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More terrorism in Paris?...than elsewhere?

We are all too captive to how the media reports on what is happening afar.    Take the latest outrage in Paris.    As this piece "People Click on Stories About Paris But Not Beirut? It’s More Than Geography and Apathy" on CommonDreams so clearly makes the point, coverage of the terrorism perpetrated in Paris has far outweighed what was reported about similar dastardly acts which occurred in Beirut, Baghdad, Turkey or in Africa.

"I’m seeing some push-back from journalists over criticism that Paris was covered more than Beirut. Places like Beirut are covered, journalists respond, but people just aren’t as interested in those stories (it’s about “proximity”). Yes, if we count clicks and views, I’m sure Paris gets more interest. But much of the push-back ignores the totality of international coverage — in other words, coverage when violence strikes and when it doesn’t strike — and a consideration of why people aren’t interested.

It’s logical that readers are more likely to be interested in parts of the world they know something about…something beyond the fact that a lot bombs go off there or that people are starving. When massive swathes of the globe are relegated to at best sporadic crisis coverage, and at worst invisibility, then news consumer disinterest is not that surprising. Let’s also consider how the world is shown in times of non-crisis: When not our own, whose films do we discuss? Whose sports? Whose art? Whose businesses and economies? Based on a media cartography, much of the world is shrouded in a hazy mist that is lifted only when there is a traumatic event.

Then there is how we treat the victims. How often, for example, have the pictures, names and occupations of Iraqi citizens killed in suicide bombings been posted to major international news websites (as they were for the victims in Paris)? When they are covered at all, that is. These are Iraqis, it should be noted, who have died in the aftermath of a catastrophic US/UK occupation (if you want to argue that people are interested in stories “proximate” or “relevant” to their home country). This type of personalized in-depth coverage — much more typical in coverage of terror attacks in Europe and the US — creates a closeness to the victims, and a sense of their being in and of this world. This, in turn, humanizes the places where they live: these become sites of living, working and the humdrum of daily life. It is the puncture of that universal everyday-ness by acts of brutality that rips at our core. The single shoe on the sidewalk. The story that a victim liked music or cooking. A student nearing graduation. What is the reason for not showing some of these these pictures, and discussing these personal details, when we do so for others?

I don’t know the people in Paris, just as I don’t know those in Baghdad or Beirut. But some become more than statistics, while some stay as numbers. It’s a choice, and it’s a choice that repeats itself. Thus, news consumers disinterest in this coverage might have something to do with the repetitive impersonal framing of these events in comparison to events “closer to home” where the events are put into personal context, making for more engaging stories and a longer-term sense of connection."


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