Why Paris, why not Beirut: Stop whining about media coverage

Kalyani Prasher
Kalyani PrasherNov 16, 2015 | 08:55

Why Paris, why not Beirut: Stop whining about media coverage

It is always painful to see intelligent, well-intentioned, sweet people, by which I mean my friends and their friends, say foolish things. Even as people the world over are coming to terms with the latest round of the IS attacks, I see that many people on social media have started questioning the large-scale coverage that Paris, only one of three cities attacked in 24 hours, has received so far.

There are many questions to ask, and many things to wonder about after what has happened in Beirut, Paris and, yes, Baghdad. Now that it is pretty clear that IS can mobilise attacks on unarmed innocent people pretty much anytime anywhere, we need to wonder about our rather ineffective strategies of dealing with terrorism. We need to ask how many such attacks "responses without pity" are going to avert in the future. We need to ask how we're going to protect immigrants and refugees from this fresh crisis. If Baghdad did indeed warn the West of these terror attacks, then we need to ask what the hell is wrong with intel the world over that we pretty much cannot save any lives of any colour in any country. We need to ask how we're going to protect civilians against such swarm or lone wolf attacks in the future. The question we do not need to ask at this point is: "Why are we covering Paris so much?"

I am going to stop myself from calling this question plain stupid. Instead, I will ask a counter question: Why don't you talk about what you want to talk about? Do the good people asking "what about Beirut?" really do not recognise the same two words that they otherwise spend day and night protesting against? "What", "about", - recognise these words? Your old pet peeve. Remember the Sanghis you attack for their whataboutery? Remember how frustrated you get when someone offers "but what about 1992 when X asked to ban Y's article" as a reason to restrict free speech today?

Cover Beirut too is a good thought; stop covering Paris, not so much. 

Asking "What about Beirut?" doesn't become any better because its suffering is valid and its lack of coverage unfortunate - everyone's whataboutery seems equally valid to them every single time and yet it is still the same frustrating, fruitless, defeating whataboutery, please stop it.

What is stopping us from talking about Beirut and Baghdad and increase some visibility for the tragedies in those cities? Why does it have to be at the expense of Paris? Or London or Delhi or New York? Compared to Beirut and Baghdad, Paris is always going to be the hero story of the day in India because we, you and I, have relatives and friends there. One of my closest friends lives two steps from one of the attack sites in Paris - she could have been shot - why will I not talk, worry, fret, read up more about her city and home? If you feel that the Paris attacks are getting "too much coverage", as if there is such a thing, then why don't you stop reading or talking about it and only focus on Lebanon, Iraq and Syria? Why ask others to not do what they want to?

If you have been to the places that are being attacked, you will be more involved with those places, and hence want to read more about them. The media is doing a service to its readers by providing more information about what they want to read. Stop blaming the media for doing its job.

Yes, it is also their job to represent all human atrocities everywhere in the world, irrespective of the country's credit ratings, and a lot of media outlets and journalists are doing that job pretty well. One Google search will give you enough links to Beirut and Baghdad. How many of us looked for those? I searched Twitter yesterday for Beirut stories and found several things to tweet out. If you are one of those lovely sensitive beings who care so much about Shias being attacked in Iraq or Pakistan, how come your sensitivity filter allows asking people to stop praying for Paris?

"It is not Paris we should pray for," went one of these things that went semi-viral online. "It is the world." I understand the thought behind this otherwise nicely written appeal-post but what's the need for that first line? How sensitive are we, have we stopped to wonder, when we allow the chance that someone in Paris, who loves her city and has lost a loved one, reads that? I'm not that person and even I cringed. Why can't we pray for the world including Paris and Beirut? What is the merit in the "cover everything or nothing" approach? Some stories take time coming out, because of the resources Indian media might have in those cities - a story in Paris is easier to access; plus relatability will always translate to more coverage. Surely these things are not too hard to understand.

It is frustrating for me to have to specify this but I am with you. I like every story told. I hate white supremacism and I see it everywhere too. There are a lot of us. I would like to do my bit to highlight the less told story too, but without questioning or, worse, asking for the hero story to be told a little less. I know it's frustrating when one crime sweeps the timelines and you know someone else or somewhere else that is bleeding equally. But instead of saying "what about this", perhaps it will be wiser and more fruitful to cover that yourself - tell your friends and family about it and when the media covers it, amplify it as much as you can.

The minute someone says something that goes against the "popular" sentiment, a certain kind of person adopts it without, am afraid, thinking much. A number of "stop covering Paris" messages starting popping up today because in these unfortunate times, where public airing of opinion is so easy, everyone wants to have a different opinion.

Cover Beirut too is a good thought; stop covering Paris, not so much, nor is it necessary for the former to come to fruition. Sometimes, it is good to argue within and put out only a reasoned thought. Resenting the dead white guys for making more news is not very sensitive, is it? These are dead people, you do understand that? They are no better or worse than other dead people. Everyone's blood is the same - then how can you think that you are doing the dead Lebanese shopper's family a good turn by asking me to stop covering the French boy who went to a concert and never returned?

Last updated: November 17, 2015 | 16:00
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