Lessons from the #prayforparis Campaign

On 9th October the American TV show Scandal released an episode named a somewhat prophetic title “Paris is burning.” One of the ironies of this episode was the headline sensational news piece; the fictional President Grant’s affair with Olivia Pope exposed as the episode quirkily pointed out that the competing news piece of the “burning Louvre” barely got attention.

SCANDAL -“Scandal,” THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/DANNY FELD) KERRY WASHINGTON

Approximately one month later on November 13th real newspapers were headlining slogans for the Paris Attacks. However, even more than the newspapers it was social media which was set ablaze: Instagram sharing an iconic picture of the event, Twitter with the #prayforparis tweet and Facebook with their French Flag Profile Picture Filter. Quite obviously this led to a wide array of reactions. Somewhere in despair over the event and others in outrage over the double standards of media’s portrayal of world events.

A handout photo provided on November 14, 2015 by Jean Jullien Studio Ltd shows the “#PeaceForParis” logo. At least 128 people were killed in gun and bomb attacks in the French capital on November 13, in what French President Francois Hollande called “an act of war.

However, what many failed to consider where the real implications of the Paris Attack media frenzy and what this means in the long run. Hence this blog post, two weeks after the terrorist event is aimed at shedding a little light on what we learnt from the November Paris Attacks and media reaction:

1) Social issues need to be trending to be “in”.
How could we possibly keep track of all these social issues occurring around the globe today? The bittersweet truth is we cannot possibly keep track of all these news coverage because our brains cannot process all the information that media has to offer us. Unfortunately, this has led to a rather selective “cherry picking” news culture, namely when the majority of social media’s compassion is drawn to the news events trending this week.

images.jpgNaturally, the last two weeks was the #peaceforparis campaign. But do you know what was trending the week before that? It was the Starbucks Red Cup Controversy. (where apparently not writing Merry Christmas on the Starbuck cups is an “affront to Christianity”). Do you know what was trending the week before that? It was the #shoutoutyourabortion controversy (where women told their abortion stories via twitter). Yet, what do all of these slogans have in common? They are topical news coverage pieces with hardliners on both sides of the argument guaranteed to cause a frenzy and thereby a “tend”. Even the #peaceforparis tweet previously had a competing tweet later blocked by twitter- #parisisburning used by the ISIS supporters to create a bigger frenzy.These stories blow up in gigantic proportions because of hyperbole used.  Furthermore,politicians (especially in the case of Paris attacks) have used spin tactics to garner public outrage. But in all fairness,what do we expect? They have a job to do; that is to fuel public interest and protect their national interests. Its quite a sensible deduction that only when ally country France was aattacked it would ensure the knee jerk response of other powerful NATO countries to expand their policies in the Middle East

For instance not only has Uk pledged today to spend £115 million in additional emergency funding in response to the migration crisis in Syria but also initiate airstrikes .  Some may say this is politics at play; but a reality we have to appreciate is that it is a response partially fueled by public fear and  a need to reassure the public they are safe.This public fear may have partially been created by an international cherry picking news culture but moreover by their own simplistic understanding of events. Terrible that the many unenlightened can pressure the few. But hey, that is democracy.

Téa Leoni stras as Elizabeth McCord in the new CBS drama “Madam Secretary,” premiering Sunday, September 21 at 8:00 PM ET/PT. A great example of a show where the interests of the world have to be balanced with interests of the nation leading to tough compromises.











2) “The I know more game”
Many cynics or as they would consider more “worldly” people have been outraged at the fact that people haven’t blogged posts regarding the attack on Beirut a few days prior to Parris attacks or haven’t retweeted #prayforSyria on their Twitter accounts. They have a fair point. The double standards presented even by President Obama do seem quite unfair. But this whole line of arguing is quite redundant because it is based on the premises that only if you post it on social media then you “care”. What people should realize is that how “aware” of the news and world affairs is not based on how many post feeds a person updates regarding said events. Instead of criticizing people for being drawn into the “cherry picking news culture” we should be finding ways to make ourselves more aware of the international (and even national) affairs around us before making public statements to demonstrate how much we know or how others are oblivious to events around them.

More importantly, as individuals of society a greater value comes not from playing the “I know more about the world than you game” but for actually trying to come up with solutions, ideas actions which could be taken in order to make the problems better. Of course one of these solutions is educating others. Educating… not belittling them for their own insights.

3) Few of us really watch “the news
It is a truth that one of the main issues of today’s generation lays in the fact many people only find a motivation to care when the social issue is trending or if their newsfeed on Facebook Is littered by the same news story.

4) But..We think we know the news
Many people would disagree with the above statement and claim they watch the news cycle, they read Google alerts they read the headlines of newspapers. But is this really news… or another form of cherry picking information and serving it up on a platter? Many people are so used to getting their source of information from CNN or BBC because we have been trained to think they are reliable sources. The fact of the matter is that real news is garnering information from several different places rather than putting “all our fingers into one pie”. And in a day and age of top Google search results, there are only a certain degree of individuals who can say they can do this.


So in the end, of course we must challenge the information we hear- but only after we are consistent on our end(not just sharing a witty comeback post or reiterating secondhand information from our peers around us!)