A street lined with bustling markets in Beirut, Lebanon was rocked by two suicide bombers on Thursday, Nov. 12, killing 42 civilians. The following evening, Paris streets were sieged by three teams of ISIL attackers that left 129 people dead and 352 others wounded.
Regarding the socially scarring human loss, both tragedies were equally horrific but many questioned the difference in coverage.
Paris’ tragedy dominated the front page of The New York Times for three days, and from what I’ve read, for appropriate newsworthy reasons. Firstly, the City of Light was dimmed by an act of terrorism that was strategic and complicated in form. Also, this attack proved that ISIL could strike far outside its stronghold in the Middle East.
Furthermore, since September 11, 2001, the U.S. has struggled with spying on its citizens, waging covert anti-terrorism crusades or simply bolstering national security – so all eyes were on another free society struck by “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”
David Uberti, of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote the lopsided coverage last weekend should not be oversimplified, and Western frontpage treatment is ultimately weighted by “surprise, impact and resonance” regarding acts of terrorism.
Frankly, Uberti is quite correct even though I begrudgingly agree with his points.
But, this disproportional attention raises innumerable questions.
Are we still blinded by the cultural ignorances we created with Orientalism? As journalists, how can we make the Middle East more relatable to American or Westernized societies? Can we realistically justify this type of asymmetrical news importance? And dare I ask, are we part of problem or can we, as an industry, become the change we wish to see?
After three days, Beirut was revisited and The Times’ headline read the city felt “forgotten.”
The professional journalists responsible for documenting unbiased history in real time apparently failed Beirut, maybe humanity at large, and further corroborated what’s past is prologue.