Paris support lauded, but should be evenly distributed

Police officers patrol at Place du Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower on Nov. 14, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 120 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. (Marius Becker/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Minju Park

On Friday, Paris was struck by terrorist shootings and bombings at six locations in and just outside the capital, which resulted in death counts of at least 128 people.


The huge influx of support for victims in the aftermath of the shootings invigorated the public’s morale, while the extensive coverage of the news provided knowledge and expanded the audience’s global consciousness.

Immediately following the outbreak of shootings, news stations such as ABC and NBC worked to bring vital awareness and attention to the important situation in Paris. The stations jumped to breaking news reports and pushed aside their regularly scheduled programs at 10 p.m. to allow for live updates and coverage on the situation at Paris.

Social media platforms also showed outward support for the Parisian victims—Google added a black ribbon of grief beneath their search bar, Youtube added the French flag in their logo, Snapchat had a live “Pray for Paris” feed and Facebook utilized their “Safety Check” tool and profile picture options to support victims of the attack.

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    Even countries around the world displayed their abundant support with major metropolitan cities lighting up their landmark structures with France’s national colors—as seen in Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, One World Trade Center in New York City, London Eye in London, Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai and the Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur.

    This overwhelming amount of support and condolences from individuals all around the world is strengthening and uplifting—the world feeling the pain of tragedy together.

    But other tragedies, such as those in non-Western countries, were put on the back burner.

    This disproportionate empathy will fuel the already-existing misunderstanding and discord between Western and Eastern cultures.

    The amount of publicization towards the Paris situation is disproportionate to the other tragedies that occurred around the same time.

    For example, on the same day in Baghdad, a suicide bomber attacked a funeral in a mosque that killed at least 21 people. In southern Beirut, suicide bombers struck the streets, killing about 43 people.

    And in Afghanistan, on Monday, three women and a child were discovered beheaded by suspected ISIS-affiliated militants.

    However, these victims are not discussed or acknowledged in nearly the same magnitude of the Parisian attacks.

    Although crises in Beirut and Paris didn’t result in equal numbers of deaths, the situation in Beirut closely parallels the situation in Paris, in that it marked a monumentally drastic shift of the security in the capital city of each respective country.

    Both were suspected plots of ISIS that affected innocent civilians in public areas. Both responded similarly with a shutdown of the city and following days of mourning.

    The situation in Beirut was not followed with the same amount of coverage — while Paris had minute-by-minute updates and a huge social media response, Beirut remained considerably unnoticed with only a handful of articles and little social media attention.

    But more importantly, Beirut’s situation was also not followed with the same quality of coverage. News articles about Paris featured poignant quotes and heart-wrenching victim statements that invoked sympathy from readers. These articles provided helpful timelines, maps, pictures and videos to allow readers to cultivate a further understanding and connection to the story.

    For articles about Beirut, victim statements are largely missing and so is the mention of terrorism. For Beirut, sympathetic feelings are dismissed in favor of a focus on the military and geographical details.

    Faysal Itani, a writer for the Huffington Post, states that the bombing in Beirut was to be anticipated— “It was a matter of time before residents of Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah-controlled suburb of Beirut Lebanon, were bombed again.”

    This near-dehumanization of the people and disproportionate discrepancy in the amount of empathy between the situations highlights our strong western bias in news coverage.

    This does not mean that our empathy and compassion for the Parisian attacks must be lessened in any degree, but that our understanding and attentiveness for issues beyond the Western realm should be heightened to the same extent that we have for the violence in Paris.

    This western bias could be due to a psychological phenomenon called in-group favoritism, a tendency to favor those who are part of the same group over those who are not part of the group.

    However, such selective empathy can result in many negative consequences — such as a continual distancing and isolation between western and eastern cultures that have a long history of conflict.

    The terrorist group ISIS, responsible for the terrorist attacks on Paris, was created because of such conflicting views between western and eastern cultures.

    The creation of al-Qaeda, and later ISIS, was partly due to the American militant forces that wanted to topple the government that they were combatting in the Middle East. irony is that a group created out of the discrepancies between the East and West causes tragic events that only further emphasize this contrast.

    This will only continue the cycle of hatred and anger between the cultures.

    In order to put an end to this pattern, we must keep in mind for ourselves that there is a world outside of our bubble of western influence. It’s easy to tune out the other issues in Baghdad, Beirut, Afghanistan and countless other places, but we must have empathy for the world rather than caring primarily about those that are most similar to us.

    In order to bypass the rigid cultural differences between the western and eastern world, one of the first steps is to create an equal playing field for both sides. This is especially true in journalism, consdiering that it plays a crucial role in establishing what is important to the general public.

    If news outlets provide more balanced coverage of events in all regions of the world, viewers can create a more extensive worldview that will bridge the gap to a more united, empathetic world.

    Minju is a freshman in LAS.?

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