Millenials, It’s Time to Stop Policing Grief

Katherine Tyson

Millenials, It’s Time to Stop Policing Grief:

What’s with the social media shaming of terrorist attacks?

Before the dust had settled, body count finished, or wounded treated we had and other media outlets telling us that we were bad people for caring about the attacks in Belgium. The common trope of Western media only caring about Westerners was rolled out faster than after the Paris terror. In astonishing time Western media was writing about how Western media didn’t write about terror attacks in other parts of the world by writing about terror attacks in other parts of the world.

Is that a confusing sentence?

Well, it should be because it’s a twisted logic to feed our perpetual need with social media to a) show how much better informed we are, and thus better human beings, than others online; or b) have an excuse about why we are not informed about every single terror attack. These or New York Times articles become gold stars or shields for ourselves and we see them utilized on social media with increasing regularity.

Millennial’s are having trouble dealing with tragedies such as the Paris attacks, and social media is creating a climate of murky thinking and emotional guilt at perceived ignorance. We need to take a step back and question why, in the face of tragedy, we are utilizing moral equivalencies and policing each others responses. We need to move past this immature response and combat terror with self-assurance and responsibility.

The solution isn’t to blame western media for not covering terror attacks, because they are covering it ad nauseam. If you are not seeing this coverage it may reflect the fact that most of us are getting our news from our Facebook feeds – you may be operating in an echo chamber. Blaming Western media or posting an article that blames Western media for your ignorance is nothing more than removing your own accountability. Don’t blame one’s own lack of knowledge on the media’s reporting. Go and like BBC World News and you will be exposed to every major event taking place.

However, if you do take personal responsibility for your own knowledge, don’t then start policing others’ knowledge, ignorance, and emotions when terror attacks happen. Humans are allowed to mourn the dead that they see, express the terror that they feel, and articulate sympathies however they see fit. Coming in to police a tragedy is one of the most despicable things I have seen online, and people are doing it with self-righteous glee. Stop.  The attacks on Turkey, Iraq, or Syria are mourned but the shock is less because the frequency is different. The disputes are different. When you go around making false equivalencies to police one another’s emotions on social media you are showing your own ignorance of the differences of each terrorist attack.

Don’t presume to know what others know or feel, and don’t presume to have the authority to dictate what others should post about. There is a difference between conflict zones and non-conflict zones, and the media reflects this in the tones of its reporting. Frequency of attacks matter in how they are reported, and at the moment the Middle East and Africa is, and has, experienced more attacks day to day than Europe, America, or Asia. Syrians have been fleeing from their civil war-torn country for years – attacks happen every day. The average person knows about this tragedy, the average European sees the refugees pouring into Europe, but they may not post about it on Facebook every day because it’s a common story. Does that mean that it’s not a tragedy? Of course not! It’s an amplified tragedy beyond any measure, but there is a level of desensitization that happens. The shock disappears.

This desensitization has started to sink into reporting on Belgium, as it’s becoming expected after the Paris attacks that Belgium is hosting radicals. As the surprise of an attack falls the number of social media posts will fall to. The media will continue to cover it, as they have for the tragedy in Iraq regarding the stadium explosion, the attack in Beirut, the attack on a Russian airline carrier, the attacks in Kenya – whether the mall in Nairobi or University in Garissa. They will also cover attacks in Turkey whether Ankara or Istanbul. Yet, we can rattle off these attacks but what do we really know about them? In our 24/7 news cycle we like to quickly get information, and these articles telling us we don’t care about other parts of the world just makes us want to have even more of a superficial understanding of the situations that cause them so that no one can come around and call us ignorant.

Turkey and Belgium are not both ISIS attacks, and the Turkish attacks come from years of oppressing the Kurds and stem from a place of years of tensions. The reasons, people, and causes of the attack are different. Yet, you have people posting as if they are equivalent – as if terror is all that matters. We wash away complexity in order to appear caring and informed to ourselves and others. Instead of feeling pressure to quickly synthesize all these distinct events we should allow ourselves to look at each one individually. We should reject false equivalencies between situations and truly appreciate what, when, how, and why each terror attack occurs. At the moment we have people focusing solely on the where.

The attacks on Brussels and Paris were caused by a group of people attacking liberal-secularists, and these ISIS recruits are killing liberal-secularists inside their boarders as they attack Europe. Europe has the values and laws that ISIS is at war with, and it’s time that we recognize that this conflict is not about the where but about secularism versus extremism. It’s time that we stop policing each other about where, and instead ask what, when, how and why. These questions will limit the moral equivalencies and create clearer thinking and analysis on these complex issues. Shed your twisted guilt regarding your knowledge about terrorists’ attacks. There is no gold star that you get for knowing every single terrible thing that happens in the world, and you don’t become a better person because you know every attack that takes place. In all honesty unless you study politics or international relations you shouldn’t have to think about terrible things that happen every single day all over the world, and you shouldn’t have to live your life filled with fear and sadness.

If you do then the terrorists who are perpetrating these horrendous acts win. Instead of focusing on the frequency focus on the reasons why these things are happening and take pride in our liberal-secular values that are being attacked.