On November 13, 2015, Paris, the City of Light, experienced its darkest and deadliest moment in decades. Eight terrorists linked to ISIS carried out six attacks throughout the city, killing more than 120 people and injuring hundreds. To many, the events in Paris were dark enough to blind the public to two other tragedies that occurred across the globe around the same time. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was the target for two ISIS-related suicide bombings that left 43 dead and more than 200 wounded. Another suicide bomber killed 17 people at a Shiite militia fighter’s funeral in Baghdad, Iraq. In the same city, a roadside bomb killed at least nine. The attacks in Iraq are said to be ISIS-related as well.
What do you need to know about these disasters? Well, you should know that ISIS is not backing down. While many leaders of the terrorist group have been killed, its power continues to strengthen; ISIS members have no fear of death, which makes destroying them challenging. In a recent ABC News tweet, President Obama said, “We’ve seen some success in the fight against ISIS. The question now is how to accelerate it.”
Current tactics include airstrikes (so far there have been more than 5,000) and raids, but they can only destroy ISIS in the here-and-now. Obama made a remark to CNN that success depends on “Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, rejecting warped interpretations of Islam and protecting their sons and daughters from recruitment.” For now, there is little you and I can do but grieve, pray and stand in solidarity with the Lebanese and Iraqis—not just the Parisians.
Those affected by the acts of terrorism in Beirut and Baghdad were left feeling overlooked as the media focused on Paris heavily and left little coverage for them. The hashtags #PrayForParis and #JeSuisParis began trending on Twitter immediately after news companies got their hands on the story. Facebook profile pictures turned red, white and blue to affirm that users stood in solidarity with the country. Sites like YouTube, Amazon and Tumblr changed their logos to show their support. It took until the next day for #PrayForTheWorld to start trending, after the disasters in the other countries were finally recognized.
There were no Lebanese flag overlays for profile pictures and no changed logos for Iraq. Many agree with a recent statement in a Newsweek article, “Tragedy is tragedy, terrorism is terrorism. No one event is worse or more worthy of being mourned and remembered than another.” But, why does it seem like we care much more about Paris than Beirut or Baghdad? Is some life more valuable than others? An editorial on FirstPost.com says that, “France has sadly experienced what the Syrians and Iraqis have been experiencing for the last two years with the rise of the Islamic State.”
There are myriad opinions about the media’s selective attention. Some believe that it has to do with whiteness; the media’s lack of coverage on non-whites leads some to believe that white lives matter most in our society. Others say that terrorist attacks are common in Middle Eastern nations, and when a terrorist attack happens in the Western world it’s a shock, the kind of shock every journalist wants to report on. Handling tragedies as a journalist requires discernment and sensitivity. Some argue that journalists are obligated to report news of conflict and disaster, because people are instinctively drawn to dramatic events. In the case of Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad, all of their stories should have been told equally. The Middle Eastern nations should have been just as important to reporters as Paris.
No matter where you stand on the issue, I urge you to stop telling your followers that you’re praying by quickly posting a dull #PrayForPeace, and actually pray for peace. Don’t stand in solidarity with a flag overlay, but rather do it quietly, and do it for every country that’s been a victim of terror attacks. We stand as one humanity against ISIS.