The New York Times used a tweet from some dude in Canada to make the dubious argument Wednesday that Westerners didn’t show a lot of support after the Baghdad bombing because of Islamophobia and racism.
Anne Barnard’s argument in TheNYT story, based almost entirely on anecdotal evidence, goes something like this: After devastating terror attacks in three Muslim-majority cities last week, Westerners were not overlaying their profiles with Iraqi flags or tweeting en masse the hashtag “PrayforTurkey,” as they did when Paris, Brussels and Orlando were attacked. The collective “shrug,” the Times infers, suggests people in the West are racist and don’t view people in Muslim-majority countries as fully human.
The most amazing plank in Barnard’s argument is this tweet from Kareem Rahaman:
“More deaths in Iraq in the last week than Paris and Orlando combined but nobody is changing their profile pics, building colours, etc,” he tweeted.
Rahaman’s tweet and the subject of Barnard’s story are common threads in media. Barnard similarly joined others in criticizing the West for allegedly not caring about bombings in Beirut that killed more than 40 people just a day before the Paris attacks, although the story was covered extensively in the West, including on the front page of TheNYT.
On its face, it’s striking that Rahaman and Barnard are picking apart Facebook profile photos and hashtags when Islamic State is slaughtering people across the globe. Seventy million people may not have tweeted “PrayforIraq,” but a tweet from an upset Iraqi woman along with an unscientific perusal of Facebook is hardly comprehensive evidence an entire society is uncaring, racist bigots.
Bombs in Baghdad, an active war zone, have been normal for more than a decade and bear no real impact on the average American. Bombings in Turkey, where both ISIS and Kurdish terrorists are operating, also aren’t that surprising. Bangladesh is on the other side of the world.
These three attacks happened in quick succession with unusually high death tolls, and are relevant to the West insofar as they represent wins for ISIS — a common enemy.
On the other hand, the Paris and Brussels bombings were shocking because they’re unusual, and represented a startling defeat for the West — where Westerners live. So Westerners would understandably be more upset than when a bomb went off in Baghdad.
Regardless, news of these attacks, Western-based, Middle Eastern, or otherwise, all appeared prominently headlined in the biggest Western media outlets, and likely in the Facebook feeds of most Americans.
Barnard acknowledges locality as a factor in passing, but warns that if the West doesn’t demonstrate the right level of support for victims of every terror attack, ISIS somehow wins.
“One of the primary goals of the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups is to drive a wedge between Sunni Muslims and the wider world, to fuel alienation as a recruiting tool,” she writes. “And when that world appears to show less empathy for the victims of attacks in Muslim nations, who have borne the brunt of the Islamic State’s massacres and predatory rule, it seems to prove their point.”
Incidentally, Barnard offers no measurable metric for Westerners’ empathy.
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