Paris is the only reason Beirut matters


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Terrorist attacks are always more than just tragedies. They are also tests of humanity, our ability to transcend those challenges but showing how much we truly value all human life.

Unfortunately, in the wake of Friday’s Paris attacks, we’re not doing too well on that test.

There is the clear case of the 27 governors, including our own, who have declined to accept Syrian refugees.

As stupid as that decision is, at least it is receiving fairly widespread attention. There is another sign of our human failure in light of the Paris attacks, and it involved people who probably seem themselves as taking the moral high ground.

Since the attack, there have been a number of criticisms over the way the Paris attack was perceived relative to an attack in Beirut the day before.

Why is the media not covering this? Don’t Lebanese lives matter just as much as French lives? That is the general sentiment behind it.

There is so much wrong with this view and it is dangerous in the way it reinforces those egocentric tendencies it is ostensibly trying to combat.

First off, as Max Fischer points out in Vox, prominent media outlets did report on the Beirut bombings. Fisher went on to talk about the difficulty he and the news organizations he worked for had in generating interest in the acts of violence in the Middle East.

Fisher suggests, quite accurately, that the problem is not the media, or not just the media. It is our society in general that gives preference to Western lives over non-Western lives.

It’s important to note that there are certainly Westerners who have legitimate concerns about the Middle East and have been active in raising awareness of the problem the people in the region face.

But, those people were at work long before last Friday. The recent upswing in appeals to commemorate the Lebanese victims and symbolic changing of Facebook profile pictures to Lebanese flags is not the work of dedicated activists, for the most part.

We cannot say for certain because of how closely the two attacks occurred, but I’m positive that hardly anyone would be making these posts if it were not for the Paris attacks.

For most Westerners, even the ones claiming solidarity, the Beirut attacks would not matter at all if 129 people had not been killed last Friday.

The message the recent appeals to “Pray for Beirut” send is that Middle Eastern tragedies only matter within the context of Western tragedies and the debates that follow those tragedies.

In a twisted way, it seems that the Beirut victims are being used as pawns by some Western liberals to help themselves feel good and claim moral superiority.

After all, saying that we should treasure all lives sounds great. It’s also a good way of positioning yourself to feel morally better; that you’re above the irrationality and hatred we have seen in the wake of Paris.

That is not the case. The recent Beirut bandwagoning is not genuine. In fact, it is thoughtless and defeats any sort of legitimate value those expressions might otherwise have.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.