Paris is still the center of the world
Out of the gate: in November, 2015, Agenda-setting is still regarded as a relevant theory to explain how news media can influence public attention and perception. In short, if you haven’t noticed, news media do not reflect reality – they actively filter, sort and shape it. Another primer: most major global media corporations ( Facebook, Google, Apple, Viacom, Bertelsmann, NewsCorp, Time Warner, Disney, CBS and NBC ) are Western companies. That means they were founded by and employ large numbers of Anglo-Saxon, white, and/or of European descent people. They are also a highly networked, commonly-owned and concentrated bunch.
These two facts alone should be enough to answer most of the critiques that are immediately voiced by progressive leftist liberals every time a bomb goes off or a terrorist attack takes place in “the West”, and totally sucks the air out of the global politics discussion room. Apparently they’re not. Soon after Paris, out came a flood of indignado comments, outraged by the imbalance in the reporting of terrorist attacks worldwide, screaming for some attention juice from the mainstream media.
Why so surprised? It should be fairly obvious by now why Beirut or Nairobi are not as attention-worthy as the Stade de France or the 11th arrondissement in the post-terrorism global media universe. It should be even more obvious that the networked communication and expressive power of Westerners is still far more developed and powerful than that of any other group, despite the exponential growth in smartphone adoption.
We’re still waiting for the next billion to come online and be able to produce and share their own media messages, their own memes, at a scale that can influence the mainstream imagery and conversation. Why so outraged? It should be expected that when something like the #parisattacks happens, Facebook will launch a safety check feature, instead of doing it when Israel bombs the hell out of Gaza. Don’t you know Facebook is a publicly-traded company with a whole lot of probably white, probably not-so-progressive investors? Why so paternalistic? Do you really think the black, brown and yellow peoples of the world expect anything different from the global media networks? Shouldn’t they expect something different from you?
Paris is different, like Madrid is, and New York, London and Berlin, and Brussels. Tokyo and Tel Aviv are also very different from Beirut, Nairobi, Gaza, Timbuktu, Juarez, Damascus, Goma or Lagos.
The first group of cities represents the nexus of something so large, so ancient and powerful that for all the talk and fact about the rise of China and of the rest, the world is still run by its old and internal clocks.
The 1%, anyone? The internet?
The second group of cities now represents something even bigger, most turbulent, run by a different set of timezones, warlords, cartels and fractured politics. It makes its entrance into global mainstream culture through the easy and ugly spectacle of urban violence.
People who are shocked or surprised by the differences in the world’s reaction when white people are bombed
need to step away from Facebook for a minute and look around. We are, all of us, dealing with an unprecedented shift in world affairs that will devour what’s left of our common sense of sanity if there’s no collective response.
Syria has been burning for more than four years now. Whether the deadly ramifications of the conflict turn up in the so-called Global South or in the heart of The West, our first instinct must be to condemn and repudiate those who only worship death. Drones, arms deals, black ops, back-room diplomacy, politics as usual, terrorism: no surprises there. Grown-ups should know the score. The question is what do we do, before and after the media momentum, to keep our daily lives ready for the future we have wrought.
Europe was chosen, not at random, by millions of people fleeing the horror of war and poverty. This, too, should not come as a surprise. Neither should the logical consequence that it is here and now that the struggle for justice and peace must happen at its fiercest.
For those who left, those who stayed, those arriving: Paris remains a light, dead center.