November 22, 2017

The problem with posthumous ethnocentrism

Through the eyes of journalists, and those who support Western ideals, freedom of speech is a right that individuals deserve. In spite of the necessity of the existence of this right, the mainstream media in the past few weeks have chosen to neglect the right to life.

The terrorist attacks on French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo are a devastating blow to the rights of those who choose to speak their mind freely. However, the Western media has done something even more problematic: streaming continuous coverage on the Charlie Hebdo, and seldom focusing on the lives recently lost in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram, another militant Islamist movement.

Various mainstream news media outlets, from both sides of the American political spectrum, have streamed constant coverage of the events transpiring in Paris, and have rarely touched upon the hundreds of bodies that lay dead in Nigeria.

To put this into perspective, 12 people were fatally shot in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the events that transpired soon after. In Baga, Nigeria, 2,000 civilians are reported dead.

Although the publication acted as a bastion of freedom of speech across the world, it’s writer’s and artist’s lives should not be viewed as more posthumously significant because of their race, nationality, or profession.

Some of those killed during the attacks in Paris were the journalists that helped publish offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Although the death of these journalists is completely unjustifiable, the lives of innocent Nigerian civilians at the hands of a brutal militant group deserves to be thrust into public view.

Another factor in the discrepancy between these two tragic events is how they each played out; the Charlie Hebdo attacks involved the use of AK-47 assault rifles, whereas the Baga massacre consisted of even more horrific occurrences. One attack included a suicide bombing from a ten-year old girl in an attack that killed 20.

The French are one of our allies in the world’s foreign affairs, and it is important to show solidarity for their grievances. However, much of this focus is a result of ethocentricism, which is defined as “tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own.”

For major mainstream media corporations to merely focus on American and European travesties is to say that those 12 deaths hold more brevity because the French are closer to Americans in skin color, communication, and culture. Centering television news programs on the Paris attacks, whilst barely mentioning the grotesque events of the Baga massacre, is an act of ignorant ethocentricism.

Loss of lives in France because of the enactment of freedom of speech is devastating in today’s increasing censored world, but ignoring the deaths of 2,000 Nigerian civilians is problematic for the human race, and a tragedy in and of itself.

I am Charlie, but I am Baga too.

(Matt Lieberman ’16, Editor-in-Chief)

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