The Media’s Assault On Humanity — a Tale of Two Cities

The Brussels attacks stir our hearts as yet another slew of lives are lost at the hand of merciless invaders who choose to take away, pillage and selfishly wreak havoc on whomever they can. Terrorists have struck increasingly over the last few years in the form of the Islamic state, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab amongst others, and on every television screen and radio their stories are ablaze. In short, I shirk from seeking media updates these days, as I’m sure many of you do, in fear of hearing about that next horrific event.

I can’t help but be slightly irked (without being insensitive), however, at another aspect of the stories that I hear and read about, and see strewn all over my newsfeeds. That is a lack of coverage that is lended to particular ones. Just as brutal, sudden and horrific as the Brussels attacks that has led to the unfortunate deaths of around 30 people in that city, was the attack that resulted in the deaths of around 20 people just one week prior in Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) a small country nested in the Western part of Africa.

Chimamanda Ngochie Adizie, the renowned writer, warns us all about the danger of a single story in her various outlets. Important herein is to consider the media and its danger in covering particular stories. Not just single stories but selected stories. Handpicked. Debated upon. Filtered stories. The danger that the media brings by presenting only one side of a tumultuous affair that is plaguing the world, terrorism, but then only choosing to cover, investigate and pry into selected stories. Where is the facebook profile change with green, white and orange stripes for Côte D’Ivoire? Where were the photo memes touting “Je suis…”standing with brothers we’ve never met before in solitude, for Lebanon and Mali? Where were worldly leaders flying into Nigeria or Kenya for respects at the losses of innumerable lives? The list goes on.

The plethora of stories on my Google search page that fill up screen after screen and that come in reel after reel with updates are not on Ivory Coast this week. And that concerns me. It concerns me that this was only a blip on my radar, and only in part because I had to go and look for it as a concerned African with Ivorian friends whom I was concerned about for their families’ and friends’ well-being. It concerns me. It’s perplexing to think the media could have so much power as to dismiss certain lives for others. Or maybe otherwise stated to prioritize certain lives over others. It is a form of a second guillotine to the already assaulted cities in my mind. And I’m sure it doesn’t make sense to you either… that is if you actually heard about these other events. While it is in part our duty to be educated consumers in seeking out information, it is also the role of the media to present in an unbiased and representative fashion, current events regarding news, people, culture, politics, and so on. Let us value our cities one and all. Let us value people as people. Je suis tout le monde.

Christine Ngaruiya, MD, MSc, DTM&H is a Kenyan-American physician and global health researcher. She is also a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd project. Ngaruiya lives in New Haven.

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