Early this morning while in the midst of scouring the Internet about the disparity in media coverage between the attacks in Kenya, Lebanon, and France, I saw nothing about the most recent violence that took shape in Yola, a city in Northeastern Nigeria. Literally nothing.
Yesterday night, over thirty people were killed and almost three times that injured in the Jimeta area of the city. At the time of the bombing, vegetable traders were just packing up for the day; locals were finishing dinner at a restaurant, and others were leaving a mosque after evening prayers. Nobody has yet assumed responsibility for the attack, though Boko Haram, a Nigerian-born Islamic terrorist group, is the likely assailant.
So how did I learn of this shadowed atrocity? I only found out through the post of a Facebook friend who requested Facebook implement a Nigerian solidarity flag. A week after the ISIS attacks in Paris, the French flag still paints the majority of my Facebook friends’ profile pictures in blue, white, and red. Only a few others have switched their flags to show support of Lebanon. But by few, I mean that in the most accurate sense of the word: maybe I’ve seen three.
After stumbling upon the news of Nigeria’s recent terrorist incident, I naturally had to check on what was trending on Facebook. Last Friday, after I learned about what happened in Paris, “Paris attacks” was the top trending topic in everyone’s Facebook feed. It remained so through the end of the weekend. I never heard of what happened in Beirut, Lebanon until the Saturday after the attacks in Paris.
Today, the top three Facebook trending topics are the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe; Zoolander 2; and chef Guy Fieri (whom I have never heard of). I decided to give Facebook benefit of the doubt and kept scrolling all the way to the bottom of the list. I saw a bit about Charlie Sheen and his HIV positive announcement (cry me a river), Resident Evil…oh!…there were two references to Paris through Charlie Hebdo and the band Eagle of Death who performed the night of the attacks. But nothing about yesterday’s bombings in Nigeria.
Now let’s get one thing clear. I do not discredit the sheer horror of what happened in Paris, France on November 13. After reading the news of the incident, I immediately fell into a depression. What was the world coming to? I thought. Why this senseless violence? But not once did I think Wow, just yesterday the Lebanese people were victim to this. When I mailed a birthday card that night to my sponsored child in Kenya, I did not think, Oh my gosh, I wonder if she knew anyone from Geirissa University. To think over 140 died there. Just awful.
These thoughts did not cross my mind not because I did not care, but because I did not have knowledge of the Kenya attacks or the previous night’s violence in Beirut. Do I completely blame the media for my lack of awareness? Absolutely not. I take partial responsibility. I should make a point to read about national and foreign affairs on a daily basis. However, at the same time, the responsibility of a journalist is to inform the public about issues that are often swept under the rug.
Most people also do not know that Boko Haram has killed scores more over the years than ISIS, making it the deadliest terrorist organization in the world.
Perhaps the lesson to take away from all this is to be vigilant in self-education. Going forward, I will do more sleuthing on the Internet about foreign affairs. But will others exercise this same level of exploratory discipline? Unfortunately most are not that self-reliant or socially responsible. So I can only hope that U.S. based reporters will step up to the plate and dig a little deeper beyond what they think people should know to what people need to know. Hopefully then people will begin to extend their sympathies beyond the Western world.