On the 15th of November last year, some of you might just about remember that there were a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. The entire world turned to the city of love as Facebook teemed with French flags and tributes were held all over the world. Even Celine Dion paid her respects.
There is of course nothing wrong with this – it is fitting tribute for the 130 innocent lives lost. But why do tragedies on a similar if not greater scale elsewhere receive not even half the attention?
Not even two weeks ago, a car bomb exploded in Ankara, Turkey killing 37 people, with many more being injured. On Tuesday, three separate bombs were detonated in Brussels, with at least 31 people killed. Yet the flags for either of these countries are yet to swamp our news feeds.
A catastrophe of incomprehensible proportions is taking place in Syria with our help, and the same is true of Palestine and in many African countries. Yet we hear more about how much of a burden the refugees fleeing this chaos are than what it is they are running away from. According to David Cameron in fact, anyone trying to challenge this notion is a “terrorist sympathiser.”
The media’s selective focus might come as a surprise at first, but upon closer inspection the real reason why the spotlight is brighter on certain events becomes clear. The news many of us consider to be the objective truth is in fact becoming controlled by a progressively smaller collection of individuals, many of which have vested interests in promoting certain political narratives. That’s nothing new to many of us, but even still, the extent of which this is true might come as a surprise.
Over 50% of the UK press is owned by Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, whose newspaper repertoire includes The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Metro. To the more liberal among us, these newspapers are laughable. But unfortunately, the collective readership for these papers is upwards of 30 million – the scariest factor being that they are controlled by Conservative supporters who benefit significantly from their wealth protecting policies.
At the Leveson inquiry, Rupert Murdoch himself said that if someone wanted to know his opinion, they should just read the leader in The Sun. Lord Rothermere might not have uttered those words, but his approach is undoubtedly similar.
This means much of our society’s thoughts and feelings are orchestrated by the right wing agenda of two wealthy individuals. The ironic twist is that their interests clash with the majority of their working class readers, who unwittingly adopt their opinions as if they were their own, even when it is the same opinion that is allowing austerity measures to penalise them for problems they didn’t cause.
When learning all of this, the light is shed on a very specific reason why such a gargantuan response to Paris was conducted . The Tories were in favour of launching air strikes in Syria following the attacks, and to gain the support of the public, they needed the media’s help, or more accurately, Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere’s help. Our prayers for Paris were in fact coordinated to gain our support for the same kind of needless violence that motivated the Paris attacks in the first place. The media is so powerful that it has convinced many of us that this violent solution is for our protection, when the reality couldn’t be further away from that.
The reaction to the Paris attacks demonstrated our beautiful ability to pull together and show our support en masse in times of tragedy, yet it is sad how we were guided into doing so by those with more sinister intentions than merely garnering empathy for the lives lost.
What was once the free press – the greatest tool for democracy – is now nothing more than a tool being used to undermine it. It’s time to reject the narratives spoon fed to us and recognise the cycle we have become ensnared in – a cycle that convinces us that war is the solution and suffering is necessary. It never has and never will lead anywhere.
A better world is more than possible, it always has been. We need to lead by example when working on our own input and when dismissing the stories that have shackled the world in a state of disarray for so long. It’s time for real progress.