Recently there was some pretty tragic terrorist attacks in Paris which I am sure heard about and probably saw being shared around on Facebook.
Approximately 140 people were tragically killed, with hundreds more injured to varying degree. Even days after the event you would be hard-pressed to find a media outlet (online, print and TV) not talking about what happened in Paris.
In a show of solidarity the Sydney Opera House lit up in the colours of the French flag and Facebook made it so you could overlay the French flag on-top of your profile image (similar to what they did with the gay pride filter).
It didn’t take long for the negative crowd to start a ruckus. For you see a day before the events in Paris on November 12th there was an ISIL terror attack in which 40 people died. Another 200 or so were injured.
It’s okay if you didn’t hear about it because the news was being dominated by the Paris attacks. That didn’t stop some (especially on my Facebook) to start making remarks like, “Why isn’t anyone reporting on the Beirut bombings that happened the day before?”
In defence of the media (partially) they DID write about the attack in Beirut, the attack sadly just wasn’t shared around as much. Do you recall seeing anyone share news stories on the Beirut bombing before the Paris attacks took place? I don’t.
The brutality of the news cycle
The real issue with the 24 hour news cycle is unless the event is significant, the next day it is business as usual; newspapers have been sold and online advertising revenue has been generated.
The attacks in Paris got more media attention mostly because more people died which in turn makes more a more impactful story that outlets can sell. Does this make the attacks that took place in Beirut any less severe? Definitely not.
It is quite evident that major media outlets have a mathematical formula for determining the importance of a story which is something along the lines of the following:
Number of people dead + number of people injured + (was it ISIS or some other terrorist group) x (importance of location attacked)
Another sad fact in the way we consume news. The Paris bombings managed to stay in the spotlight and shadow everything else for a number of reasons, but the biggest one of them all was virality. A lot of us admittedly get our news from our friends in the form of shared news stories. I heard about the Paris attacks first on Facebook.
People were sharing news of the attacks everywhere on Facebook and Twitter. Due to how some news sites are structured, the popular content rises to the top becoming more visible and thus propelling itself upward and pushing everything else down.
France like most Western countries isn’t really subject to constant terror attacks. In countries like Lebanon, sadly bombings are not as uncommon. So when something happens in a place like Paris, it has a stronger emotional affect on us. You have either been to Paris as a tourist yourself or you know someone who has been there.
Then there is the other crowd who immediately started questioning why Facebook didn’t create a Lebanon flag filter to show solidarity for the lives lost in Beirut. If Facebook created a Lebanon flag filter, would you have honestly applied it to your profile picture? No. And you’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.
We have become so desensitised to bombings in the Middle East. We assume that everyday lives are lost and that’s just how it is over there. But when a bombing takes place in an iconic tourist spot like Paris, the thought process is: “My aunt Mavis went to Paris last year, oh my God.” or, “I proposed to my wife on top of the Eiffel Tower, I can’t believe this has happened”
Unless a bombing happens in a country where either a) Bombings are not a regular thing b) It is a tourist hot spot c) Western lives are lost or d) Culturally appealing — we just do not care.
Just because you didn’t see news of something being shared on your Facebook feed does not mean the media did not report it, it means that you and your friends just didn’t care enough to share the news for it to hang around enough to be deemed a big news story.
You’re living in a news bubble: most of us are. Until we realise that an attack by Islamic State regardless of the country it happens in, is an attack on us all, attacks in less Facebook worthy locations like Beirut will continue to be cast into the shadows.