How do we decide which tragedies, conflicts, and atrocities make headline news?
Thirty-seven Australians were among the 298 killed last week when a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine. My Facebook feed has been filled with messages of empathy and sorrow. It is undoubtedly a tragedy.
But did I see messages of sorrow when almost 300 girls, mostly between the ages of 15 and 18, were abducted by a militant Islamist group in Nigeria in April this year? Did I see any messages for the 44 children killed in the first 10 days of the latest Palestinian-Israeli flare-up?
No. But I should have, given those stories are just as tragic. So why don’t these stories receive the same amount of attention from my friends and their friends on our Facebook feeds?
One theory suggests it’s because those stories do not feature Australians. But is this really a good enough reason for them not to receive as much attention? Don’t those people deserve our thoughts or prayers?
Take the images of the Gaza Strip. Horrific pictures show babies in the line of fire and children watching a mother die in their arms. But the lack of attention to those images suggests Australia, or at least my newsfeed, hasn’t registered their plight – presumably because there is no Australian factor. But does that mean we should care less?
For every Aussie that died in the plane crash overnight, four Sri Lankans seeking sanctuary attempted to reach Australia last month. Although their attempt is illegal, many Australians choose to ignore that they risk their lives because they can’t stay in their home country.
These people have fled a place where they cannot speak out against the government and where Tamils, the minority community in Sri Lanka, are openly discriminated against. So why don’t we hear more about their circumstances in our news broadcasts? Once again … because they have nothing to do with Australia.
If anything, their action may induce racist remarks from some Australians about boat people. Very few people care.
It seems the only time we hear of those people is when we’re turning them away from our shores.
In nearby India, unimaginable things are done to young women every day. Recently two young sisters were gang-raped and murdered before their bodies were hung from a tree in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. Were images of that gruesome scene posted all over Facebook in grief? No.
Just because these events don’t have an immediate impact on Australians does not mean the issues don’t deserve our attention.
What happened to the Malaysia Airlines flight is a tragedy and has international repercussions but that doesn’t mean we should forget about other appalling things going on in the world. – Alana Scott (former social media editor)
Top photo from marsmetn tallahassee’s Flickr photostream.