It’s been a week, believe it or not, since the Paris attack. 129 died then, and thankfully the number holds as the city is recovering from the terror and possible PTSDs. I originally wrote something about the attack on the day that it happened. But I cannot, for the life of me, write anything that I thought matter for me to share with you all. It just stroked me how much life has gone in vain that day.
It is such a big journalistic moment for any kind of news organisation, that I sort of distract myself from making any judgement and tried to just concentrate on the news as the story develops.
I won’t dwell much about the event itself because there is nothing to say there really. It was a horrible thing; I can’t even start to imagine the sorts of thoughts that went into the attackers’ mind. It was just unthinkable for anyone to ever proclaimed themselves as human to ever even think about doing that.
Instead, I want to dwell more about how we react to the event itself. As I always have.
The first thing I did apart from tunning on to the news at that time was to check my Facebook page and see how much of a damage the event has done towards my timeline.
I didn’t mean that in a bad way, but nowadays, the way the society around you reacts to this sort of tragedy, for me, defines the very nature of your own self-identity. And sure enough, the attention has shifted from the death of human beings into the use of France’s flag on one’s profile picture.
I myself change mine. I couldn’t care less honestly. It’s just a way to show that I care. It’s like putting on a poppy. It does nothing really. It is just a show of respect. Do it, not do it, it’s entirely anyone’s decision.
But of course, we have to make a big deal out of it and compared this event with such death in Syria and other crisis. Saying that we take one more seriously than the other.
But I moved on from that thought relatively quickly, because first, it is honestly just a rubbish thought. But more importantly, I was intrigued by the way our society sort of sees itself as putting emphasize on one’s death more than the other.
Because like it or not, if this attacks had happened somewhere else, which actually happened in Beirut the day before, people won’t care as much.
As that debate went off on one side of the Internet, I started to wonder whether news organisation has put us as a society in some kind of polarised judgement, with double standards. Making us care more about one thing rather than the other.
As someone who meddles with international news every day as a job, and is responsible for choosing international news for a news program, I find myself in a really curious state.
I myself have always put forward these sorts of reporting. Be it in an Afghan city, African city, or anywhere in the world, if there are bomb attacks and dozens of people died, I will always try to squeeze them in into my rundown.
Sadly at the same time, I will find myself being reminded by my superior that I should choose sexier news. That after a prime time discussion people just wants to end the program with happy thoughts. That the news of the death is just going to send the viewers away. That news about the TPP deal has nothing to do with our audiences no matter how important it is because it bores them.
This really brought me into a dilemma, when my ideology meets the reality of my job.
Have we, as a society, been so vanilla, that we can only care about something that we know? Even if the death of a person at one place is still going to be called the death of a person at the other place?
Are we as a society responsible for the ongoing conflict in Syria or Israel because we frankly didn’t care enough? Because we pay more attention to something else? Because we are too sick and tired of dead people on the news?
Well evidently not really, because when Paris happened, we care a lot. And don’t be all angely and start saying to me that you also care about the Japanese earthquake or the Beirut bombing. Because frankly, if Paris wasn’t attacked, you wouldn’t even open the news section of the news. You’ll just jump right in into the sports section, or the entertainment section. Or even worse, you just sort of rely on that friend of yours that loves reading, and wait for him to share his favourite article of the day to appear on your timeline.
I asked my sister just before I write this piece earlier, whether she knows about what happened in Mali.
And she it’s not like she is the average person that lives an average live with an average education. She has a master degree from the best university in Australia. She didn’t even know where Mali is.
Yet when I asked her about what happened to Charlie Sheen. She immediately said AIDS. Well, technically it’s HIV, but at least she knows.
This is exactly the point that I am making. That us as a society pretend like we care about every single thing that happened to humanity. Yet, we need the death of Aylan Kurdi to care enough about the refugee crisis and we need the death of 129 people to realise the imminent threat of ISIS.
Yet, here I am, reporting the death of dozens of people every single day in the middle east, and in the Mediterranean sea (which happened because of the same reason by the way) and nobody bats an eye.
I’m sorry, but I have to give you a problem without a solution here. But I cannot for the love of me see what makes this the way it is. I refuse to blame either the news agency or the society. It just doesn’t work somehow along the way.
I could only begin to imagine what would happen to the Israel, or Syrian conflict if we care about it as much as we care about Paris. But, I guess that’s still way ahead of us.
Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened. – Walter Cronkite