Following recent terrorist attacks in Paris, many have taken to social media to express support and grief. For all the heat on ruining human interaction, social media is a great tool to bring people closer together. Whilst scrolling through my timeline I was impressed to see friends from all corners of the world weigh in and voice their opinions on the matter. However, a few did bring up some [fair] criticism to the “sheep-like” behaviour social media tends to promote; changing of profile pictures and related sharing or likes.
Having experienced the Charlie Hebdo ordeal in Paris, I felt a sickening feeling of repetition. Not only the repetition of senseless murder but also the repetition of senseless complaining. Whereas I have always believed everyone is entitled to their opinion, I feel a lot of people have been kicking up a fuss purely to go against the mainstream. Something quite recurrent in the ‘Bataclan generation’ as we have been sadly labelled after Friday.
I am not accusing these friends of diminishing Friday night’s events, they have [rightfully] brought up the lack of discussion about similar attacks in Lebanon, Syria, Kenya and elsewhere. Now, it is very important that you understand I am not – NOR are the people I am talking about – claiming one life, one attack, one bloodshed is more worthy than the other.
Their argument seems to be that western media and the cyber-social sphere place more significance on Western deaths over Middle Eastern, African or other bloodshed. Just like the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Nigerian school bombings, Friday’s events in Paris have been compared to bombings in Beirut the previous evening.
While I can understand where they are coming from I cannot agree with them. Firstly, there is an element of proximity. As human beings we possess emotions such as fear, love and worry. Emotions that intensify when we are directly involved. Let me give you an example; you mourn a relative differently to the way you mourn your housemate’s relative. You don’t necessarily think your grandmother’s life was more valuable than your housemate’s grandmother. You cannot help it, you never met their gran. A heart-pumping human being will probably shed a tear for their gran also. The same goes for Paris and Beirut. The response in Europe is obviously going to dwarf that for a country 3,000km away.
The other argument, decrying a lack of media coverage is another big blunder. It isn’t ‘the media’ that isn’t interested in showing Middle Eastern families torn apart by hatred and bullets, it’s an issue of desensitisation. Reporters risk their lives everyday to report on conflict zones, trying to make you care about these areas where the hatred starts. The regularity with which we [governments, NGOs, etc] have allowed these attacks to occur in Syria and neighbouring countries means we are rarely shocked by the fatalities.
The 129 fallen in Paris are neither more nor less important than the 41 victims in Beirut.
Some claim this is implied with the lack of Lebanese flag for your profile picture and the safety check for residents in Beirut. As much as I loathe Zuckerberg since watching Social Network, he has had a rather diplomatic and reasonable response to critiques of that. The fact remains; an average American, Brit, or Italian will relate more to an attack in Paris than one in Beirut. They have probably walked along Canal St. Martin where most of Friday’s attacks centred around. Similarly they have probably never been to Burj al-Barajneh neighbourhood where 41 people lost their lives Thursday.
Just two months ago I was sat at Petit Cambodge with my friend Aurelien, ending our 15 months in Paris for our year abroad. I used to pass that crossing every single day to go to work, so you can imagine the shock of watching amateur videos – shot on the same spot I used to stand – to the sounds of the wailing wounded.
The point these ‘cyber-critics’ are missing is that these attacks, wherever in the world they occur, are spread by the same filth; people that convince themselves they have the authority over anyone else’s life. By changing your profile picture to the French flag you are following a herd of sheep, a massive, worldwide herd that will stand together and say : you will not scare us, you will not defeat us. Not here in Paris, not there in Beirut, not anywhere. Sometimes the mainstream isn’t so bad, if it’s a mainstream of solidarity and love.