icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
26 Nov, 2015 14:07

Paris attacks: When selective outrage goes viral

Paris attacks: When selective outrage goes viral

After the Islamic revolution in Iran, sales of Iranian caviar plummeted. The much coveted delicacy, once a staple on the tables of the world's finest restaurants, was no longer as appealing in 1979 as it had been until 1978.

The same product, farmed in the same waters, packaged in the same factories would no longer qualify as a must for the world's rich and famous.

Could gastronomy be so intimately linked to world politics? The answer is in the proverbial pudding or in this case, the starter. Sales of Iranian caviar only picked up when Mohammad Khatami was elected in 1997, after receiving the much needed blessing from the US that the Iranian 'regime' could be engaged with.

In the past month alone the world was witness to unprecedented carnage at the hands of an unscrupulous terrorist organization based in the Middle East. From Lebanon to Nigeria and Egypt to Paris, the world stood still as atrocity after atrocity was committed by ISIS, the terror group born out of the rubble of the Iraq invasion in 2004, and which formidably reformed in the destroyed parts of Syria some seven years later.

In the heart of the Lebanese capital an explosion ripped through a neighborhood leaving 40 innocent civilians dead and scores wounded. The coverage was subdued to say the least. Where it was reported, those killed were almost held responsible for living in a neighborhood inhabited by Hezbollah members.

Prior to the attack on Beirut, a Russian plane packed with holiday-makers returning from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was brought down killing all 229 passengers and crew on board.

In both these cases ISIS claimed responsibility for the crimes.

On the 13th November 2015, a series of shootings took place in the French capital Paris.  The terrorist attack was once again linked to the infamous group responsible for the Lebanese and Russian loss of life, yet the international reaction to the onslaught in France could not be starker.

News outlets devoted hours and endless special editions to discuss what had happened in the French capital. In the immediate aftermath survivors were invited to detail their ordeal.

As names of the victims emerged, their pictures and stories were narrated to international audiences invited to share the grief of the French nation.

Even social media offered users the option to change profile pictures to the French flag.  Landmark buildings from across the globe draped themselves with the tricolor and even public transport vehicles were emblazoned with France's national colors.

The difference in coverage could not be more apparent. There was a sense of pathos associated with the French victims that was not afforded to the Russian ones. In some cases commentators almost suggested the Russians were deserving of their fate in light of Russia's supposed links to the fallen Malaysian plane brought down at the Russia-Ukraine border in 2014.

Whether in Lebanon or Egypt all the victims were senselessly killed by the same organization that did not hesitate to punish innocent civilians for the actions of their governments.


So why the difference in reaction?

Some have argued that the reaction to the French atrocity was because of the country's proximity to fellow Europeans. That may well be applicable when you consider European coverage but the US is as distant from France as it is from Russia.

As for Dubai, which famously draped its Burj Al Arab hotel in the French flag, surely its people should have felt more culturally and geographically close to fellow Arab victims in Lebanon.

The reality of course is that Western lives are simply seen as more valuable. The problem is that this supremacist approach to death even, is also shared by none Westerners who value foreign lives over their own.

African reaction to the Paris attacks both in January after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the 13th November shootings was more forcible than over the now regular mass killings conducted at the hands of ISIS affiliate Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Africans themselves have taken to express greater grief and astonishment at the death of Western victims over their own, as if somehow African loss of life is a given.

This in turn creates a sense of double standards that fuel animosity among people.

Turkish sporting fans were heavily criticized for booing the French national anthem sung in honor of the victims during a football match in Turkey last week.

The reactions picked up through social media were scathing and many argued that it simply implied that Turks, an essentially Muslim people, clearly shared some of ISIS' ideology.

What most if not all failed to remember is that Turkey was itself the victim of a brutal terrorist attack that left 80 people dead last month. No one was invited to change their profile picture to pay homage to those victims and no anthem or minute of silence was held in honor of the dead in any stadium across the world. That in itself was enough to grate Turkish people enough to choose to boo an anthem that represented the insensitive double standard that has become so glaring over the years.

There is of course a deeply held belief that Western victims are more worthy but politics is the main motivator behind these events.

Like the Iranian caviar that would no longer curry favor with wealthy customers due to a change of governing system in Iran no longer seen as 'Western-friendly', so too is the way in which the world is invited to react to major world events linked to the country's relation to the West.

Russia has suffered several large scale terror attacks often at the most crucial of times for the country's standing on the world stage, yet its victims never receive the same sympathetic ear that those of the Boston Marathon or even Americans killed by their peers in the now regularly occurring 'high school shootings'.

Anti-Putinism, which has become prevalent in Western media, appears to justify the non-sympathetic way in which Russian victims are treated.

But the ever increasing Russophobia - particularly virulent in France- is not the only motivation behind this type of one-sided empathy for Western European sufferers of terrorism.

In July 2011, Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik placed a bomb in the country's capital city Oslo before travelling to the island of Utoya and gunning down 77 students.

The world was in shock for the best part of 24 hours before moving on to other news. Facebook did not suggest its users fly the Norwegian flag. No world famous landmark was draped in red and indigo blue. And leaders from across the world did not travel to Oslo to participate in a march against terrorism and the same fascism that had ripped Europe a mere 70 years ago.

It appears that in some cases the criminal as much as the victim is treated differently in the mainstream media with viewers, readers and listeners nudged towards a very specifically tailored grief.

A grief which is then geared towards very specific political agendas.

When Russia, in partnership with the Syrian government, started operations designed to destroy or at the very least weaken ISIS, Western reactions were scathing.

The mainstream media accused the Russian air force of targeting Syrian civilians or those 'moderate' parties fighting Assad's army.

Despite insisting that ISIS was a dangerous organization that needed to be defeated at all cost, Western capitals supported by a complicit media immediately turned against Russia.

Since the attacks on Paris, France however was prompt to react and immediately sent its planes to target ISIS strongholds.

Never mind that this was done hastily and with no cooperation with the official government of Syria, or that civilians were not spared in the French operations, international media, judging both France and its victims as more 'worthy' have since given the green light to operations which are yet to yield any positive results, either in Syria or in Europe.

Hafsa Kara-Mustapha, for RT

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.