“Westerners are finally being given just a small taste of the constant fear that people from other nations have endured for generations. So solidarity with, and compassion for, the French is a good thing. But solidarity and compassion for the victims of terrorism everywhere is even better, in particular those who’ve fallen victim to the terrorism sponsored in all our names.”
With the recent events in France I find myself with the same thoughts I had in the aftermath of the shooting on Charlie Hebdo. Those thoughts are why is there so much media coverage when Europeans are killed in mass numbers, but when Africans are being massacred there is little to no media coverage? Just yesterday I read an article about the current political crisis in Burundi where bodies are being dumped on the streets almost on a nightly basis, but most Americans probably have never even heard of a country in East Africa named Burundi. This is a crisis that has been in the making since April of this year, but it has gone virtually ignored by the media. Likewise, the massacre of people in the Central African Republic, which is part of an ongoing civil war since 2012, has also been ignored.
African leaders themselves are guilty of this. A number of African presidents marched in Paris after the murder of 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo shooting. During that same week Boko Haram killed over 100 people in Nigeria, but world leaders failed to fly there to march. One of the African presidents that went to Paris was the president of Benin, a country that shares a border with Nigeria! 147 people were killed in an attack on Garissa University in Kenya, yet that did not invoke the public attention from the American media that the attack in France did.
The media is so apathetic to the suffering of Africans that there was more outrage over the killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe than there is over the poverty there. Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, largely due to the corruption and financial mismanagement of the ruling government, led by Robert Mugabe. America is not blameless, however. In an attempt to help force regime change in Zimbabwe, America has placed sanctions on the nation that has only further hurt Zimbabwe’s economy. What outrages Americans is not the human suffering there, but the death of a lion. When interviewed about Cecil, most Zimbabweans were sorry that Cecil was killed, but they were far more concerned with their day to day struggles.
This media apathy is not just reserved for Africa either. The day before the attacks in Paris, 43 people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in Lebanon due to explosions. That was mentioned a bit on the news, but there was no massive media coverage, nor were people on social media posting about Lebanon in the manner that they are now posting about France. What we see here is a case of selective outrage by the American media and the American public.
Ideally we should not have to get into comparative victim analysis. Ideally we should equally mourn any senseless loss of life, but that is not the reality that we live in. The reality is that the American media gives more attention and coverage to tragedies that happen in Western nations than they do for “Third World” nations. For this reason many of the same people that are now praying for France and changing their Facebook profile pictures have never shown the same solidarity towards African and Middle Eastern nations that have undergone similar atrocities. To make matters even worse, many of those same people are not even aware of the role of Western nations in those atrocities. There is a long list of dictators in French speaking African countries that have ruled with the full support of France. I do not support or condone the type of violence that was perpetrated in France, but at the same time we have to acknowledge that France has its own dark history of perpetrating violence around the world. In Algeria alone, hundreds of thousands of Algerians were killed in Algeria’s war of independence against France.
The counter to the Black Lives Matter movement has been the claim that All Lives Matter. The fact is that all lives simply do not matter as far as media coverage is concerned. I will end this with a quote from Malcolm X, “They give me the impression that they attach more importance to a white hostage and a white death, than they do the death of a human being, despite the color of his skin.”
–Dwayne Wong (Omowale)