Unless you live under a rock or do not have a Facebook account, you have probably noticed that almost everyone on Facebook has changed his or her profile picture to include the French flag filter.
People have done this to show their support and sympathy to the French people after the horrific shootings and bombings that occurred this past Friday that resulted in 132 deaths.
By looking at the amount of media coverage the Paris attacks have gotten, an ordinary person could justifiably come to the conclusion that it is the only terror attack this year with a high death toll.
However, this could not be further from the truth. It is simply the only terrorist attack that has captured enough attention around the world. On March 20, suicide bombings in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a resulted in the death of 137 people. In Kenya on April 2, 147 people died after militants attacked Garissa University. At least 154 people were killed by Islamic State militants on June 25 in Syria, and since the start of June, approximately 2,000 people have been massacred in Nigeria by Boko Haram. These are only a few of the many terrorist attacks in 2015 that have resulted in high losses of life. And yet, all of these combined have gotten less than a fraction of the media coverage that the Paris attack has received.
The fact of the matter is that the media covers what is important to people and the hard truth is that the world cares more about the lives of Westerners than those in the Middle East and Africa. Some people receive almost all the media attention and others almost none, leaving grave implications for millions of people.
For instance, approximately 36 million people still lived in slavery as of November of last year. Most people, however, do not know this since most of the slaves reside in developing countries and receive very little media coverage.
In addition, lack of media coverage can allow for extremely bloody conflicts to go on with little foreign intervention. For example, New Internationalist Magazine reported in a 2012 article that the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the late 1990s resulted in the deaths of around five million people. The vast majority of deaths were from preventable diseases and starvation. Yet, since happenings in African countries are generally of low interest to the West, the conflict received little attention and therefore little was done to help.
Meanwhile, in 1999, the war in Kosovo resulted in the death of around 2,000 people. However, according to New Internationalist Magazine, the conflict received “more attention and aid money than all of Africa’s humanitarian emergencies combined.”
I want to stress that I do not see anything wrong with people showing their support with the French people after the atrocity that has befallen them. I applaud those who are willing to connect with others and unite against issues like terrorism. However, the problem with the media as it stands is that it only covers a small amount of the total violence going on in the world — giving some countries a lot of attention and almost completely ignoring others. Giving people the false sense that the world is much more peaceful than the reality is wrong, as is allowing atrocities in non-Western parts of the world to go mostly unnoticed.