When 12 People Are More Valuable Than 2000

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Why is everyone talking about France and almost no one is talking about Nigeria? To prove my point – here are three questions:

  • Can you tell me what act of terrorism happened in France earlier this month?
  • Can you tell me what act of terrorism happened in Nigeria earlier this month?
  • Can you tell me what cities both of these atrocities occurred in?

My guess is you know some details about what happened in Paris, France, but may not be familiar with what happened in Baga, Nigeria.

When I googled “Paris attack” – 354,000,000 results came up. When I googled “Nigeria attack” – only 53,600,000 results. “Baga attack” only yielded 2,510,000 results.

Why do we talk a lot about the brutal terrorism where 12 innocent people were killed, but I haven’t heard anyone talk about the 2000 killed in Nigeria by terrorists except for one article in the paper? First – some facts… then some reasons.

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FACTS:

In Paris:

  • January 7, 2015 is when it began.
  • 12 dead – including 8 journalists from the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
  • Yemen’s al-Qaida branch has claimed responsibility (Islamic extremists)
  • Why did they do this? Al-Qaida called it an act of revenge. The French, satirical weekly magazine has published many drawings of Muhammad over the years (which is offensive enough to Muslims), but they often make fun of Muhammad (as well as all other religious groups).
  • It has been on the front page of newspapers and leading news stories on TV ever since.
  • 4,000,000 people marched in the streets of Paris to oppose the terrorism, and world leaders came to show solidarity.
  • From January 7-January 12, major US news stations mentioned Charlie Hebdo in 4,349 sentences.
  • The attack trended on Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds. The police officer that was killed in Paris has his own hashtag now #JeSuisAhmed – and there are many other hashtags supporting Paris on social media as well.

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In Nigeria:

  • January 3, 2015 is when it began.
  • It is estimated that about 2000 are dead, but it isn’t confirmed. Many are missing. Bodies are still being discovered.
  • 30,000 more people are said to have fled their homes.
  • Boko Haram is responsible (they are clearly Islamic extremists). You may be familiar with this group because the kidnapped 276 school girls last year (219 are still missing).
  • Why did they do this? It is for political reasons, mainly (although it is very complicated). Nigeria is basically a 50/50 Christian/Muslim country. The Muslims feel that Christians are favored (which is likely true). There is a long history here.
  • It was a front page story and leading news stories for a day (maybe two).
  • No one marched and no world leaders showed up to show solidarity.
  • From January 7-January 12, major US news stations mentioned Baga 131 times.
  • There aren’t any hashtags showing support of Nigeria.

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Obviously, there are many similarities. The biggest difference is that in one terrorist act, 12 are dead. In the other, about 2000. Here is my question: why do we continue to hear about Paris on a daily basis, and virtually nothing about Nigeria? I have a few possibilities, but I’m really not sure. I would love to know what you think.

POSSIBLE REASONS WHY PARIS IS A PRIORITY AND NOT NIGERIA:

  • Is it because we can relate to the culture of Paris, France much more than Nigeria? If so – that’s sad.
  • Is it because we could imagine the situation in Paris happening in our country, but what happened in Nigeria couldn’t happen here? If so – that seems selfish.
  • Is it because Paris is in Europe and not Africa? Is a European life more valued that an African life? I hope not.
  • Is it because there is much more press in Paris than Nigeria? If so – that’s too bad that no one gets there to more fully tell the story.
  • Is it because it is a regional group and not an international group? Maybe.
  • Is it because we have more faith in the French government than we do in the Nigerian government? Perhaps.
  • Is it because it is happening in black Africa and not northern “whiter” Africa or “white” Europe? I hope not, but am suspicious.

What am I missing? Why have we heard so much about Paris and almost nothing about Nigeria?

6 comments
  1. There are probably multiple reasons why the massacre is not so wide spread news. Our news trends to live off sensational events, plane crashes, cop shoots kid, terrorist attack, manhunt and capture said terrorists. Boko Haram has been at this a while, Nigeria has been in chaos for decades. Our news and we ourselves don’t know how to frame the events in Africa, yet terrorists kill people in Paris to “suppress free speech.” Giving support to France is easy slacktivism is all that is needed to show we are unified behind a common principle. Stopping Boko Haram can’t be done from a computer, no hashtag will bring those girls back, or rebuild the towns, or protect those in danger. It may be partly because of the scope, 12 people killed is easy to grasp, thousands dead and missing, towns completely destroyed is a scope that is hard to comprehend and part yourself on their shoes. But really there is no excuse for people to not be aware, if there is anything that should make people call for military intervention this is it. It is help that the Nigerian government denies the extent of the death and destruction. http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/nigeria-satellite-images-show-horrific-scale-of-boko-haram-attack-on-baga?utm_source=organic&utm_medium=homepage&utm_content=feature&utm_campaign=Crisis_Nigeria

  2. You hit it pretty much dead on with your last guess. It’s racism and ethnocentrism. There is absolutely no way what has happened in Nigeria would have gone ignored by Western media if there were white victims. I’m rather surprised the media hasn’t decided to feed into Islamophobia here and abroad by exploiting the fact Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group for ratings.

  3. I think accessibility to reporters (easy access to Paris but not with Baga) is definitely responsible for some of the disparity in reporting. I also think that what happened in Paris (in some ways) makes for a more shocking story because Europe is viewed as “civilized” and so the Paris attack seemed *so* out of place and unexpected, while (unfortunately) Africa is often viewed as a place where those kinds of atrocities happen (and so the initial shock factor on hearing of a massacre there isn’t as large).

    So in a twisted way, the Paris story is (or seems) more sensational. There is easy access to reporters & cameramen and lots of video to show (not the case with Baga), so covering the Paris story is the simplest and cheapest way for a news station to draw viewers. And, unfortunately, for big news stations the ratings matter – they may not be what motivates every choice on what to cover, but ratings are needed to keep the stations running. (But that doesn’t mean that the general public views Nigerians as less valuable than Parisians – I sincerely believe that isn’t the case for most people.)

    If I recall correctly, yesterday FOX, CNN, and the BBC news stations all *did* have updates on the Nigerian massacre on the front page of their websites. A quick glance (right now) at the website of the Washington Times shows visible coverage of the massacre, but I don’t see anything as obvious as I look at the main page of the New York Times website. What causes these kinds of differences in reporting is beyond me; but clearly worldview, politics, and laziness are all contributing factors in the equation.

    I find that staying up-to-date on current events requires a lot of strategic effort and analysis on the part of the reader these days. Show me a person who relies on just one source (paper, news channel, blog, etc.) for most or all of their information, and I’ll show you a person who is woefully under- or mis-informed.

  4. Perhaps attacks on Christians are less important than Media, Liberals, and Atheists? Also sad.

    What is it about Christians that is offensive – are we too condemning? Lacking in the fruits “against which there is no law”?

  5. I can’t say I really keep up with news or politics, but the little I have heard this week has been about Paris. I’m saddened that such terrible things happen in other countries and “we” seemingly do nothing about it. I hate to think that aid and media coverage is determined by the color of one’s skin. I was watching Hotel Rwanda recently (no, I never saw it before) and was in tears to see the horror that took place, I couldn’t even finish it. I wish I could do something about it! But I don’t even know where I would start…

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