigils of Beirut and Baghdad. But will you do any of that? No! You’ll only sit and bitch about the attention Paris is receiving.

Get over yourself.

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Comments

  1. This was my most favorite argument of all time, because liberals whined about “selective outrage”. Somehow it’s not so funny when the shoe is on the other foot :)

    I can hardly think of a more self defeating argument than for liberals to complain about selective outrage over Paris. Ask me, I am a right winger. I don’t want selective outrage over Paris. In fact, I want the liberals to stand up and outrage equally on every terror attack by people from the “tolerant” community. I want the lefties to acknowledge that people from the secular religion shed blood everyday around the world. That these massacres by tolerants are not the exception, but the rule :)

    Oh..and even I as a right winger spoke more about Paris than about Beirut. Not because I care more for innocents dying in Paris than in Beirut. It’s because modern liberalism being a repackaged version of white man’s burden, I thought this time liberals might actually give a damn. People in Gaza and Beirut are merely props for limousine liberals to put up their money making show. Those who fund liberal documentaries on tolerance are more likely to live in Paris than in Beirut…That’s why I screamed louder this time…lol

    Reply

  2. I am glad that people are speaking up about Beirut (please remember that the bombings there were only one day before Paris) because it is not the ‘habitual mess’ this time. This is ISIS too. Our ignoring of the Middle East has come back to bite us, as it has for those who went there and made things worse. Regardless of what people did or didn’t in the past, it is time to do different. What we did/did not do before has not helped, so I don’t buy your argument.

    So yes, I didn’t change my profile picture to show support to either Digital India (a scam) or the Paris bombing. Yes, I spoke up – one day later, though I read about it and thought about it when I read the news. You are right, we can’t get hysterical for everything – by that argument, it should be okay for people to wake and speak, as long as they do whenever they do. Split second timing on these things isn’t a major differentiating factor. These are long run issues.

    We need to speak about the Middle East, learn where which country is, what the issues are and figure out something we can get behind, push politicians in that direction. Otherwise, we deserve what we have allowed through our silence.

    Reply

    • In reply to Sangitha

      Thing is, finding the “right direction” is not easy even after you know all the issues involved. This isn’t a math problem. Even the level of involvement of the civilized world in the Middle East isn’t easy to figure out. Should we go there at all? Should we just bomb ISIS? Do we want to put a lot of people on the ground?

      Or do we simply ignore what happens there?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Ignoring hasn’t worked – that’s for sure.

        Yeah, figuring it out isn’t easy – the rise of these powers is also connected to what happened in the past. That an issue isn’t easy is no reason to ignore it or do nothing and then hand wring when the ignoring gets us this.

        So far people are too smug in India saying it can never happen here (imagine that smugness!). With our tolerance levels decreasing, I don’t see why not any more! This is not just a Middle East problem any more.

        Reply

  3. Here’s the reason why I read your blog! Thanks for the sensible insight!

    Reply

  4. Exactly my thoughts. When I saw some FB pics saying something similar to “Why Baghdad does not get as much as attention as Paris”, the first thought that came to my mind is that: because it is unusual for such a thing to happen in Paris. If one killing has shocked me more than the other, does not mean I want one killer punished more than the other.
    I want to add a point here though: Whether media covers one incident more than the other, should not matter as long as the authorities do not end getting influenced, and deliver dissimilar justice. On February 9,2012; a woman was raped & tortured with acid poured in her genitals & on her face, resulting in her painful death. It did not get as much as attention from media & people as the December-12-2012 incident got. It is very much visible that this attention was the major reason why the Dec-12 case got justice much before than the Feb-9 case (Despite the fact that Feb-9 was also an open-and-shut case).
    But sometimes even media attention is not enough for justice. Like the 1984 riots got a much more media glare than genocides & exodus of Kashmiri non-muslims in 1980s & 1990s. Still, justice remains denied in both cases. During post-Godhra-riots, people of Panun Kashmir were rightly complaining about human rights activists ignoring their plight and crying for riot victims, as the group of activists who were once instrumental in getting the killers of pandits pardoned, were shouting on top of their voice to get post-Godhra-rioters punished (Kuldeep Nayyar, a human rights activist, for one I remember well).

    Reply

    • In reply to Abhishek Oza

      Absolutely agree that differing coverage should not affect the legal/procedural aspects of the case. I suspect that the problem in India is one of resources. We have the fourth lowest judge to population ratio in the world and the police numbers are in a similar state.

      I’ve suggested before that one way to get politicians to improve the situation is by having a strict queue for hearings and disposal of cases. That way when their own cases are heard, they’ll be forced to wait years like everyone else and thus will have an incentive to add more resources to the system.

      Imagine if Jayalalitha had to wait 18 years to receive bail instead of 20 days! When so many other prisoners were still awaiting their day in court, this to my mind is a monstrous crime. She took 18 years to get convicted. Let her wait her proper turn for another 18 years to get bail.

      But I digress – my point is that in the wake of a broken legal system, we have this issue of some cases getting more attention than others. We’re in such a situation now that I’m happy that at least some cases are getting disposed of quickly when highlighted by the media :(

      Reply

  5. a big thing to me is…look, imagine your brother and some random dude are hit by a car. naturally, you’re going to feel more grief and solidarity for one than the other. doesn’t mean you think the random dude is less human or worthy of consideration; you just don’t know him personally!

    france has been our ally in 2 world wars, they are our oldest ally dating back to the revolution, they are a country we have had long diplomatic and cultural ties with, they sold us about a third of America, they are a democratic presidential liberal republic with many of our same values. They are our family.

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