Americans lack public outcry in international tragedy

Photo courtesy Newsweek

Jessica Wade

Three hundred people in Mogadishu, Somalia are dead and hundreds more injured after the country’s deadliest bombing in years. Few people may be aware that the attack even took place. There was little international news coverage, Facebook users didn’t change their profile pictures to show support for the victims and there were no candlelit vigils.

According to officials in Somalia, the man allegedly responsible for one of the deadliest bombings in recent years was a former soldier whose hometown was raided by U.S. Army Special Forces two months ago. Investigators believe the attack was an act of retaliation after a joint U.S.-Somali operation in August led to the deaths of 10 civilians, including three children.

The attack played out in two highly-populated areas located in the center of the city on Oct. 14. Police said a truck bomb detonated just outside the Safari Hotel, an area surrounded by government offices, restaurants and kiosks. Two hours later, another blast hit the Medina district.

Comparing human tragedy is an unfortunate way to make a point, but the reality is that the 300 lives lost in Somalia received much less international outcry compared to the 59 American lives lost during the Las Vegas shooting spree.

Khaled Beydoun, an associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law expressed his frustration over the mainstream media’s lack of coverage.

“Listen, the number of people killed in Somalia yesterday (Saturday) was more than 10x more (230+) than the number killed in the terror attack in Manchester in May (22) 230 to 22,” Beydoun wrote.

“Yet, there are no slogans claiming ‘We Are Mogadishu’ and no catchy images floating around social media demonstrating solidarity. Most shamefully, there is little mainstream media attention documenting the ungodly death and devastation in Somalia’s capital and certainly no television specials or emergency fundraisers providing aid. None and none and none,” he added.

Beydoun’s tweet leads to an interesting question—Why don’t Americans and other Western nations experience the same public outcry to human tragedy that is so often shown to fellow first-world nations?

Google may have found a way to answer that question, or at least the question of countries in which Americans have the most interest.

Google Trends is a newly developed tool that takes in the billions of daily Google searches and spits out global patterns in public search interest. Google Trends showed that very few Americans went in search of information regarding Africa or central Asia. However, the Google searchers of the United States showed a lot of interest in Western and Central Europe and showed little interested at all in Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic nations. Mexico was the most popular search.

Perhaps most Americans feel a disconnect between themselves and the tragedy some 8,000 miles away. It’s easy to ignore human suffering when it’s not close in proximity, when it doesn’t have a direct impact. Maybe Western media puts a filter on the information coming in from the outside world and maybe U.S. citizens let that happen.

Sharing a hashtag or changing a profile picture isn’t going to stop bad things from happening, but acknowledging the existence of such wide-spread suffering is the first step to ending it.