Why Mainstream Media Botches The Coverage of Terror Attacks In Non-Western Countries
The way mainstream media covers terrorist attacks in the Western world versus “Third world” countries or the nations that Trump prefers to classify as “shitholes” is astoundingly biased.
There seems to be an almost barbaric approach to the messaging when these horrific bomb attacks are levied on the areas of the world, that have been designated as “commonplace.” In other words we are used to the notion that pain, suffering and death are the key attributes of Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and all the other territories that fall into that category — and so there’s a lack of general empathy from viewers or the dignified reporting from news organizations who lazily allow the graphic goriness to do all the work.
This infuriating observation prompts me to write about the vast differences in delivery when opulently romantic cities like Paris or Brussels are hit with the tragic reality of existing in the hell of activated terrorism, and how the utter violence that results in mass destruction and loss of lives, is systemically humanized with images of broken cities persevering in the bloody aftermath.
We’re also treated to the never-ending photo albums that depict human beings who inexplicably met a violent death.
There is also a global mourning that ensues with #PrayFor hashtags dominating timelines, as celebrities express shock and dismay at the audacity of their beloved vacation spots being brutally vandalized by callous brutes, who will never win the war of reducing iconic havens to rubble.
However, when countries that have been regulated as disposable by the well-traveled and those who’ve been tasked to provide fair and honest reporting, are also hit with extreme violence — there’s no homage to the victims, and there’s no incentive to present dignified coverage on behalf of the dead, dying, wounded, or inconsolable natives.
Bombings in Pakistan and Yemen, are reported with clinical and passionless segments, that hardly bother with the operatic narratives that tug at your heartstrings with the parade of names and smiling faces of the dead. We don’t get a humane view of how global terror can paralyze a once-thriving community, that’s heroically attempting to recover from the deadly chaos.
Back in 2009, when Boko Haram began it’s now decade-long regime as helpless Nigerian soldiers under an incompetently nonchalant head-of-state, failed to ward off the influx of jihadist militants, there was very little coverage of the grazed villages and displaced villagers.
But once the crusade to #BringBackOurGirls became the viral sensation in 2014, that employed the rich and famous to proudly pose next to the trendiness of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls being ripped away from dormitories in the dead of night — that’s when the world finally gave a fuck about the terror of Boko Haram.
That’s when it was permissible to care about modest villages in Northern Nigeria, that had already spent four years unsuccessfully managing the round-the-clock attacks that had finally become a global outcry — thanks to the hashtag that wouldn’t quit.
It’s only in those instances that we get to collectively mourn the death count of Black bodies. Even in the United States, there’s a tendency to spend weeks — covering the mass shooting in Jewish synagogues with the dramatics that reveal sobering details, and the heart-wrenching testimonies of the bereaved loved ones.
And while that habitual need to pay homage to a disheartened community is an absolute necessity, it also reminds of how little Black lives matter in the context of how that long week of domestic terrorism in late 2018, seemed to be missing the breaking news of the two Black victims who were gunned down by a White man in front of a grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky.
The glaring omission was offensive, especially when you consider that the theme of cable news networks was the rising occurrences of hate crimes.
And while the death count at the death scene around the Kroger grocery store wasn’t impressive — the actual crime itself was the chilling evidence of how White male terrorists operate when they let White people live, based on their obsession with Black and Brown targets.
Why wasn’t it mandatory to interview witnesses and even extend airtime to the families of those two Black victims? Why isn’t it considered a worthwhile endeavor to humanize Black victims of hate crimes, who also leave behind friends, families and legacies that could also prove why their loss is unbearably tragic?
Why is Black pain or the unimaginable circumstances that descend upon certain parts of the world not received with the same reverence and global concern as White pain — that’s given the extended shots of stoic beauty among the ruins — that will definitely rise again with practiced defiance?
The answer lies in the comfort level of watching enough viral videos of Black women being assaulted by police officers or the Black man moaning in defeat as he bleeds out in the driver’s seat of the car containing a Black toddler.
It’s in the way we’ve been programmed to only allot emotions to the disaster zones that don’t typically appear in the form of war torn countries. And because this isn’t the norm for idyllic locations — there’s an urgency to highlight the devastation with the methodical adherence to how European territories don’t deserve the slaughtering.
But when bombs and gunfire blast though an upscale hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, major networks like CBS, are required to cover the mayhem, especially if there’s the likelihood that some of the casualties are Westerners.
The coverage would have been more dignified if there were more White bodies on the ground, but because it was strictly a local view, there was no attempt to warn viewers of the graphic nature of what was about to be unleashed.
CBS Evening News did a terrifically bad job with the casual way in which it introduced the scenes of bloodiness and slumped bodies, and fiery debris mixed with what could be assumed to be body parts.
The segment was shockingly disgusting and grossly inappropriate, and the timing was epically miscalculated as dinnertime meant chopping on the bits that resemble what you were possibly taking in, with red sauce as topping.
If the horrific act of violence had transpired in Berlin, Evening News anchor Jeff Glor would’ve cautioned us to be prepared for the grisliness of death scenes, since civilized nations tend to be romanticized to the hilt.
African nations and other countries that are shitholes, are forever framed in the violence that doesn’t deviate from the norm, and so we don’t need to be warned about the Black bodies on fire or the limbs that are hanging over what used to be chairs, because it won’t evoke anything other than the distant recording of what we’re already used to consuming.
The only mentioned victims of the terrorist attack by the militant group al-Shabab, that has so far claimed 15 lives, are two White men — one American and one British.
Jason Spindler was a US businessman, who had miraculously survived the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, only to perish in the recent bombings in Nairobi. The touching tributes confirm what a loss he is to those who loved him.
Luke Potter is the British man who also died in the attack, and his resume is bloated with charitable services and his devotion to “helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.” Again, his loss is understandably painful for those who relied on his seemingly powerful presence.
We currently don’t have any smiling Black faces with glowing biographies illustrating their selfless pursuits, and how their untimely deaths will affect the ones they’ve left behind.
These are the ways in which mainstream media botches the coverage of terror attacks in non-Western countries by making the ugliness in Brussels a lot harder to shake off, while enhancing the unsightly scenes in Nairobi with the extra boost of how Black pain can be exaggerated with graphicness — and still not incite global rage and empathy.
Until White pain stops overpowering the narrative with the righteousness of why White bodies are sacred enough to be invisible from the attacks that disfigured them, while Black pain isn’t relevant enough for cautious camera shots that consider the the bloody mess of Black bodies — we can expect the status quo to stay in place.
When you have White victims being exalted in a death scene that’s stationed in a shithole country — that’s when you know blatant inequality in all realms is real.
FYI: It’s worth noting that President Trump hasn’t acknowledged the terrorist attack that took place in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed at least one American. Clearly shithole countries don’t count.