A Note on the Paris Attacks
Why didnt the Western media cover Beirut as much as Paris, a writer for Al Jazeera asks. Why didnt Al Jazeera cover the Tamil genocide as much as Palestine, can we ask? We dont because we maintain this minimal decency that we should not compare deaths, massacres of civilians, that each tragedy is unique in itself and should not be compared. Yes, the dominant Western media covers Western issues more, just as a dominant Arab media covers Arab issues more just as a dominant Indian media covers Indian issues more. Why is that surprising? (To be honest, among the three, there is more diversity in the Western media.)
We have friends, family, comrades, lovers, who died in Paris. If we in the Europe mourn them, it does not mean we do not care about Lebanon. It is only because the Paris attacks were closer to the places we frequent, closer to the places our loved ones frequent; and humans as a species relate more to tragedies closer to home. This is what makes us human. To mock this requires a level of coldness which the ISIS share.
I can sympathize with the outrage that the Lebanese may feel at the media coverage in the West. Tamils who were active during 2009 can relate to this, how the Indian media, especially the lib-left ones, blacked out or twisted stories about Sri Lanka. But if we started asking the left “what about us” with respect to the Tamil case, there will be no end, and nothing fruitful in the end. We can challenge this media coverage with more dignity and without trying to exploit the other person’s guilt.
Yes, there are people who changed their profile pics to the French flag without any politics whatsoever, just as a stunt. But if these are fakes, I can say with confidence that the entire Indian “pro-palestinian” group is one big fake and the worst stunt pullers that I have met. These fakes do not represent the tragedy that either the Parisians face now or the Palestinians have faced for long.
Yes, Obama who is worrying about Paris but not Beirut is a hypocrite. So is Fidel Castro who accuses the US of creating ISIS but gave all diplomatic and political support to a state that resembles both in deed and ideology the Islamic State, the Sinhala-Buddhist regime of Sri Lanka. In fact, Sri Lanka is the perfect example of what the world will be if ISIS wins. And what coverage and solidarity did the Tamils get from the mainstream left? Imperialists will behave like imperialists will behave. They are brutal, hypocritical, cynical and manipulative. The sad part however is that the mainstream left is no different.
At some level, this also exposes the hypocrisy of certain ‘postcolonial’ activists – first you claim that you dont need attention from the West, next you scream if the West doesnt give you more attention. Just what and where is your politics exactly? To be honest, this “whataboutery” insults the victims more than the Western media people who you claim were ignorant to their plight.
Let us not undermine one person’s suffering in the name of highlighting another. Its like going to a house where a family has lost a loved one and making a statement that “Hey, this is sad, but you know in a road accident in New York in 1945, a whole family was wiped out.” There is nothing even mildly political about this.
Let us use this really grave moment to convey solidarity with the people who are standing up to racism and fundamentalism, be it in Paris, Lebanon, Tamil Eelam, Kurdistan, Baltimore, or Nigeria. But let us not do this “what about” games, especially with people who are our potential comrades, especially at such a time of crisis. The blood shed in Paris is the blood shed in Beirut is the blood shed in Jaffna is the blood shed in Diyarbakir. Praying for and showing solidarity with whatever is closest to you does not make you a racist. But trivializing the suffering of another makes you an absolute disgrace to humanity.