What about Beirut? Is there a double standard in Western media?
The terrorist attacks in Paris have incited global support. But that has left some Lebanese, who suffered their own terror attack last week, asking: What about us?
The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night happened one day after similar terrorist attacks in Beirut, prompting some to see a double standard in the media's coverage of the two events.
Forty-three people died and dozens were injured in the Beirut attack on Thursday. In Paris, at least 129 people died and more than 350 were injured.
Lebanon's capital is no stranger to terror. While Thursday’s twin bomb blasts were the deadliest in Beirut since 1990, the country has long been a terror target, with 14 bombings between July 2013 and June 2014 that killed almost 100.
But the Lebanese may have reason to feel slighted. #PrayforParis was mentioned about 6.6 million times on Twitter, compared to 273,000 mentions of #Beirut and #PrayforBeirut combined. Facebook activated Safety Check after a terrorist attack for the first time after the Paris attacks, with no similar feature activated the day before for Beirut, The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Lebanese critics complained that the West values Arab lives less than European lives, and that their country is depicted as a place where such violence is the norm.
“When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag,” Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor, wrote on his blog A Separate State of Mind. “When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”
However, the Lebanese argue that their country’s history with terrorism is even more of a reason to highlight the Beirut attacks in the media.
“Imagine if what happened in Paris last night would happen there on a daily basis for five years,” Nour Kabbach, who fled the bombing of her home in Syria and now works as a humanitarian aid in Beirut, wrote on Facebook. “Now imagine all that happening without global sympathy for innocent lost lives, with no special media updates by the minute, and without the support of every world leader condemning the violence.”
And when terrorist attacks in their country do happen to be reported by the international media, Lebanese feel that there is serious prejudice by reporters – especially in the headlines.
While The New York Times’ sympathetic headline after the Paris attacks read ‘Paris attacks kill more than 100, border controls tightened,’ articles covering Thursday’s bombing, as well as pieces between 2013 and 2014, use the term “Hezbollah stronghold” to describe deadly attacks on innocent civilians in crowded neighborhoods.
“That is hard to dispute in the political sense – Hezbollah controls security in the neighborhood and is highly popular there,” explains the New York Times’s Anne Barnard. “But the phrase also risks portraying a busy, civilian, residential and commercial district as a justifiable military target.”
Amid angry tweets and posts on social media, the Times changed their headline three times.
The changes weren't enough for Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian foreign policy analyst, who took to Twitter: