Article By Carlos Po
The Charlie Hebdo massacre left the world up in arms. Millions of French citizens gathered in solidarity days after the shooting. The Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (“I am Charlie” in French) was used internationally to support the magazine’s endeavour. The first issue of the magazine published a week after the shooting printed 3 million copies. When terrorism leaves 12 dead in France, the world listens.
More than 2000 miles away, in Nigeria however, the terrorist group Boko Haram (“Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language) was committing atrocities far more deserving of the label “massacre”. The group committed what was called the deadliest act in the 5 years of its existence: the slaughter of an estimated 2,000 Nigerians to secure a strategically important town. Local defense forces even gave up counting corpses left in their wake. Entire villages were left silent and empty save for victim’s corpses. Last May, Boko Haram kidnapped over
200 schoolgirls from a Nigerian village, whose fates remain unknown. So why has the group’s actions been underreported by Western news organisations?
The front page of CNN.com features an eclectic mix of headlines and stories: the flight recorder of a crashed airliner shows no signs of terrorism; a police officer dances to a pop song and it goes viral; a defector tells horror stories of North Korean prison camps; and a war movie raises criticisms. But surprisingly little about the slaughter of thousands. So no stories, no hashtags of solidarity- it is almost like 2000 lives were never lost or never existed to begin with.
Imagine that the situation was reversed, and 2000 were slain by Islamic extremists in France, while 12 died in an act of terrorism against free speech in Nigeria. The French government would go into overdrive, calling for assistance from countries all over the world to stop the next act of mass slaughter before it happens. A portion of said countries would probably implement their own security measures to prevent similar accidents. A national holiday would be declared in honor of the victims, monuments would be built, Oscar-bait movies would be made, and the event would go down in history on the same level as events like 9/11.
Meanwhile, 12 are killed in Nigeria at the office of a satirical magazine. The underdeveloped country has had a rough upbringing, from civil wars to slavery to genocides. The killing of 12 by a terrorist group might make the front page of local and national newspapers, but chances are it would be entirely absent from Western publications.
The painful truth is that in a world where economic status is everything, French cries are louder than Nigerian ones. Not only do security measures make acts of terrorism much rarer in France than politically unstable Nigeria, France has much greater economic strength and military power, and therefore greater presence in the media. So before helping those who are more than capable of helping themselves, take a moment listen for the cries that you would not normally hear. The cries in the dark for help.