Paris Attacks Highlight Western Vulnerability, And Our Selective Grief And Outrage


new matilda, paris

(IMAGE: Moyan Brenn, Flickr).

This story was first published on newmatilda.com – it’s being reprinted (with updates) here to try and ease some of the load on the NM server.

As France enters yet another period of mourning, Lebanon is just emerging from one. Not that you probably heard anything about it. Chris Graham reports.

If you didn’t know better, you could be excused for believing that the planning behind the latest terrorist attack in Paris is about more than just causing widespread death and fear in the West.

It looks like it’s also designed to highlight our selective outrage.

Since Friday night, more than 100 people have been confirmed dead in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris.

News sites have fired up live blogs. Serious news channels such as Sky are providing blanket 24-hour coverage of the event, and, as with all things tragedy, media are competing with each other for scoops and gory videos.

World leaders are also out in force, condemning the attacks. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference in Berlin on Saturday evening, after sending out this message of solidarity with the French people.

He was joined by his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Labor’s Tanya Plibersek also tweeted in support.

French president Francois Hollande declared a national State of Emergency, and closed the borders.

Meanwhile, in a brown part of the world, as the attacks began in Paris, Lebanon was just emerging from a National Day of Mourning, after 43 people were killed and 200 more were injured during a series of coordinated suicide bombings in Beirut.

The attacks – for which ISIS has reportedly claimed responsibility – occurred in the southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh, a predominantly Shia community which supports the Hezbollah movement.

Not counting Israel’s assaults on Lebanon, the slaughters represent the deadliest bombings in Beirut since the Lebanese civil war ended more than two decades ago.

Like suspicions around the attacks in France, the bombings in Beirut are believed to be in response to Hezbollah’s decision in recent weeks to send in troops to support efforts in northern Syria against Islamic State, and other insurgents.

But the bombings in Lebanon drew no tweet from Malcolm Turnbull, no social media statement from Barack Obama, no live media blogs from Western media, no wall-to-wall media coverage. And no twitter hashtags from Australians in solidarity with the Lebanese.

Facebook doesn’t give you an option to filter your profile pic to mourn with – and show support for – the Lebanese. The colours of the Lebanese flag did not light up the Sydney Opera House.

It’s a curious state of affairs, when you consider that there are around three times as many people of Lebanese descent living in Australia, compared to French nationals and their children.

You’d think if we were able to identify with anyone, it would be with Lebanese Australians – after all, so many of them are among the most beloved in this nation, and have contributed enormously to public life. Marie Bashir – perhaps the most admired Australian governor in history – is the child of Lebanese immigrants.

Her husband, Nick Shehadie is as well – he’s the former Lord Mayor of Sydney, and a member of the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame. Queensland parliamentarian Bob Katter has Lebanese roots. Former premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks does as well. One of the most loved rugby league stars of all time is Hazem El Masri.

Benny Elias’ parents come Lebanon. So do Robbie Farah’s. In the AFL there’s Milham Hanna and Bachar Houli, and the current coach of the Australian Wallabies, Michael Cheika, is of Lebanese descent.

The Lebanese contribution to Australian business has also been immense – John Symond, the founder of Aussie Home Loans has Lebanese heritage. Jacques Nasser is the former CEO of Ford Motors in Australia. Ron Bakir of Crazy Ron’s mobile phones was born in Lebanon, and migrated to Australia.

There have, of course, been many great contributions by Australians with French heritage – commentator Richie Benaud, actress Cate Blanchett, businessman Robert Champion de Crespigny, politician Greg Combet, and the iconic AFL star Ron Cazaly.

But how do we explain our identification with French suffering and our apparent indifference to Lebanese suffering? Or more to the point, how do we explain our indifference to the suffering of people we perceive as different – Lebanese, Africans, Hazaras, West Papuans, Muslims…. Brown people.

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The sad reality is, we’ve been here before, and just 11 months ago. A few days before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, terrorist organisation Boko Haram razed the town of Baja in Nigeria, killing more than 2,000 people.

The world’s media – and most of its politicians – were largely silent.

Whatever case you try to make that the West identifies more with France, hence the silence… 2,000 people. Slaughtered in their homes.

That argument – that of course we identify with countries that we have a greater link to – also collapses when you consider the people killed in Ankarra, Turkey last month. In total 102 people were killed and more than 400 injured in multiple bomings.

Australia has an exceptionally close relationship with Turkey, courtesy of our defeat at their hands at Gallipoli during World War I. It’s one of the nice parts of the Australian character – that we can become so close to a nation that was once a bitter enemy.

Today, it’s a right of passage for young Australians to travel to Turkey to see the site of our defeat. But why was there no blanket media coverage in Australia on October 10?

Last month, at least another 30 people were killed in another attack on Nigerian mosques by Boko Haram.

That followed 10 people killed in a coordinated attack near the Maiduguri Airport, again by Boko Haram.

In Islamabad Pakistan, at least 20 people were killed in a suicide attack on minority Shias.

That came a day after 12 were killed in an attack on another Shia shrine, this time in the province of Balochistan.

It is the Shia who were manning many of the boats that we turned away a few years ago, as sectarian violence reached unspeakable levels in towns like Quetta in Pakistan.

When the Pakistani Taliban targeted the Hazara community in Quetta in September 2010 at the Meezan Chowk (a market in the middle of the city), they managed to kill at least 73 people and injure 160 more.

In the background of the bloody carnage is a billboard sponsored by the Australian Government, warning Hazaras against the dangers of getting on a boat to come to Australia.

The Meezan Chouk attack in Quetta, In September 2010. In the background is a billboard sponsored by the Australian Government, warning locals of the danger of getting on a boat to seek asylum.

The Meezan Chouk attack in Quetta, In September 2010. In the background is a billboard sponsored by the Australian Government, warning locals of the danger of getting on a boat to seek asylum.

In September, at least 117 people were killed at a mosque in Nigeria, again at the hands of Boko Haram. The simple fact is, Muslims are far more likely to die at the hands of other Muslims – or more to the point, Islamic extremists who bear no resemblance to average Muslims.

They’re also more likely to be killed by Westerners, who are seeking to kill Islamic extremists.

The difference is, they’re unlikely to see an outpouring of grief in Australia, or most of the rest of the world. And unlike Parisians, they already live in a state of perpetual terror.

That’s why many of them have fled the Middle East for Europe, a reality which prompted this tweet this morning from American movie star Rob Lowe, a man who better than most sums up the outrage and frustration of white bigotry everywhere.

The sad reality is that these attacks will increase. You can’t stop five or eight people with a gun and a twisted ideology, just as you can’t stop an American or Australian military with a commercial, strategic and political interest in slaughter.

Today’s Westerners are finally being given just a small taste of the constant terror that people from other nations have endured for generations, often at our hands. Pakistanis and Yemenis who live with drones overhead; Iraqi’s whose country has been devastated by our illegal invasion; West Papuans, whose slaughter at the hands of Indonesia passes largely without comment.

So solidarity with, and compassion for, the French is a good thing. The assaults on their nation is a heinous crime which we should all condemn.

But solidarity and compassion for the victims of terrorism everywhere is even better, in particular those who’ve fallen victim to the terrorism sponsored in all our names.

* Chris Graham is the owner and editor of newmatilda.com, a small independent Australian news outlet. Chris Tweets here and Facebooks here.

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Comments

  1. Good article. It is how I feel each time there is such a media frenzy. I feel for the victims, but there are victims all over the world who die unnoticed. The media coverage is so one sided and prejudiced. I am so angry; and not with some damaged people who were hyped up to unjustly attack those whom they wrongly percieved as their enemy, persuaded into stupidity and cruelty by their political masters. This is still all about theft, greed, disposession, colonialism and xenophobia. This is about oil.

    This is about power and loss of power. It is about survival and desperation. This is the real threat – http://climate.nasa.gov/ Now Paris is in lockdown. Paris was going to bring nations together for a chance at a future for all complex lifeforms. Now all we have is death and corruption.

    Don’t wait for our self serving politicians to bring a solution to Global Warming. Just get out there and use your bodies in a worldwide blockade of all new fossil fuel projects. These refugees are not just fleeing from war, they are fleeing from famine and the extremes of weather that industrialisation has caused. We will all be refugees if we don’t act now. We have nowhere to go, because there is no planet B. Get to the peoplesclimate.org/ march or go bury your head in the sand.

  2. Reblogged this on Petit Hanoian.

  3. The reason for the one-sidedness is at bottom because we are only human. We have an ever present inclination to warm and connect to firstly our kin folk, then our friends, followed by our immediate society, our domestic polity and lastly to humanity at large or peoples in the international realm. Francis Fukuyama in his two volume political science books about the origin of political order showed that large scale impersonal political orders have always had to struggle against the ever present tendency for the political orders to slip into dis-function and chaos because of behaviour like nepotism, corruption and tribalism in the people who make up the realm. The present consideration is our weakness in the empathic feelings for the suffering of certain others in the international realm. This scales up so the whole of the west comes across as lacking empathy for the non-western world. In a recent ABC RN Breakfast segment which looked at “youth radicalisation” fueling incidents like the terrorist attack by a school boy on the Parramatta police station, it was shown that the one-sidedness of the west to the third world was being effectively exploited by ISIS over social media to stir up hate within impressionable youth leading to radicalisation.
    By the same token if say PM Malcolm Turnbull did express empathy for the Lebanese suffering their terrorist attacks in Beirut it would have come across as corney and non-plussing to the electorate.

  4. Are we to feel guilty? We don’t connect because we have become desensitised by bombings in the Middle East. The Middle East has been at war with itself for over 50 years, Muslims killing Muslims & now there at war with the West! Has nothing to do with the colour of their skin and i for one will not be made to feel guilty because i have connected and feel for the French.

  5. It is commendable that you highlight the suffering of so many other people, ‘brown people’ as you call them, & the media should be reporting ALL their suffering & seeking to stand also with them in their grief & horror – noticeably missing from your list however is a country that has lived with, & continues to live with, terrorist attacks on an almost daily basis, especially during the last six weeks, & has been threatened with genocide repeatedly – I refer to Israel. The mainstream media is woefully silent regarding her suffering, except maybe to add to it by condemning her, it is very disappointing that you fail to even mention her – is not your grief & outrage also somewhat blinded & selective….?

  6. Mick Dundee says:

    First of all, the death toll in Paris was four times as high so trying to pretend that the two attacks are exactly the same is more than a little foolish. Secondly Paris has a much, much greater emotional significance to it for people in the West. Ask people what country Beirut is in and you’d be lucky if a third knew. Ask people what country Paris is in and they’ll look at you like you’re stupid. Paris is, to many people in the west a symbol of all that is best in our culture. A place of beauty, style and learning. Yes, it is horrible what happened in Beirut but quite simply it doesn’t have the same profound emotional impact as a large scale attack on Paris. In addition this, unlike with Beirut the medium in which we saw the attack was very different. The majority of information we have about the attack in Beirut was from news sources, while the Parisian attack was mostly filmed on people’s phones, we saw it from the eyes of people just like us, it was like we were there ourselves.

  7. I didnt read full article…is so tendentious , but I see that author try to tell me not only Europe suffer terrorism, others as well. Sorry but we create civilisation with peace and well organised with solidarity, democracy, free speach and freedom of religion. We made a lots bad things in the past, but we’ve learned on our errors and we create peacful world in Europe recently, so thats the point why terrorist attacks so hurt in Europe. Other world, mainly muslim world was always in chaos, intolerant, narrow minded, racists,with medieval rules, very intolerant for women, other religion and other minority. They get freedom but they cant use it! Its not our foul!!! Muslims country rules by themself and they cant use this power! Why nobody care aboul Liban or others place, because is not our world and not our case, we cant help them because how??? everytime when we try to help them they accuse us for bad intension. They got power there, they can everything to change their countrys, but they cant!!! Because they cant develop their country, they how to complain, destroy, blaming someone else, their violence and intollerance. I dont care about them at all they have to sort it out. Europe is peaceful and help minorities, muslims or refugees because we are peacful, and what they do? use our good hearts and bring violence from middle east to Europe…this is how they pay back for our help!!! If they dont like it, they should come back were they come from !!! If they want to live in Europe they should follow the rules, not change our world, the worst is we take them they get a benefits, houses…which they even couldnt dream in their muslim country…but they still complaining…the problem with muslims is they cant tollerate others…their hate other religion and they are racists…not WE!!!

    • Ski this website and Mr Graham has a market. The market is ignorant people who claim not to be racist against Muslims but are in fact racist against America. America can do no right in their eyes. You are right when you discuss what a mess the Muslim world is and has been for many centuries. In World War One the Ottoman Empire treated its peoples abysmally. There was a famine in Lebanon, a genocide in Armenia. mass forced conscription and torture and massacres in Syria. These are just some examples. However that is not the market being aimed at. The market aimed at is American haters so this article satisifies that demand. There is a claim that the west is now getting a taste of the fear of what other countries have endured for generations. Beyond being in execrable taste as victims have not even been identified yet, you will note it does not name the countries that have lived in fear for generations. The failure to name any countries is not only shabby, it is a clandestine way to express satisfaction at what happened in Paris for the American haters. Dont take this seriously. It is an article for the impossiblist left. They like criticising but never have a solution. Of course what happens in Paris is far more central to us here in Australia than things that happen in the Muslim world. It is not a world we have much to do with, even now.

  8. Chris’ article is good. So is Max Blumenthals’ which goes beyond double standards to reveal the Isis agenda and the trap into which we are falling, carefully laid by them. This is essential reading. http://www.alternet.org/world/how-western-militarists-are-playing-hands-isis?akid=13659.234942.06R9JT&rd=1&src=newsletter1045870&t=2

Trackbacks

  1. […] chain, started by novelist Ian McEwan who has been living in Paris for the last month. Do note this gem by an independent Australian outlet that points out Western media’s biases when reporting (or […]

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