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Saturday, July 23, 2005

I don't get it

Why is it when 52 people were killed in London by terrorist bombs the media and everyone on the internet was talking about it, but the 88 people who were killed in Egypt, also by terrorist bombs, are hardly being mentioned?
Even the bombs that were in London this Thursday that didn't detonate and didn't kill anyone are getting more attention than the tragedy in Egypt.

Is it because Egypt is not an English speaking country?

Is it because, "hey, people are always dying form suicide bombs in that part of the world"?

It always drives me crazy when a tragedy happens in another city or another country, and the local media says "one of the 287 people who died in the plane crash was from our area"
Should I care more if someone dies and we grew up in the same town?
Isn't all human life valuable?

Thousands of people are dying every day in other countries.
From terrorism
From starvation
From diseases
From civil wars

Most of these problems are preventable.

approximately 3,000 people were killed in this country on September 11th, 2001 because of terrorism.
We still talk about it ALL THE TIME. Especially here in NY. Life has become broken up into B-911 (before 9/11) and A-911 (after 9/11)

approximately 300,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide.
With the exception of a movie that didn't do very well at the box office, no one talks about it.

And what about the tsunami? Remember the tsunami? We actually paid attention to that for a little while. There was even a telethon! Brad Pitt was there!
But now, almost seven months later, the excitement has worn off and hardly anyone mentions it anymore.

Why do we ignore everyone else's tragedies?

"Stuff like that happens all the time in that country, they're used to it."

When someone dies, or is kidnapped, or has to cut off their own arm to survive, our media makes a TV movie out of it. Especially if the victim was "cute".

When it happens in another country we don't even blink.

"It's over there."

"It's far away."

"It doesn't concern me."

Why do we view an American life as more valuable than any other life?

I will leave you with two of my favorite quotes to ponder:

"Be the change you wish to see in the world"

"If you're not angry, then you're not paying attention"
-Unknown author

posted by Torrie at Saturday, July 23, 2005 |


Commented by Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes:

Someone in Aruba recently said something that came to mind when I read your post. She said, and I paraphrase, that if an Aruban girl disappeared in the United States, how many of us would take the day off to look for her?

We are truly a self-absorbed society. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make the rest of us look bad.

7:35 PM 
Commented by Blogger Candace:

Very well said, Torrie.

8:05 PM 
Commented by Blogger mrtl:

I love you, girl. Thanks for keeping us in line.

8:12 PM 
Commented by Blogger afdalieuroiuf:

i just couldn't agree more. thanks so much for pointing this out. and i hate that i was right about them being wrongwrongwrong. :(

8:31 PM 
Commented by Anonymous lawbrat:

You go girl! This is so true. So many of us live in our own little world. I admit that I do too sometimes. I dont like to admit that, but its true. Thanks for such a wonderful and thoughtful post.

9:22 PM 
Commented by Blogger Mrs.Strizzay:

I know EXACTLY what your saying. I have hardly heard more than a few snippets about Egypt! I guess if you ARE a Muslim then the world says fuck you, whether your innocent or not. The world is a bitch I tell ya.

11:30 PM 
Commented by Blogger Nilbo:

If "Why do we not hear more about those tragedies" is a rhetorical question, it's a decent thing to ask. But if it's a serious question, it's answerable, although nobody wants to hear it.

We don't hear more about tragedies in a remote place or to people from different cultures because the media understands we can only take in so much. We need large scale tragedies contextualized, need to be able to relate to it.

England is a society much like ours. We can well imagine ourselves riding in a subway to work, or riding a bus to go shopping, surrounded by people just like the ones we saw fleeing the tube stations or lying dazed and injured, being tended to by paramedics on the scene in London.

When I see or read a story of Rwandan tribal militia scattering through a tiny jungle village and hacking children to pieces with machetes ... I can't take it in. I have no cultural context. I might as well be watching an arcade game.

It's not that we have no empathy, or that we think it's unimportant or even deserved. It just unimaginable in the very real sense of the world.

I can imagine a person being swept to their death by a bad undertow. I cannot imagine, even when I see the video footage, an entire town being sucked out to sea and all the men, women and children being drowned.

The tragedies are no less tragic, of course. The bombings in Egypt were no less heinous (nor more) because they happened in that place and not Des Moines or London or New York or Toronto.

But the truth of it is, most (not all, but most) of us can understand and relate to tragedies that happen in countries with similar cultures and similar people.

And the news media, which is, after all, a sales media, understands this. And gives us what we want.

9:13 AM 
Commented by Blogger Dr. S:

Similar things happen here, I think. I was reminded of it when Hurricane Emily threatened Mexico and the Southwest last week. Where were Anderson Cooper and the folks from the Weather Channel, giving us 24-hour coverage, 48 hours in advance, I wondered, missing girl in Aruba, London bombings or not?

Sure, Emily fizzled, but some of those Florida ones do, too, and those guys are down there turning the storm into a tempest, while the rest of the world experiences important political and social activity. The West (besides LA), it seems, just isn't as cool as East (look at which cities they cover when talking about the day's temperatures!).

Furthermore, as an Australian, when I first came here in 1984, I always wondered if the press ever covered any foreign news *besides* the Middle East! There's a whole world out there, and it was as though it didn't exist in this country. Now at least Africa is more comprehensively covered (and London this week)... I hope that doesn't sound too rude, but it comes as a shock after the world news coverage that you get in other places.

9:49 AM 
Commented by Blogger Jon:

Hi, I like your Blog.

10:15 AM 
Commented by Anonymous Krishen:

Hi, found you through a comment you left on Nils' blog (which I found via 'nee (

Great post, I completely agree.

10:35 PM 
Commented by Blogger Torrie:

Bucky, that's a great question.

Misfit, MRTL, Razdreams, Lawbrat,Jon, and Krishen, "hi" and thank you.

Strizz, the world is, in fact, a bitch.

Nilbo, eloquent, as always.

Dr. S, you are right,the news media is all about the drama. "STORM WATCH 2005!"

11:27 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Jedediah:

Just a little correction is your facts...Red Cross estimates are 800,000 for Rwanda...You are right in everything that your saying.

11:57 PM 
Commented by Blogger Bente:

I have to say I found Nilbo's comment very educational!

Here, in Australia, we heard quite a bit about Egypt. Not as much as London, but it sounds like more then you recieved over there.

I do agree with the points you're making. The world can be a frustrating place.

2:00 AM 
Commented by Anonymous smiling_da_vinci:

Mr. Nilbo, I am sorry to say this but your comment is pure and utter total bull... droppings.
Does it really mean that terrorism, murders, disasters of natural causes such as floods or hurricanes can only be understood when they happen in countries with a similar cultural background?
If people really think like that it makes me furious. When a kid grabs a gun and kills half his class and all his teachers. It is suposed to be world news and soooooo sad because it involves 'young and promising American citizens'. But when you and I quote your words:'When I see or read a story of Rwandan tribal militia scattering through a tiny jungle village and hacking children to pieces with machetes ... I can't take it in. I have no cultural context. I might as well be watching an arcade game.'
What do you want to do? Only pay attention when something bad happens in relation to your fellow American citizens?
That is so very frukking narrow-minded. Just as if fear, death, pain and anger are different for the Rwandese people because they have a different 'cultural' background and because they live in more primitive houses than you. That is pure nonsense. In The Netherlands we call that 'ostrich politics'. Stick your head in the sand and act as if nothing happens.

6:48 AM 
Commented by Blogger JessicaRabbit:

Hmm I just wanted to comment that I agree with you and things like that do keep me up and night, and I agree with Nilbo that sometimes it is too much to take in because it does seem like something so horrible that it almost becomes unreal and out of context to our way of life.

But now I am simply annoyed at the douchebag above my comment that totally missed the point of what Nilbo was saying and I havent had any sleep so I just want to say things like douchebag instead of anything even semi intelligent.

I should probably go to sleep now. But I will still be thinking douchebag I just know it. Man, now my dreams are going to be really funky.

But spring time fresh, douchebag.

8:10 AM 
Commented by Blogger JessicaRabbit:

Oh and Torrie, you rock.

8:13 AM 
Commented by Blogger Rolf:

I agree....

8:58 AM 
Commented by Blogger Nilbo:

Well, Smiling Da Vinci, it's sure not the first time anybody has accused me of being full of bull ... er, droppings. Sometimes I am. But you might want to take a moment and re-read what I said, try to take in my points, and then make that decision.

I don't think I implied that pain, fear, and misery were uniquely felt by people of any particular culture. That would be really stupid, and as full of bull droppings as I may be, I'm only just a little stupid.

What I did say was that I can't relate as well to stories of genocide in different cultures because they do not resonate in my experience. I can't say "That could be me, felled by a machete as I carried water home on my head from the communal well." Because I don't carry my water, I draw it from a tap, we don't have a communal well, and if I were to be attacked, it's unlikely it would be with a machete.

So is that report of a massacre in Rwanda (or Lesotho, or Chad, or whereever) less "important"? No, not at all. But it's not as easy for me to grasp, living as I do on a quiet island in Canada.

I don't get the idea of tribal warfare, I don't understand a culture where 50 cents a day will buy you a mercenary willing to butcher babies, and therefore I cannot grasp the true nature of the horror I am seeing.

Here's what people always forget: the product of any news organization is not "the news" itself. The "news" is what the broadcaster (CBS, CNN, NBC, SkyNet, whoever) uses to attract its real product: the AUDIENCE. It then sells that product - essentially, you and me and our disposable income - to advertisers.

That being the case, news organizations spend a lot of time determining what stories of the dozens or hundreds that happen every day will be included on the news broadcasts or in the newspapers. The sole determining factor is: what does our audience (or the audience we are pursuing) want to see and hear about?" Note that what is "good" for the audience - what they "should" care about - is not included in those deliberations. It is irrelevant to the goal of the news, which, again, is not to "inform" but to "capture an audience" for re-sale to advertisers.

Sometimes determining the lead story is an easy decision - bombs go off, wars start, celebrities get arrested. There's the lead story.

But often it's a trade-off: there's a choice between a story about 700 villagers dying in an earthquake in Turkey or 700 local workers are being laid off at the auto plant. No room for both stories. Which one impacts our audience most? Because if we don't bring them the stories they care about, it's just a click of the remote to take them to a news broadcast that will.

If we start seeing the news industry as a business, as opposed to a social service, we start to understand better why some stories that seem trivial (Michael Jackson's sexual proclivities, for example) lead the news while others (Landslide Buries Chilean Village, Killing Hundreds) end up unreported or buried.

It's all about context. You don't know me, our lives don't intersect. If my child dies, it doesn't affect your life one way or another - children die every day. But to me, it's personal and devastating and far more important than millions dying of AIDS in Africa or thousands being murdered in Serbia or hundreds of thousands being killed in a tsunami. It's MY CHILD.

It's wrong to say that "nothing matters except what goes on in my back yard. But it's equally wrong-headed to think that everything ought to matter equally to everybody all the time.

There's only so much room on the front page. Some stories have to go on page 12.

As for whether or not I'm full of bull droppings ... well, that's old news.

9:45 AM 
Commented by Blogger Howie:

But hey at least we liberated the people of Iraq! Yep they sure have it good over there now. Let's pat ourselves on the back!

10:56 AM 
Commented by Anonymous kalki:

Torrie, I often think the same thing and yet I also admit to being desensitized to tragedies that happen in places "farther away". I think what Nilbo says about having a cultural context is so true - it is human nature to think "Shit, that could have been me!" and tragedies in places more like where we live resonate more strongly with us. Because of this very reason, it is so important that we break out of that bubble and make ourselves aware of what is happening everywhere. This post does just that - thanks.

11:11 AM 
Commented by Anonymous lawbrat:

I'm in agreement with full of bull droppings person you! :-)

The more we relate culturally, the more we understand and 'get it'.

Hunter and I were watching 'godzilla' the other day. Godzilla was looking for her 'baby' that the scientists took. Godzilla was destroying everything in her path. Devistating? yes. But, what did Hunter...a 6 year old say? He said: she just looking for her baby. Why dont they just give her her baby back, and it will be ok. He went on to say that if I (mommy) was godzilla, and he was the baby, and his brother was my other godzilla baby, I'd (mommy) would do the same thing.

I thought it interesting how he put it in a 'personal' perspective to understand and grasp the concept.

I *think* thats what Nilbo is saying, yet more eloquently.

11:34 AM 
Commented by Blogger Nilbo:

Personally, I think Hunter said it more elequently than any of us could.

11:50 AM 
Commented by Anonymous lawbrat:

We can learn alot from children. They speak their mind, and have not yet been infected with the views we have indoctraniated on adults. Sometimes, children are more intelligent than adults.

Thanks Nilbo

12:01 PM 
Commented by Blogger Squirl:

Torrie, you're so right. Nilbo also added his two-cents in there quite well.

1:03 PM 
Commented by Blogger song:

Oh, here is where everyone is hiding. and I think the word is SHIT, not droppings (high class douchebag obviously)

I hadn't heard about the bombings in Egypt, or the girl from Aruba. I did hear that apparently the guy the police shot over the terrorist bombings in england 8 times at close range was the WRONG guy.

I think each of these things, as little as I know because I don't watch the news, is equally devastating. One person, two people, 60 million people dead - it's still people dying. How much it effects you is on the personal level. If that one person is your mother or if one of those 60 million is your mother you are still going to feel it.

I, like Nilbo, find it hard to grasp when i hear about suicide bombings and genocide, because I have never personally been in a situation where either of those things were something i needed to immediately think about. Thank god.

But I also agree with Torrie wholeheartedly - whether the victims are white/black/muslim/american/alien/gay/straight/whatever, death is death and it is going to affect someone on a personal level. I hate the idea that news casters chose whose grief is more important, who gets more coverage.

at any rate, I'm tired and grumpy and going to bed now, but I hope that none of us here ever have to experience the things we cringe at on the news (or on godzilla for that matter).

3:22 PM 
Commented by Blogger Ern:

I think that Nilbo hit the nail on the head when he described the "business" of the news. Which is why I don't watch the news much. I have found the news in LA to be even worse than back in Utah. They cover the car chases and celebrity court cases and storm watch whenever it sprinkles. It is very sensationalist, and the newscasters are wannabe actors.

But that explains why we don't hear about the real world news. I think a lot of Americans would just rather be in their comfort zone than think about tragedies elsewhere. They don't WANT to be angry, so the DON'T pay attention. And the TV news gives the people what they want.

4:49 PM 
Commented by Blogger Annejelynn:

the media rules what we hear/see -

Hiroshima? 70K instantly killed, same amount injured - include Nagasaki's bombing, add 40K killed - by that year's end, the death toll between the two bombings reached well over 120K...

ever hear of Dresden, Germany? Hardly anyone knows a thing about Dresden, Germany. In the last couple decades there's a great deal of debate re: the death toll, but the original claim is 100,000 were killed in the bombing of Dresden in 1941 and it was a non-military target. And no one remembers Dresden.

7:20 PM 
Commented by Blogger the niffer:

Great post, Torrie, and some interesting comments floating around.

All I have to say is that you would think that someone full of bullshit would smell like bullshit. But I've hugged Nilbo I can assure you he's not full of bullshit. He smelled just fine.

1:17 PM 
Commented by Blogger GG_UAW:

Maybe I'm running the risk of offending some out there, but, I'm guessing the reason you've heard very little about the bombings in Cairo is that there is a ceartain pecking order in reporting terrorism that I think goes like this.
1) Bigger white people killing little brown people. No news there , besides they probablly
deserved it anyways.
2)Little brown people killing other little brown people; one is forced to ask; who cares ?
3)Little brown people killing bigger white people, now we've got a problem.Let's scream it from the roof-tops and leave it on the news 24/7 for the next six weeks or until something else hideous happens.

Damned little brown people and their wanting to run their own lives.

6:37 PM 

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