The days since the attacks in Paris and Beirut have followed a predictable Scold Cycle:
- Massive coverage by Western news sources of the attacks in Paris.
- Outpouring of sympathy for Paris with associated profile-photo-changing, Marseillaise-singing, and awkward-French-speaking.
- Outpouring of hypocrisy-pointing-out with calls to acknowledge the recent attacks in Beirut.
Rinse repeat. Although I guess this blog may be the next round in the cycle: the criticism-of-hypocrisy-pointing-out. But ever since Republicans decided to launch a media campaign denouncing the way grieving liberals spoke at Paul Wellstone’s funeral — one of the most craven political acts in a sea of cravenness — I’ve decided that people get to say pretty much whatever they want when they are grieving. Perhaps all the Tricolour profile photos belong to people who have traveled to France, or have loved ones there. Or maybe it is because they identify with white Europeans more than brown Lebanese. I don’t know. Let them process their shock and grief for a bit before telling them that it’s racist or colonialist.
Corollary: this is not the time to point out that France has done all sorts of First World colonial bad shit. Yes. True. This is not the time. Like that time you attended the funeral of a guy who had done both good stuff and bad stuff in his life. The funeral, right then, was not the time to point out the bad stuff.
Obviously, the media are in a different situation. They need to be more evenhanded in the way they cover violence. Yet the American media still cover the rest of the world according to Spy Magazine’s “Death News Equation:” a calculation that involves the number killed or injured, the “sensitivity . . . of Times editors to the episode,” and the proximity of the incident to Times Square. And by “sensitivity,” I think they meant “resemblance of the victims to actual Times editors.” That equation still holds up, though I’ve always thought — based on my experience living in Taiwan — that it was a fairly universal phenomenon. The day Benigno Aquino was assassinated, the banner headline in the main Taiwanese newspaper read, “China Airlines service to Philippines suspended” with a smaller headline and article below explaining that Mr. Aquino had been shot on the tarmac after disembarking from a China Airlines plane. We’re all about ourselves, wherever we are.