We should mourn the loss of precious human life no matter where in the world tragedy occurs, reports RITAM MITRA
The week beginning Monday, April 15, saw bomb blasts across the world in 4 different cities, each claiming several casualties; but there was a stark difference in the way they were reported. Bombings in Damascus, Syria on April 15 killed 20 people; bombings across Baghdad on the same day killed over 30 people and wounded well over 100. A bombing outside the BJP office in Malleshwaram, Bangalore on April 17 saw at least 16 people, including 8 policemen, injured and bombings at a caf? in Baghdad also claimed 27 lives on April 18. But news headlines around the world focused almost exclusively on the twin bombs that went off in Boston on April 16, killing 3 people and injuring several others during the closing stages of the Boston marathon. You could be forgiven for not knowing about the other hundreds of people that lost their lives on those days ? and that is in itself, a chilling thought.
The Boston bombings were certainly outrageously brazen and cold-blooded. Three died, including a young boy aged only 8. Several dozens were injured, many having limbs blown off by the two bombs that exploded as hundreds of marathoners approached the finish line of the prestigious Boston marathon. But as the world?s media reported in real time on the senseless attack, it was cruelly ironic that the blasts in Iraq – which is in a state of limbo ahead of its first elections without US presence since the fall of Saddam Hussein – were considered underreported or considered not to be newsworthy.
The somewhat blas? attitude of the world towards death, destruction and tragedy in developing countries is no new phenomenon. Indeed, there has always been a chronic underreporting of those events, perhaps most notably when they affect countries in the Greater Middle East ? think back to the 75,000 killed in an earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, or the 70,000 that have been killed in the Syrian uprising since 2011. The sad truth is that we are desensitised to atrocities in these regions by the sheer volume of horror to which we assume its civilians are regularly exposed. But even if it were conceivable that mass murder is a regular and accepted occurrence in any part of the world (which is an extremely narrow and arrogant message to preach), it is counter-intuitive and inhuman to offer that as an excuse for ignoring it.
The media?s over-reporting of the Boston attacks in comparison with the other bombings is not necessarily by design. On one level, it is symptomatic of the age of social media ? this age of instant hype, real-time updates, and an uncontrollable flow of information online that is hard to verify. We have access to a lot more information in a much shorter timeframe, and news sources consequently become oversaturated. On another level, America?s history of terrorist attacks, as well as its massive media presence means every incident in the US becomes a significant one by default. From a more fundamental and overreaching viewpoint though, this type of reporting effectively places a higher value on lives in developed civilisations, than on others.
The counter-argument is that given the close ties between America and Australia and our similar political and socio-economic landscapes, the attack in Boston was more relevant to Australia and so naturally more widely reported. In a similar fashion, the attack in Boston may well have been underreported in countries such as Iraq and Syria, even if they didn?t have blasts in their own country to report.
But that argument misses the point completely.
In a country of free speech, Australia?s essentially apolitical media is a microcosm of our society. It is, to a large extent, a reflection of our own attitudes and morals. The Boston attacks were covered extensively because that is what we, the public, wanted to know more about ? and it?s likely that the public psyche is similar in other countries like ours.
It is doubtful that hearing about a bomb blasts in Iraq or Syria would invoke the same reaction in an individual in our society as the attack in Boston ? in fact, it is likely that most of the developed world was more moved by Boston bombings than the others. Perhaps because it hit closer to home and opened up our eyes to the possibility of attacks in our own countries. But the extensive media coverage of the Boston attacks simply mirrors how awry our society?s collective moral compasses have strayed.
Obviously, the bombings in Bangalore carry with them a different weight for Indians ? as do the bombings in Syria that affect Syrian nationals. This is a natural situation where family, friends, and the concept of ?home? is concerned.
But at the most basic human level – free of any nationalist or religious thought – how many of us can truly say we were at least equally disturbed by, or gave an equal amount of thought to, the bombs that slayed dozens of Iraqis during the week compared with the bombs which wreaked havoc at the Boston marathon? It?s not a case of ?the more deaths, the more horrific? – the effect of the loss of innocent life should just simply never be qualified by virtue of nationality. Even if terrorist activity is definitely more prevalent in some parts of the world than others, asylum seekers prove that no amount of unrest is simply ?accepted? by those societies. People in those regions are still terrified, and they are by no means ?used? to it, as we sometimes so readily assume.
The world is a much smaller place than it used to be. We are quick to offer aid to countries around the world when they need it, and that?s definitely a step in the right direction. But a more significant achievement would be for us to immediately accept that all human life as precious, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion.
That shift in mindset is probably too much to hope for ? but it would be an ideal planet to live on if one life was not valued over another because of its geographical and political closeness with Western civilisation.