When the terror attacks devastated Paris Friday, the world collectively mourned the lives of more than 100 French citizens and tourists. But the outpouring of support also ignited a debate as to why so much sympathy was given to a western country, but not to other tragedies around the world.
Just one day before the terror attacks in Paris, similar attacks took place in the Middle East.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in Beirut Thursday, which killed more than 40 people and wounded 200 others. A father in Beirut saved dozens with his heroism when he used his body as a shield over a suicide bomber. ISIS was also suspected of being responsible for an attack in Baghdad Friday, which killed at least 19 attending a funeral and wounded more than 30.
Following the events in Paris, Facebook implemented a new feature called “Safety Check,” which allowed users to connect with friends in the area, marking them off as “safe” if someone knew they were ok.
Understandably, some users who had just been through the horror of Beirut, Baghdad, or the violent, tragic shooting at a university in Kenya earlier in the year, felt that it was unfair that their tragedies had not been met with the same sense of urgency.
Zuckerberg tried to clarify his stance, saying it was a new feature that was just implemented and would be available going forward. He wrote:
Many people have rightfully asked why we turned on Safety Check for Paris but not for bombings in Beirut and other places.
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.
Here’s more detail on Safety Check and our policy for deploying it from the Facebook Safety page:
Thank you to everyone who has reached out with questions and concerns about this. 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.
For many users, his explanation was simply not enough. How could one attack matter more than another, they questioned? As the names of the victims in Paris poured in and users changed their profile pictures to French flags, the outrage only increased.
“I am from Lebanon and we faced suicide bombers just before the terrorist attack in Paris,” Facebook user Nada J. Sarkis wrote. “We too had more than 40 people dead and 200 injured mostly children. Yet a safety check wasn’t created for my country where we have been facing terrorists attacks since 2005.”
But it wasn’t just the safety check that had people enraged. Many users on Twitter denounced the week’s earlier crisis as Mizzou, where Black students were threatened with violence after the president of the university stepped down.
Other tweets denounced those posting photos promising to pray for Paris, questioning why they weren’t praying for other tragedies, or, worse, if prayers were simply not enough.
It’s clear, of course, that certain tragedies do indeed get more coverage than others. Indeed, that’s the entire reason that hashtags like #BlackLIvesMatter are put into the discourse; to remind us that we must always value those who are all too often ignored in mainstream society.
The events in Paris were horrific and they certainly deserve the outpouring of support they received, just as attacks around the world in Africa, the Middle East and other countries do as well. To mourn one doesn’t necessarily cancel out the other and prayers, thankfully, do not have a finite number.
Still, it’s on all of us – both the media and the public – to hold our societies and governments accountable to recognize all and not place more value on one life above another.
As Facebook user Lynn El Ahmar wrote, when asking Zuckerberg to consider her people in Lebanon wrote, “Terrorism has no religion or place and tragedy should be recognized all over the world.
Prayers to Paris and Beirut victims.”