The terrorist attacks in Paris have left the world reeling. It’s hard to believe that we’ve seen the deadliest day in France since World War II happening in 2015. As a post-9/11 New Yorker, these attacks instantly make me question my safety, and my heart goes out to all those who are grieving. The tragedy associated with these events is unfathomable and extremely difficult to process.
It’s even harder for me to understand why so many people are using these attacks as an opportunity to direct attention to other causes. On Saturday, at least a dozen people on my Facebook timeline shared the BBC’s April 2015 article about the deadly terrorist attack at Garissa University in Kenya. I’m sure some shared the article completely unaware that the story was almost eight months old. Others were sharing the piece as an act of defiance against mainstream news media. Throughout the weekend, many have complained that the attacks in Paris have received more coverage than the Kenyan attack and feel that it’s not fair. They are resharing coverage of the April attack to shed equal light on the terrorism threat in all parts of the world.
The upsetting part of this is that there is an entire nation in a state of panic and mourning. They are concerned with their immediate safety, and I’m sure they’re not interested in having a pissing contest about which deadly tragedy received more coverage. It seems petty and pointless to use this tragic time as a means to push an agenda.
A huge factor in the “coverage” of the Paris attacks stems from the role of social media in breaking news. Like any other news topic, certain news items catch fire and make more impressions than others. If everyone in your news feed is sharing articles or pictures about a topic, you’re more likely to think it’s receiving more coverage than other stories. The Kenya attack was covered fully by the media. A search of the terms “Kenya attack” yields page after page of coverage about the deadly attack. If everyone was so concerned about getting the appropriate push behind the coverage of this story, why didn’t they share it in April?
Aside from these points, the magnitude and coordination of the Paris attacks is unprecedented. It is extremely newsworthy, and due to its unique and historic nature, the Paris story is sure to generate tons of coverage. For those reaching back for other deadly bombings or attacks to compare coverage to, you don’t have to look back very far. The Beirut suicide bombings that took place Thursday have easily been overshadowed by the Paris attacks. Yes, they have been covered but not equally. But at such a heart wrenching time, it’s not appropriate to make these comparisons. All of these stories are being told, but just because everyone on your timeline isn’t posting about them doesn’t mean they’re not being covered.
I even saw a meme with a picture of a drunk Paris Hilton being escorted out of a club by bouncers under which the text read “Pray for Paris”. Are we that desensitized that within 24 hours of one of the worst international tragedies of the last century, we’re making jokes about it? It makes me sick to my stomach that a story so important to international safety and security is being filtered through just as nonchalantly as C-list celeb news on TMZ.
This is a time for solidarity. It is not a time to compete to see whose tragedy can gain the most traction in the media. It is not a time to make light of a dark situation that has forever changed the lives of many. It’s a time to focus on how to move forward and ensure we can continue living in a world where we are safe to enjoy life’s pleasures and all that the world has to offer. We can’t let ignorance, poor taste, or faux activism be the dark cloud over the opportunity to stand together.