Did you know that last week in France there was yet another Islamic State inspired terrorist attack? In this attack, two fundamentalists stormed a church, murdered an 85 year old priest and took 6 people hostage.
Whilst this attack did generate significant media attention it by no means garnered the sweeping media attention generated by previous French terror attacks such as the Charlie Hebdo shootings or the Paris attacks in November last year. What we’re seeing here is a slow trend towards terror attacks in France becoming a norm and subsequently we are starting to care about it less. By a year or two it’s possible that terror attacks in France may become so frequent that we begin to disregard them the same way we do with terror attacks in the Middle East.
After the terrorist attacks in France in November last year, social media was swept with outcry, emotion and support. The rise of #pray4paris and the use French Flag Facebook filters took the internet by storm. This highlighted how the internet viewed the attacks in Paris were a very big deal. The outcry and emotional support for the victims of these attacks spawned a counter discourse from those who criticised that attacks in the Middle East occur like this almost on a monthly basis and that those attacks never garner the same media attention. The discourse highlighted racism as being a key motivator in why we are more likely to care about those attacks in France where white people were being killed than we were to care about attacks on non-whites. The counter movement that emerged from #pray4paris rallied behind the attack on Beirut that occurred the night before the Paris attack.
The #pray4paris counter movement was objectively correct in stating that Beirut and other such attacks do not generate nearly as much media attention as attacks in western states. However, to assume that the reason for this is purely racial is relatively short-sighted. One of the key factors that determines the effectiveness of news is the way stories wrap themselves around the concept of the unusual. The more out-of-ordinary a story is, the more likely it is to generate media attention. If we’re to examine both the Paris and Charlie Hebdo attacks of 2015 we can understand that terrorist attacks on countries like France are radically out of the ordinary. In comparison, if we were to look at Beirut, there is a far higher frequency of terror attacks in the city’s geographic context.
Let objectively look at the world before both the Paris and Beirut attacks. Imagine asking a random member of the public whether or not an attack on Beirut was more unusual than an attack on Paris. It’s likely that most people believe Paris to be more unusual. This is what defines the news industry’s response to both the Beirut and Paris attacks.
Now lets make this about gun control
Not really though.
Did you know that between the Sandy Hook massacre and the Pulse Nightclub attack there were approximately 1069 mass shootings in the USA? With that many shootings it’s unlikely that the average person could name even 1% of the shootings. This is because a mass shooting in the US has unfortunately become ordinary and subsequently we have to wait for a shooting to become so terrible that it become out of the ordinary; that’s where you have Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernadino etc.
We’re reaching a point that terror attacks in France are occurring in such rapid frequency that we are losing interest as it’s stopped being unusual. Just like mass shootings in USA it’s only the extraordinarily dramatic events that will garner massive amounts of media attention. Look at the attacks in Nice last week for example, whilst still generating international news coverage, outlets have largely stopped covering the Nice attacks already. Compare this to Paris and how the social media outcry went on for weeks if not months (I think have a few friends with who are still running a French flag filter on Facebook).
The grim reality of why both the Nice attack and the murder of Father Jacques Hamel have generated considerably less media attention than previous attacks in France is because terrorism in France has started to become ordinary.
At this rate, it’s possible that an attack in Paris will become just as insignificant to the media as an attack in Beirut.