nigeria-baga-attack

There are sounds in Nigeria this morning. Cries of anguish, pained family members who have experienced on two separate occasions in a matter of weeks, the distraught of losing family members due to senseless tragedy. About 1,000 miles past Africa’s most populous city, millions gathered on the street Sunday to openly protest for the idea of freedom of speech, regardless of what that speech may entail. Two separate terrorist attacks in Paris, one at satire magazine Charlie Hebdo where 12 staff members were killed and a hostage situation at a nearby market claimed the lives of 17 people, prompting worldwide cries of sorrow and uplift. Hashtag activism roared through the plains of social media, prompting response from media members who condemned the while almost shuffling the bombing in Nigeria to a small blip in the news cycle.

In journalism school, you’re taught that the bigger the number, the more eyes and attention are said to be delivered. 2,000 bodies treated like scorched earth by terror cell Boko Haram has gotten small coverage here and there, online mentions from CNN but that’s it. The only national focus it was given was by Oprah Winfrey during last night’s telecast of the Golden Globes. The silence in regards to Boko Haram in the face of Muslim extremist who felt they needed to react to violence to show their displeasure for Charlie Hebdo shows a high need by the media for there to be only a single face of terror, when it comes in many shapes in colors.

Last week, Boko Haram militants laid siege upon the city of Baga, a town that had fought the terror group long and hard until it was too late. Fires were set to buildings, innocents were slaughtered. Many fled into Lake Chad and attempted to swim to an island nearby, many of them drowning. The death toll is estimated to have hit over 2,000 with 20,000 more from the area displaced. By newspaper rule of thumb, 2,000 deaths would merit front page headlines, a ghastly reminder of the terror Boko Haram has issued out in the past year or so. Following the kidnapping of many schoolgirls, selling them into the sex trade and slavery, the terror group has owned headlines in Nigeria for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign waged by those wanting U.S. military action.

A copy of last Saturday’s New York Times placed the slaughter of 2,000 and a suicide bombing in which a girl detonated explosives on her chest, killing 17 people on sections A6 and A8 respectively. The reason these items were shuttered so quickly, so fast is a trying one to explain as the argument for such may be explained in how even the media resorts to sticking up for themselves over others.

Attempting to cover ground in parts of barren Nigeria, much of which is territory that Boko Haram occupies is troublesome. Paris is one of the world’s most populated cities, an open area for journalists even though certain world leaders who marched in a staged photo yesterday are some of the strongest who oppose free speech. It can’t be that the Western news doesn’t care about Nigerian bodies due to the overwhelming coverage of #BringBackOurGirls and even the KONY campaign which led hundreds of millions to watching Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. There’s no indifference to black bodies dying, no sense of absolute apathy.

Only when one of their own dying takes up more urgency.

Attacks on a magazine are rare. Violence in Nigeria, especially from a group like Boko Haram isn’t. The standing idea of Paris & France in general being free and stable in comparison to Nigeria permits but even that truly cannot be the case. In his own article for this site in regards to Charlie Hebdo, Jonathan Scroggins wrote, “There is no moral ground high enough to defend the lows that Charlie Hebdo were willing to sink to with its visceral and virulent racist comics. They were far from MAD Magazine and had more in common with the racist sexist propaganda of the Ku Klux Klan than they did with Aaron McGruder.”

Yet, they’re still members of the media. A dysfunctional one that raises capes and armor to defend even the most outlandish and offensive of us. There’s not much more that can be said about Charlie. The names of those innocent may be washed away over time but what Charlie represented in the name of satire and humor won’t. Not to the Muslim extremists who took senseless violence into their hands, not to those who painted Boko Harm sex slaves as “welfare queens”. What is Charlie going to do this week? Revert back to “business as usual” with more cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Their strength is nuanced in ignorance, regardless of France’s large Muslim population who aren’t laughing with them. Free speech yielded a consequence sadly for those who died last week.

It also yielded a bit of consequence for those forgotten bodies in Nigeria as well.

One Response

  1. Walter

    There are perils involved in the international stage viewing Boko Haram as a local problem. All too often, conflicts have been assumed to be localized, just left alone until they reach a pitch where they show their international significance. The danger is that they don’t see the links, they don’t see people moving back and forth.
    It’s sad, unfair really that the horror we face here has been relegated to the background, but what do we expect when even our president released a statement condemning the Charlie Hebdo attack, but said nothing about the Baga killings…

    Reply

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