Here it comes: The reaction after the Paris attacks

Here it comes. The reaction. I mean the reaction now erupting to the displays of the French flag around the

Here it comes. The reaction. I mean the reaction now erupting to the displays of the French flag around the world, and the saturation media coverage of the tragedy. Why don’t the papers make as big a fuss about the even worse tragedies that occur almost weekly in other places? Why are we not displaying, on our public buildings and in social media, the Kenyan flag, the Lebanese flag, the Palestinian flag, the flag of every suffering nation on earth? Memes and messages are popping up all over social media smugly declaring that the authors will not display the French flag, not while any other nation suffers unheralded. The writers and re-posters of these memes think these are fine sentiments, and they pat themselves on the back for being morally superior to the rest, because they feel sorrow for all suffering, not just the suffering of people who are culturally close. But these questions are sly and mean, not moral; they are sly because they are questions with self-evident answers, questions that are therefore rhetorical, and therefore political; they are mean, because they are questions that demean the grief we surely all feel for the French. In a few weeks or months, perhaps these questions might be asked, but not now, not while the grief is still hot. 

I said the answers to these questions were self-evident. Let me show how. Let’s start with the media. The western media, it is said, ignore the suffering of Middle Eastern and African peoples, and magnify the suffering of westerners. I trained as a journalist, and worked on newspapers, and I could explain this thing called news values, but it shouldn’t be necessary. Media are in business, to make money. Local events have a higher news value than overseas events, meaning they sell more copies, they attract more viewers and listeners. Tragedy is more keenly felt when it falls on people with whom we share beliefs, attitudes, history and culture. Surely that goes without saying. The attacks in New York and Paris carry strong news values, in the cultural sense, because the victims are people like us, people we know. If you look at the media outlets in Africa and the Middle East, you will see the exact reverse taking place. Local events, events that happen to people like the consumers of that media, get the most coverage. And it’s no use berating the media for this, it’s human nature. 

Now, the flag business. Why not wave the flag of every nation that suffers? I resent this question most keenly because it implies that my display of the tri-colour belittles the suffering of others, whose flags I am not right now displaying. It implies I value one human life over another. We should feel for the French today. We should wave the French flag, if that is the way we choose to express our grief–or not, if you prefer. But please don’t castigate those who do. There is no end to injustice and suffering and to express proportionate grief for each and every tragedy is not humanly possible. Rightly or wrongly, some events touch us more closely than others. For me, this is one. I’ve sat in those Parisian cafes, strolled those beautiful streets, and felt at home despite all my French amounting to l’addition s’il vous plait. So I wear the tri-colour without shame and without guilt for all the other colours I’m not wearing today.

Do you agree with Cliff? 

  1. I agree with you, we or the press only seem to feel it is important if the Western World is attacked, everyone else appears to be expendable. I wore the French flag for a week to show my respect but I am an Australian, I am not going to wear the flag of another country permanently, I would feel it is disloyal to my country Australia to wear it any longer

  2. People who are in shock have a tendencancy to jump on an emotional bandwagon. Thats just the way it is.
    There are horrors happening in Afrika and other countries every minute of every day, we don’t hear about it.

  3. I put the tricolour on my profile, then saw an article showing the number of deaths to terrorism in other countries and took it down again. I have noticed the Australian Press very narrowly focused in its news selection. I’ve always resorted to BBC World for real news and go to other foreign news services too. It is surprising how much goes on in the world that those who only read, watch or listen to Australian News sources would know absolutely nothing about.

  4. In many of the posts I read after Paris most people were saying that they were sending thoughts and prayers to all the countries suffering under terrorism. No one forgets what is happening all around the world.

  5. No I don’t agree with Cliff….. it is wrong to keep telling us about the French and ignoring what is happening elsewhere .

  6. I totally agree there are so many people in the world who are suffering for so many reasons around the world.

  7. There is only so much collective guilt one can take! I am not my brothers keeper. And once again the only sign displayed is one calling for ‘prayer’ !!! We may hear very quickly how horrible the World is, via our technological advances, but the reality is violence has always run the World. Man has always invented weapons to conquer, we are just living the very modern part of history.
    We are dealing with religions that are about seven hundred years behind in their views and values, yet they embrace the weaponry and technology with gusto! Rather ironic . So you know what, just worry about our own issues, and pay attention to the violence our own Govts are unleashing on those they deem unworthy. Because that is what will cause the next downturn here. A massive Dairy Farming concern has just been sold off to Chinese concerns in Tasmania. Our own people are selling us out . Now that is worth being worried about.

    • Darrell, people think all these young entrepreneurs from China are fairdinkum business people. They are in fact the children of the Communist Party head honcho types, who are now laundering their filthy money to legitimise it via the next generation. Chinese Mafia at it’s best. They make the Italians look like saints. We are being had big time. Gosh I wonder how Chinese Communists got to be wealthy to the point that is hard to believe.

  8. I’ve just looked up the Global Terrorism Index and it lists 161 countries. That is approx 80% of the countries in the world.

    Isn’t it about time we became better informed and not just swallow the views of the major press outlets? B|

  9. Yes, I agree with him. Of course we empathise with people who are culturally similar. That is not to say we aren,t appalled at the horrors of the rest of the world.

  10. I agree that the media is imbalanced, however, I cannot feel the same horror for an unfamiliar location compared to a place (France) that I have often visited, loved and even thought of living in and where lots of my relatives and friends live.

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