So yeah, the fighting has ramped up against the Islamic State group. Western forces are furiously responding to the terror attack in Paris last Friday. The media was awash with pictures of tearful Parisians, iconic buildings lit up in the tricolor and everyone tripping over themselves to express their outrage. And yes, the attacks were an outrage. Just as bombings are all over the world.
The role the media played in ramping up the coverage of Paris, while all but ignoring other attacks, is not a surprise. Paris and its surroundings has far more journalists than places like Nigeria and Lebanon, for a start. It is much easier to get copy from international news organisations there than it is to get from Beirut or Lagos. It is much easier to get eye-witness accounts from Paris than it is to get them from a war zone or from remote parts of Pakistan which suffer drone bombings from the US. People in war zones usually have other things to deal with.
Bombings in the middle east and certain parts of Africa happen with sickening regularity. While just as tragic and awful, they are not of such deep interest to the average “first world” news consumer. Many more news consumers relate to Paris, many have been there, learned about it and feel an affinity with France more than they do Nigeria and Lebanon. People are more likely to have friends or family or colleagues in Paris than in Nigeria or Lebanon.
But, more than that, the Nigerian horror has been dragging on for years now. Lebanon is right next to Syria which has been in a state of turmoil and civil war for around four years. Neither of those bombings were much of a surprise.
If we expect as much emotion over every bombing in every place, every sick child, every drought, landslide or earthquake, every abused animal, we would never get on with our lives.
So, does the media deserve the scolding it has had from certain quarters about being “racist”? No. It is being practical.
Do people who are upset about Paris deserve a scolding for not being upset about Nigeria and Lebanon? Not really. I don’t think we should be telling people what they should feel about things. If they wish to change their Facebook pictures to French flags, really that is their business.
The outrage at the media has been but one of the predictable knee-jerk reactions to the Paris attack. Some people believe the terrorists came from the masses of people flooding into Europe. Others have hastily moved to “stand up for” the “refugees”.
There is an immense opposition to accepting them for various reasons, one of which is purely down to racism. That is out of order. But what is not out of order is the very real security concern. While no one suggests that the poor people fleeing the fighting in their own land are terrorists, there is a very real danger that terrorists will exploit this crisis to send fighters into Europe. Why wouldn’t they?
As Europe’s usually orderly and tight immigration controls crumble under the weight of humanity, the cautious identity and document checking system is lacking. Any military leader worth their rank would be looking at that situation and rubbing their hands together with glee. Governments need to protect their people and proceed with caution.