#PrayForParis vs #PrayForTheWorld

The-empathy-gap-between-Paris-and-the-rest-of-the-world-attacks 2

Leah Johnston, Contributor

Friday the 13th, 2015 – the day that will be taught in history classes for years to come. “The Paris Attacks”.

It’s one of the most heavily reported terrorist attacks since the tragedy of 9/11. Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram newsfeeds were flooded with an endless stream of information from around the world, to support and sympathise with Parisians and victims.

But why the singular focus on the attack in Paris? Why weren’t the suicide bombs just the day before in Lebanon so heavily publicised? Many lives were lost in both attacks – yet the only number we seem to have heard is the ‘129 deaths in Paris’. Similarly, a suicide blast and a roadside bombing took place in Baghdad on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding dozens. Do those lives not count?

It seems as though people are catching on to the fact these other events haven’t been reported nearly as much as Paris. The hashtag #PrayForTheWorld has been used over 400,000 times since Friday’s events, as an attempt to broaden the focus away from just remembering the Paris attacks, and using it to highlight recent events elsewhere in the world. In fact, many were tweeting #PrayForJapan when the news of the undersea earthquake was broadcast, yet nobody was injured or killed, which makes you question whether it was out of genuine sympathy, or to make a point.

Facebook was criticized for only having the ‘safety check’ option for Paris, rather than opening it up to any terror attacks, as well as the ‘temporary profile picture’ option to customize your picture with (just) the French flag.

Mark Zuckerberg responded with this post:

Until yesterday, our policy was only to activate Safety Check for natural disasters. We just changed this and now plan to activate Safety Check for more human disasters going forward as well.’ He wrote. ‘You are right that there are many other important conflicts in the world. We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.’

It appears that large companies, like Facebook, along with other major media platforms, have a tendency to empathize – and offer us the the means to do the same – with first world, affluent countries. The fact that they happen to be our political allies doesn’t hurt the cause either.

The narrative has shifted slightly though, as more people were made aware of the disproportionate outpouring of sympathy. They have started sharing and supporting news about the thousands of other innocent lives taken, with countless families affected through the horrifically number of terrorist attacks taking place all over the world. That is, in both European first world countries, and the many third world countries that we don’t seem to hear about as frequently.

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