I offer my deepest condolences to the families affected by the bombings that happened in Brussels, Iraq and Pakistan over the past week. Even till now, I struggle to comprehend how humans have it within themselves to do such evil, for the three callous and cowardly acts of terror were truly, truly unforgivable.
Following an all-too-familiar chain of events now, social media have been awash with postings criticising the lack of media coverage of the Lahore and Iskandariya episodes among other similar incidents that seemingly flew under the radar during the last few days.
Yes, compared to the devastation in Brussels and Paris, there’s undeniably less coverage, but there’s also considerably less of an audience.
For one, you have to understand that the people in those Western news publications are predominantly white. It is perfectly understandable that their inability to effectively understand, let alone convey, the situation due to logistical, financial, cultural, and language barriers will result in a relatively limited output. Besides, it’s harder to evoke both interest and empathy with such a mass, mainstream audience in mind. Almost everyone wants to visit Paris.
How many people have Pakistan on top of their bucket list?
We can talk more about the concept of supply-and-demand, but I’d rather show you the cold, hard, stats with pictorial proof.
In the aftermath of the incident, people seem to be more interested in Instagram changing their algorithms! You know, Instagram, the app where you are chiding the media for not getting their shit together?
The only piece of Lahore-related news that charted on BBC’s most-read list came in at Number 10. Likewise, The Guardian’s stories and reports didn’t even make their own Top Five list. Apparently, the Queen, a sex tape, and out of all things, a logic puzzle about married and unmarried people staring at each other, somehow conspired to be more trending than a suicide bomber targeting innocent children.
Meanwhile in India, people seem to be more interested in finding out the 10 mistakes men make in bed than reading up about what happened in Lahore.
Over in Sydney, people are more concerned with checking their horoscopes and being sad for Ben Affleck, an A-List Hollywood star worth $75m. Heck, the story of the bombing didn’t even made the Top 10 list!
Articles covering the unfortunate incident didn’t even appear in both The New York Times and The Washington Post’s trending and most-read list respectively. To further put things in perspective, a bird landing on Bernie Sanders’ podium, huge schools of fish dying in Florida, Amy Schumer leaving a $1k tip for a bartender and at least 37 other videos have garnered more attention than the Lahore blast on CNN Video News.
Note that all the websites quoted above more or less belong to the Top 10 most-read newspapers in the world and are practically international publications in this digital age. The snapshots were taken about 48 hours after the incident. Why only after 48 hours? Because you’ll be surprised to find out that coverage of Lahore (or Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait and Libya for that matter) – opinion columns, analytical editorials, tribute pieces, photo journals, and reports swamped with death tolls and casualty rates – none of them even made the most-viewed lists 24 hours prior, despite them leading and being featured prominently on the homepages.
And this isn’t just a one-off incident. Be it the Corinthia Hotel attack (Libya), Sana’a mosque bombings (Yemen), the Khan Bani Saad car bombing (Iraq), or the Sayyidah Zaynab bombings (Syria), none of them manage to gain comparable traction on the various news sites despite ample coverage and commentaries of those events. Granted, there was a rare exception during the Sousse mass shootings in 2015, but that was only because ISIS specifically targeted Western tourists.
In contrasting fashion, five of BBC’s top 10 most-read stories on the day the Paris attacks took place were about the theatre shooting. Similarly, on the day of the Brussels attack, five of The Guardian’s top 10 most-read stories were about the airport blast. Also, on the day of the Sydney cafe hostage crisis, the most viewed article on Times of India was a post highlighting the latest developments of the situation.
I’m sure the tragedies would have been covered more extensively in the region where they actually happened. It’s human nature to be more emotionally attached to our country, our immediate neighbors, and those whom we share a cultural bond with. If you are a Singaporean for example, would you feel more for a four-year-old Taiwanese girl who was decapitated, or a little kid dying of thirst in a rural African village? It’s already hard to be significantly impacted given our geographical disconnection, but we are constantly bombarded with images portraying Africans as poor, starving, and stocked with diseases that we have become overwhelmingly desensitised to it. Likewise, Middle Eastern countries have always been painted as chaotic shitholes filled with bigots, murderers, and rapists. Hence, when bombings and other atrocities happen in those areas, most people ignore them. It’s not that we don’t care.
It’s the fact that we have been cultivated to perceive such stuff as normal.
If the media have been duly covering the events and treated the stories with utmost importance, how can one possibly argue that they have forgotten about the victims and their family? What I’m about to say next is regrettable, but in a society that’s obsessed with celebrity gossips, sex scandals, musical impressions, Buzzfeed listicles, and 30-second cooking videos, Lahore simply isn’t interesting enough.
I think the root cause of the whole brouhaha is how we’re using our Facebook and Twitter feeds to judge if the media are “doing their job”. Nowadays, they serve as indicators to what’s currently trending in the world, and when there’s an absence of news stories showing Middle Eastern countries being attacked by terrorists, people automatically assume that there isn’t “enough coverage”. You never hear of grumpy old folks reading actual, physical newspapers complaining about the lack of coverage; it’s always the self-righteous, social media-obsessed millennials doing all the whining and thinking they’re morally superior. Dollars to donuts that most of these social justice warriors didn’t even hear about those incidents they feel so strongly about if not for the outrage of others. Instead of lambasting ISIS for the unforgivable acts of terrors and offering our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, we turn the whole incident into a media-blaming circus.
Just because a news story doesn’t take over your heavily filtered social media timeline, it doesn’t mean the journalists aren’t doing their jobs.
The media has never shifted their priorities.
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i think i’ve said something like this before on your blog, but it’s so refreshing to read your unpopular opinions – i love it when people don’t flow with the crowd, especially when you agree with them ;D issues criticising the media of racism, such as the oscars boycott this year and of course this lack of media coverage about the bombings, particularly interest me, as i don’t really think racism is behind any of this. the media doesn’t dictate what people think, the people dictate what the media does, and i guess, as you’ve so rightly explained in this post, sadly this time people just don’t care.
So nice to hear from you again :) Maybe you could start writing similar posts in the future as well; would love to hear more of your thoughts on issues facing the world/your country even! Have a nice weekend ahead!
i’ve definitely been planning on it, i think it’s time i start writing longer stuff about more serious topics :P have a nice weekend too!