I’ve been commenting all over my personal Facebook page this past week or so about the double standard the media takes in it’s approach to reporting the news. Like it’s something new, right?
It all started when somebody, presumably a white supremacist, ie. local-bred American terrorist, exploded a bomb outside an NAACP office in Colorado Springs, Colorado last week Tuesday, January 6th. Nobody got hurt. The story appeared briefly on my Twitter feed that night and that was about it. The following morning, Wednesday January 7th, Twitter and seemingly the whole world, was ablaze with the news out of Paris, France that jihadist terrorists had stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and had killed twelve people including three of their finest cartoonists. It was shocking news. As much as I found their cartoons to be too garish and to be of poor taste, they were not deserving of gruesome murder. In the media frenzy that followed, many in the US pointed out that the US media had largely ignored it’s own, albeit death-less, terrorist attack from the day before.
As the world watched the unfolding manhunt in Paris it stood in solidarity with the catchphrase JeSuisCharlie. I will admit that I dislike the catchphrase like I do most. Charlie Hebdo publishes tasteless and offensive cartoons that will never let me pretend that I stand for their content that insult others in the guise of “free speech”. There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech. Did Charlie Hebdo itself not fire one of it’s own, Maurice Sinet, in 2009 for anti-Semitism? So it stands to reason that there’s an art of being satirical without being downright offensive. I rest my case. So, for me, this righteous catchphrase “JeSuisCharlie” does nothing to address the root of the hatred that led to the massacre but rather just makes the division between “us” and “them” that more stark.
But anyway, that’s not even my beef with the world this past week. On Friday, January 9th, while enjoying my lunch in the physician’s lounge I watched in alarm as the news continued to flow out of Paris…the standoff at the kosher deli, where four more were to die, and the separate stand-off at the printing works both of which resulted in the deaths of those responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Aside from a commentator on Fox News expressing disgust that neither President Obama nor Secretary Kerry had bothered to show up in Paris to show solidarity, instead only having the US Ambassador in France represent the US, all was going to be well.
That is, until I got home and my Twitter feed announced to me that Boko Haram had killed about 2000 people in Baga, northeastern Nigeria that same day. Razed a town off the face of the world in fact. I couldn’t believe it. Two thousand people and nobody really talking about it? Must be a mistake. I mean all those fashionable #bringbackourgirls people would care and say something if it were true, right? Maybe it’s a dredged up old-news story I thought as I called it an early night to prepare myself for a weekend on call. But, no it was true and yes it did just happen as Twitter continued to inform me the following morning. When Boko Haram
strapped a bomb on a 10 year old girl-child for a suicide bombing mission that killed an additional twenty or so people in the hours after the massacre, while the pundits on TV continued to re-hash the events in Paris, I had had enough. I brooded while driving between three hospitals not willing to entertain any woe-is-me sob stories from my entitled patients.
When the weekend was finally over I begun to sift through the stories with my disgust rising. On Facebook I posted “It’s been difficult to
understand what’s going on in the world this past week. Harder yet, is
the media (the world’s?) selection of which horror to express outrage at
and which to shrug our shoulders to.”
What makes one massacre more newsworthy and more worthy of our outrage than another? Paris versus Baga. France versus Nigeria. Europe versus Africa. Twenty-something people murdered versus about two thousand people murdered. Islamic jihadists versus … Islamist militants. What?
The irony being that that same week the American Dialect Society overwhelmedly voted for another fashionble catchphase #blacklivesmatter as the word of the year.
But does it? Do black lives matter in this world? Am I actually asking that? In the 21st century of After Christ human civilization does #blacklivesmatter? If we go by what the media tells us is newsworthy then no, black lives are less important, less valuable than western lives…unless in the form of entertainment. And I guess I could live with that, I suppose, as I have been told my whole life, reminded in fact in more ways than one, that I am but just a black girl, were it not for the fact that we black people do not care either about black lives.
When I heard that President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria had been mute on the Baga massacre while offering condolences to France over the Paris massacre that was it. Not possible to comprehend. Inconceivable! Seriously?! If the leadership of Nigeria itself is not outraged about the senseless deaths of thousands of its citizens, if the leaders, celebrities, intellectuals and pundits of the neighbouring ECOWAS countries are not outraged, and if even the African Union cannot say anything, then surely we as black people are doomed. Can I sit here then and fault western media for ignoring our pain and suffering when we ourselves don’t care?
I hear now that President Jonathan was finally able to make a surprise visit to the insurgency-plagued region of his country; his first since he declared a state of emergency there in May 2013! Did people not criticise President Bush when he took, what, 5 days to arrive in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? In this Nigerian presidential election year, where is the criticism? It makes me wonder if the Nigerian government has already seceded that part of their country to the Boko Haram militants so they can have their Islamic state. I guess Borno is not Biafra. No oil, who cares.
“Ebeye yie” as the Ghanaian would say. “We leave it up to the hands of God.”