The hashtag era
Apparently, now that social networks have invaded our daily lives, for the worst but also for the best, one must share and express his sorrow in order to gain credibility among his peers. Share his anger to demonstrate his self-affliction and condemn while keeping up with social pressure, a bit Game of Thrones’ style as to when the writers kill the main characters by wagon full it instantly generates worldwide fans uproars. Making it hard to distinguish between complaints over real life and fictional deaths on social medias. The point isn’t merely to condemn the perpetrators but also every single entity that could share the burden of responsibilities: States, leaders, clerics, medias, of course the stupid crowd that doesn’t understand anything and is interested by nothing, without forgetting the usual suspect: the West. But what if this fake one time sorrow was everything but a demonstration of solidarity? And what if global emotion was doing everything but preventing real solutions?
No West and the rest, it’s developed and developing
As soon as a terrible terrorist attack or a devastating event, human-made or natural — even if for many Mother Nature is never accountable for anything and some always manage to find the guilty hand of men somewhere in the picture — . As soon as such tragedies occur somewhere else than in Western societies, the same invariant meme comes to life: the World — understand, the West — doesn’t care. It absolutely overflows the social networks as a unique motto. Promoted by thinkers, journalists, leaders and disseminated by the general public gaining “likes” as would a video of a cat entering a cage containing a puppy.
Ironically, this motto constantly comes from the same areas of the Planet. Not necessarily from the war-torn areas, for they would need a proper internet connection to do it, but rather from highly secured places in which, according to popping social medias status, we would tend to believe that the people out-there are living the absolute misery and violence first hand, the true abomination of wars. Yet, of course, they are not.
And these places in which the West — thus, yet to be defined — is the nemesis are composed of the West itself and areas of the Planet living under luxurious Western standards.
People who barely have — to say the very least — lived under any consistent threat (that would wipe out lives) but who would still undergo a true crusade against terror and affliction thanks to Facebook status or enraged tweets. A generation of people, that current centuries have blessed with unmatched living standards and education, with electricity flow 24/7, cheap drinkable water, free healthcare, sufficient highways systems, trains or even planes to go on cheap holidays, secured bank accounts for currencies that don’t really depreciate and couldn’t be seized by the local despot, without forgetting the security provided by the States.
So rather, than keeping up with condemning the West and accusing it of turning a blind eye on the very real despair of some less fortunate people who are daily suffering, one should ask himself: where am I? From where do I speak? Can I really give some affliction lessons according to where I speak from? For there is no more West and the rest of the World, but rather developed countries and developing countries.
Mainstream Media, what is it?
After the so-called West is being accused of low empathy, enters another quite astonishing convicted: mainstream media. Here again the term should very much be defined. What is, in today’s global world, a mainstream media? According to what can be witnessed on social media, mainstream medias are in fact reduced being a very tiny category. They are, US or UK, as English remains undoubtedly the worldwide language.
This very meme accuses mainstream medias, together with the West, to remain silent and not properly covering some disastrous events. Stating that mass media coverage is not sufficient regarding some crisis in sub-Sahara Africa or East Asia for examples is very true. Stating that so-called mainstream media are only Western-centered is as equally false. And one should have less selective reading attitudes in order to convince himself.
So what are mainstream medias? Fox? CNN? ABC? Sky News ? BBC ? … People who are accusing these TV channels to be silent, must certainly watch these channels in order to substantiate their complaints. However, as a matter of fact, these TV networks are not so bad in their coverage of events worldwide, as they remain the few actors that have enough money to monitor remote places. What would one in the West hear about Africa if it wasn’t thanks to the BBC? Not talking about the quality of report, but rather on the media coverage.
Newspapers? WaPo, the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, AP, AFP, Reuters, the Guardian or whatever big names, all have tremendous correspondents on site or around. Accusing these newspapers of not covering any issues in remote non-West areas is simply not true. Regarding Iraq, as it is the latest event that drove the Global double-standard uproar, each one of the previous newspapers have a full-time correspondent in Baghdad or Erbil, and among the journalists covering the MidEast, these latter are the best in town. And they did a consistent coverage of the terrible events that shook the country, as early as 2003. Yet, of course one can disagree with the angle chosen by the journalists or the analysis of any event, but one cannot state that these newspapers are not covering.
Now, what about non West-based medias? Can one really and honestly consider that Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, MBC are not mainstream media for example? Again, in today’s global world, it is not the West and the rest of the World, but developed and developing countries. These media networks are even more regionally-centered, aiming at filling in the real or perceived gap.
Could we consider for one moment that if a shooting occurs in the USA, it is only natural that US medias dedicate a significant part of their broadcasting time to it? Likewise, if a woman get stabbed to death in a mall in Abu Dhabi, The National or even regional media network would highly emphasize on it? And now, what if the stabbed woman coverage fails to attract other parts of the world’s interest. Is it because the world doesn’t care about Arab news, or is it because for now, the regional Arab media networks have a lesser audience than their counterparts covering the shooting on US soil? And is it the US media’s fault not to manage to attract the interest of their local audience onto events taking place in the Gulf countries or is it the Arabs from the Gulf’s fault to be obsessed with whatever comes from the US like any Kayne West’s new incident?
Regarding the fact that a hashtag makes it up to the headlines while some tragedies are only commented. Again, considering that when an attack occurs in a highly connected environment it is only logical that locals manage to give life to an outcry and manage to keep its climax for several days, growing the intensity of the coverage. As for Paris, it is useful to remind that the Bataclan — or Paris attack — took place less than two weeks before the start of the UN Conference on Climate Change that was supposed to gather a consistent number World Leaders anyway; the proximity of the events surely convinced the World Leaders to make the move.
And finally, one cannot blame the mainstream medias per say. If these medias are indeed “mainstream” it is also because they are successful. It is only up to one region to develop an alternative media if the people of this region are displeased with the mainstream ones (Al Jazeera with a lot of money has achieved that, even became mainstream). And, these people can themselves decide in full conscience, to stop following these medias. While the excuse of the limitation of language doesn’t work, as every single media considered mainstream airs in English, so people who are criticizing these mainstream can at least speak their language and another (except national from English speaking countries who cannot speak another language and therefore remain the only real “hostages” of the “evil” media industry).
Sanctimoniousness doesn’t help, it only removes the guilt
What does this worldwide condemnation through social networks achieve apart from giving a fake sense of solidarity anyway? Absolutely nothing.
It might help some victims feeling less alone in nowadays world, not the majority though. Yet it mainly provides with some comfort to people who barely need any, as it gives solace to people who can actually witness this worldwide solidarity thanks to their internet connections. But the people really experiencing hardcore crisis, do they see it? And if they do, fine, it warms their hearts they probably need, and after that? As right after self-styling oneself as a concerned person on Facebook, one would go back on checking on Kanye West’s latest while the Syrian refugee remains lacking proper water, electricity, blanket, sanitation, food, medications and so on.
The real world is not made of charming princes riding their unicorns and helping cats to settle their new kingdoms. The real world is filled with people in urgent and deep need of basic-needs, filled with skyrocketing mortality, filled with citizens suffocating in their own blood on the side of the roads. Filled with young girls raped and young boys handling AK 47. With AIDS victims unable to purchase appropriate treatments and thus waiting for their painful deaths. With mosquitoes unfairly scattering plagues.
Only people living under Western lifestyle standards would be arrogant — and let’s say, silly — enough to believe that a hashtag denouncing a so-called worldwide silence would contribute helping in relieving this suffering and contribute denouncing the plagues. Only children born and raised in total security would think in the fairy-tale according to which warming the hearts of the victims thanks to hahstags gives them hope. This is no more than a world fantasized by spoiled kids.
Therefore what have these professional guilt providers achieved during their 30 seconds’ focus on the crisis? Nothing. They however managed to relieve themselves from a guilt, showcasing as flag-bearers of the “truth” and against “inhumanity”… How solidary.
What can be done?
What is needed is action. And States, whether one likes it or not, are actually working thanks to the many bodies they have set on move for decades now. Not fast enough, not always as efficient as one could hope for, but they are nevertheless. Who knows what USAID is funding, what the EU is, what every single European country is, what Arab States are, Russia, China and so on? If one doubts, one should ask the archeologists in devastated countries what they think when the EUR or the $ sink, what hospitals and medical personnel in Africa think in such cases? What fears emerge from a Brexit for humanitarian personnel worldwide? What oil prices drop means for countries facing food crisis? Not only all these factors have repercussions on global economy, they also reduce international aid.
Regarding the exorbitant amount of crisis the MidEast faces and the continuous flow of dead ISIS is scientifically providing us with.
There are many things one can do in order to counter the narrative and actively do something about it at one’s own level.
First, stop using this false claim consisting in saying that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It is not because the enormous majority of their victims are indeed Muslims, that this terrorist group is not “hiring” among Muslims. Yet, it is not because it is “hiring” Muslims that these Muslims are the most knowledgeable of their religion, being a jihadist today, remains more of a fashion than an actual religious stand. And of course, it is not because they are essentially “hiring” Muslims and new-converted that Muslims and new-converted are the enemies. But foolishly trying to state that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam only contributes burying a reality that is not failing to blow up at the World’s face. Neither it is helping to find counter-narratives. It’s not helping putting them in front of their own contradictions. Not helping to prevent the flow of young wannabe “Knights of God” who get influenced by self-styled Imams. Not helping the fact that some still believe they are undergoing a true holy quest.
Crusaders were Christians? Yes, undoubtedly, yet it doesn’t hide the fact they were fanatics believing they were liberating the city of Christ. We all know by now that some political leaders used people’s fanaticism in order to conquer and extend their rules. But still, religion was the medium, the tool, not the end by itself.
Muslims in Burma face intense persecutions from some Buddhists, it’s a fact. It doesn’t mean all Buddhists are guilty, yet it doesn’t mean that some aren’t. Muslims face daily racism worldwide, sometimes by atheists, it doesn’t mean that all atheists are evil but some are. From Christians, it doesn’t mean that all Christians are neither, yet some are. We can go on and on and on.
So, the first step is to prevent discarding a truth because it would jeopardize one’s comfort zone. Again, the sole and only goal of some who explain that “this one doesn’t represent” himself is just driven by selfishness, as if before condemning one has to exonerate first from the guilt. But what guilt? Only a fool would set all the Muslims in World accountable for what ISIS terrorists do and ask the Muslims to apologize for it.
Then there is the sectarianism. Not the one among Muslim people who, in vast majority, aren’t. But the one provided by some experts through pernicious wordings. It must be confronted, as the sectarianism surely exists on the ground, but is also vastly showcased and promoted by some MidEast specialists who likewise a guru also need a crowd of fans following every comment they make and reading any article they write. Insidiously one expert accuses Shia militias of specifically targeting Sunni citizens while the other one accuses more or less all Iraqi Sunni to be ISIS fanboys. And these experts’ entire audience fall for it, as it allow them to claim that yet again the “other” bears all the responsibility, the “other” is the savage and the “other” was the first to pick up the fight. It is always way easier to accuse the others of all evil as it prevents from acknowledging our own deviance. Some of these experts offer their crowd a sip of the taste of “blood” they satisfy with, providing everything the fans want to hear and read. And these experts never fail to highlight the number of “followers” they have and the aura they enjoy — it’s easier to find a job afterward, maybe in the West, who knows? — . But where is the real expertise in that?
The most remarkable example of this insanity has been the famous “ISIS convoy” escaping from Fallujah end of June 2016. This convoy of up to 200 vehicles according to some sources, has been decimated by the Iraqi Forces and the Hashd. Then followed days of accusations by experts, ones stating it was composed of ISIS militants, the others, that it was filled with civilian families fleeing the terrible battlefield. And experts accusing one another to stand with ISIS or with the corrupt power of Baghdad — not to say, with Iran — .
The second step, would thus be to read more carefully the inside references some experts don’t hesitate to use in order to promote personal visions, and enhance their own careers. And absolutely prevent one to fall into the sectarian trap that terrorists and leaders are setting up in order to conceal their own failures, fake and/or weak discourses.
One hashtag that actually is of use as to debunk these kinds of speeches from both leaders and terrorists and holds a very powerful message is: I am SuShi. Nor Sunni, nor Shia, but both.
At last, if one wishes, one can also get involved by many means. For example by giving money to help refugees (the Red Cross or the Red Crescent or any serious humanitarian organization, as there are plenty). Relay UNHCR’s desperate call for donation and/or donate money this organization urgently needs.
Helping UNESCO safeguarding cultural Heritage, or UNICEF ‘s support to children. Writing to political leaders. If one feels more the journalistic vibe, helping The Guardian to report on the massive 2,6 million words’ Iraq Inquiry could be of use…
There are numerous realistic and efficient ways to get involve at people’s own level that don’t imply to shame others or relieve one’s guilt.
Finally, if a hashtag is welcomed and promoted by locals when France, Belgium or the US are hit by an attack, it is only because citizens don’t really have anything else to do as the States are launching wide-scale responses including tactical forces, medical emergencies, enhancement of police patrols, even psychological support, etc. Right after the Paris attacks, Parisians were still able to demonstrate against a law regarding employment one block away from the Bataclan, the country hosted the Conference on Climate Change beginning of December (the attack occurred the 13th of November), later on the European Football competition.
This would be unthinkable in Iraq, as the country needs every support it can find from medical assistance, to water distribution systems, agriculture empowerment, IDPs and refugees assistance, cultural heritage preservation, and this list is as long as the list counting the numerous victims who have lost their lives since 2003 is.
Iraq and Syria aren’t failing, they already are failed states.
As a matter of fact, when talking about Syria, Iraq or any country in a similar situation, they need way more than a social network hashtag that does pretty much nothing in face of the huge crisis these countries are facing on a daily basis.