Geopolitics is always skewed and social media is no exception.
Charlie Hebdo attack rightly outraged us. The intensity of shock is still fresh and it cannot be said when the process of reconciliation would begin as the crime took three days to wind up, with reports saying the suspects were killed just now (10 PM India Time). And to add to the intimidating chaos, Paris has seen two more shootouts, one yesterday, killing a policewoman, and one today, where gunmen took hostages in a Paris suburb grocery store. Now, three gunmen are dead, and going by the reports, a woman, suspected to be with the grocery store gunman, has been able to escape. Reports also say that she is ‘heavily armed’.
The events unfolding in Paris, still not clear, have the global media and audiences hooked.
Meanwhile, a crime of a much bigger scale was being perpetrated in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, crying for our attention.
But countless incidents of crimes against humanity in so-called uncivilized or third-world countries where dictators prowling or where sectarian warlords decide which way the wind would blow are not given even the passing mentions.
On Wednesday, when Charlie Hebdo attack happened, yet another Boko Haram massacre was in making in Nigerian town Baga.
The official reports said of 100 dead initially but the town was completely torched and even if most of the residents had fled before the Boko Haram’s assault, the unofficial consensus, that is more accurate than the official sources, was of thousands of dead.
But, apart from routine news reports, coverage and hence the audience engagement didn’t go further. As expected, there were no consolidated, campaigned expressions of outage and no runs of solidarity to mobilize the opinion on social media platforms.
Yes, the obvious differentiators were obviously there.
The Charlie Hebdo attack took place in Paris, one of the global cities, world’s fashion capital and the capital city of France, one of the major global powers, an advanced economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. And the reason, as shouted by the terrorists, was to avenge the ‘blasphemous’ acts, the Prophet cartoons by the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, all of them killed in the Wednesday massacre.
So, it was about a controversial issue, terrorism in the name of Islam, being debated the world over with its increasing spread and brutality, and it was logistically within reach of media outfits. And in a globally connected world, soon it was the world over, in real time.
There were elements to keep the audiences hooked to the TV sets and Internet platforms – armed terrorists killing 10 journalists and two policemen in Paris – they flee then and disappear with tens of thousands of security personnel mapping roads and leads – they reappear and disappear and reappear –meanwhile more shootouts happen – and then hostages are taken – all being covered and watched in real time – the world over.
While Boko Haram massacre targeted a Nigerian town that most would not have heard of. Historically, Nigeria’s ethnic clashes have killed thousands and have displaced millions. And Boko Haram is latest in the series.
There cannot be media outfits there to report in areas of Boko Haram control and reach and that is logical. When bodies are lying there rotting and no one is able to go there to dispose them, it is difficult for reporters to reach there and carry out a detailed assessment to let the world see and realize the scale of horror. And there was no one in pursuit of Boko Haram, unlike in France where the whole state machinery was involved.
We had live, moving images with incidents in France while we had none in case of Nigerian massacre. But didn’t we have the numbers?
Yes, the two cannot be compared and we should not. A tragedy taking away human lives cannot have a degree, irrespective of the numbers.
But what when we have astronomically high numbers – as has been reported about Boko Haram massacre in Baga?
Shouldn’t it make us numb to react on first mention so as to react more expressively – thousands shot dead and their bodies rotting?
Shouldn’t it agitate us to discuss it and make more and more of the world aware of it?
No world leader tweeted on it. We didn’t hear the United Nations making a formal statement on it. We didn’t know if the White House released statement condemning it.
Since 1998, some 30,000 Nigerians, human beings like you and me, have been killed in the social violence, a report by The Nigeria Social Violence Project says. The report puts the toll over 11000 since July 2009 when Boko Haram started its military offensive. This excludes the Baga massacre and many others not covered in the report.
Graphic courtesy: The Nigeria Social Violence Project (African Studies Program at Johns Hopkins SAIS)
#CharlieHebdo, #JeSuisCharlie and #ParisShooting are trending but #BokoHaram and #BokoHaramKilled2000People must also trend.
I am in full solidarity with #JeSuisCharlie and #CharlieHebdo but #BokoHaram just killed thousands. Cry people, cry.
France’s tribute dimmed Eiffel Tower for #CharlieHebdo. I did not sleep the night sleeping in my tribute to the thousands of nameless victims of Boko Haram massacre who had a name and address till this Wednesday.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/