Is the media bias to western countries with extensive coverage of Paris attacks, while almost ignoring the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad?
Any American, without a doubt, is aware of the ISIS attacks on Paris this past weekend. The coverage has infiltrated our headlines. It has trended on Twitter. It has evoked a social media movement in an effort to #prayforparis. And while this awful and tragic event is the epitome of newsworthy, are the media showing a bias to our European counterparts while failing to acknowledge other attacks by ISIS that also occurred this past weekend?
Today’s headlines are dominated by the aftermath of the ISIS attacks in Paris:
However, less than 24 hours before the Paris attacks, ISIS claimed responsibility for the double suicide bombers that led an attack on a mostly Shiite residential area of southern Beirut. The attack killed hit a busy shopping district in rush hour and resulted in 43 people dead and 239 wounded. A third suicide bomber was found on at the site, but he bomb remained mainly in tact. This attack appeared to be the worst in terms of casualties since Aug. 23, 2013, when bombs hit two mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing at least 42 people and wounding hundreds. Yet Friday morning, did news of ISIS attacks in Beirut infiltrate our headlines? Did the news fill our social media timelines? Did we watch around the clock updates on the television? I think the answer is no.
In addition, to the suicide bombing in Beirut, ISIS also claimed responsibility for the suicide blast and a roadside bombing that targeted Shiites in Baghdad on the same Friday that Paris was attacked. The suicide bomber attacked a funeral service for a Shiite fighter killed fighting against ISIS and the roadside bomb detonated at a Shiite shrine. The two incidents resulted in at least 26 dead and more than 50 wounded. Yet Friday after the attack, did news of ISIS attacks in Baghdad infiltrate our headlines? Did the news fill our social media timelines? Did we watch around the clock updates on the television? I think the answer is, again, no.
I am not the only one asking these questions. In Think Progress’ article, Experts Explain Why People Cared More About The Paris Attacks Than Beirut, they shared the following:
“My people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris,” one Lebanese commentator wrote. “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning,” another echoed.
When I originally began thinking about this topic and clear media bias toward our European counterparts, I blamed it solely on the media. But, the Think Progress article provoked a different perspective. Is it really the media’s fault or is it the consumer’s?
Many in defense of the media are saying that the bias exists because of the consumer’s demand and interest.
“It’s kind of a fascinating and frustrating phenomenon, the extreme outpouring of empathy toward France, and the almost complete lack of empathy towards Beirut,” said Emile Bruneau, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who does research on human empathy. “It’s definitely true that one of the organizing principles of our psychology, of our brains, is that we’re strongly influenced by this perception of ingroup and outgroup.”
Based on the characteristics of race, culture and ideology, we determine an ingroup and an outgroup, and we innately find more relevance with the ingroup, as opposed to the outgroup. So did the media really show the bias? Or is it the consumer’s innate bias that influences what the media will report and what the media can sell?
In fact, the Times posted the article, “Strategy Shift for ISIS: Inflicting Terror in Distant Lands”. The title of the article is fitting our view of who is the ingroup and who is the outgroup. The article uniformly refers to the west when speaking about French and American action against ISIS; meanwhile, the article barely mentions the attack on Beirut.
Originally very angered by the lack of coverage, research has shown me that it is more than a media bias. It is a psychological bias. We, the media consumers, are filled with romantic images of Paris. Some of us have memories of traveling to Paris. Historically, France has been an ally to the United States. France is a considered a western country. On the other side, we might not even be able to point out Beirut or Lebanon on a map. Many of us have never been to Beirut. Historically, we expect terrorism from that region of the world. Lebanon is considered an eastern country. The media might be bias, but they are serving their consumers. We created the social media movement for Paris. We tweeted for Paris. We changed our pictures on Facebook for Paris. We glued ourselves to the TV screens, computer screens and newspapers for updates on Paris. Although it might not have been as prominent as Paris coverage, there was coverage of Beirut. Why did no one start a hashtag? Why did no one start a movement for Beirut?