Monday, November 16, 2015

A mark of respect?

As the dust settles on the tragic events in Paris on Friday night, one thing is abundantly clear: just as events are filtered and refracted through media before reaching us, so too are our reactions mediated or mediatised. The world reacted with horror immediately on social media, and before long some of those reactions - those  of Jason Manford, Rob Lowe and Kay Burley, for instance - became transformed into media stories in themselves. Perversely, the events themselves, and their causes and consequences, are in danger of being overshadowed by different people's reactions to them.

For us non-celebrities, there was soon an option to overlay our Facebook profile pictures with a tricolour filter. Like many, many others, I did it as a gesture of respect and solidarity, however futile and trivial it might seem. And yet I can't help but feel chastened by the sentiments of one Facebook user, Charlotte Farhan: "I won't be changing my profile to the French flag even though I am French and from Paris. The reason for this is that if I did this for only Paris this would be wrong. If I did this for every attack on the world, I would have to change my profile everyday several times a day. My heart is with the world, no borders, no hierarchy, I hold every human's life with value who is attacked by extremist beliefs whether they are based on religion, prejudice or profit! Don't be part of the 'us and them' mentality which the war mongers want you to do!"

That, I'm afraid, is the uncomfortable, unpalatable truth. Much as I and others might think we don't fall into the trap of the Mail et al. in believing that events are more serious and tragic if they occur in close proximity to the UK and affect British citizens, none of us was making a similar gesture of respect and solidarity with Beirut prior to the attacks in Paris.

Update: As has been pointed out, it's not true to say that our media didn't cover the Lebanon attack - so we haven't got an ignorance that can be blamed on the media as an excuse.

(Thanks to Del for the link.)

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