WASHINGTON — The Paris terrorist attacks that killed at least 129 people and injured hundreds more dominated news coverage in Western media as well as the social media world.
But Beirut, nicknamed the “Paris of the Middle East,” didn’t receive nearly as much attention the previous day when more than 40 people were killed and hundreds were injured in twin bombings in the Burj el-Barajneh area, located off a main highway leading to Beirut’s airport, for which the Islamic State also took credit.
This was also the case in Baghdad on Friday, the same day as the Paris attacks, when 26 people died in a roadside bombing and a suicide bombing carried out by ISIS, another name for the Islamic State.
“I think Western media are naturally inclined to cover events in the West more than events outside the West,” said J.M. Berger, a fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the new book, “ISIS: The State of Terror.”
“The Paris attack was obviously more deadly, and more unusual than the attack in Beirut, but in my opinion, the Beirut bombing deserves more attention than it has received,” he said. “That said, many Western news outlets have been covering it.”
As a Vox.com article by Max Fisher noted, “The New York Times covered it. The Washington Post, in addition to running an Associated Press story on it, sent reporter Hugh Naylor to cover the blasts and then write a lengthy piece on their aftermath. The Economist had a thoughtful piece reflecting on the attack’s significance. CNN, which rightly or wrongly has a reputation for least-common-denominator news judgment, aired one segment after another on the Beirut bombings. Even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid most known for its gossipy royals coverage, was on the story.”
However, the widespread coverage of Beirut was delayed. It wasn’t until bloggers and independent social media users started noting that Beirut wasn’t getting enough attention that news media increased their coverage.
The series of attacks in Paris at a soccer stadium, concert venue, restaurants and a bar, although not independently confirmed, have been claimed by the Islamic State, just like the attacks in Baghdad and Beirut.
Berger noted that Friday’s carnage in Paris “ is the first such attack of this type and scale we’ve seen in Europe since the Madrid bombings in 2004, and of course, the first such attack from ISIS,” which did argue for major media attention.
Earlier this year, al Shabab, an al-Qaida offshoot based in Somalia, staged an attack at Garissa University in Kenya, killing 147, but the social media reaction was not nearly as widespread.
Profile pictures on Facebook were not widely stained in the colors of Kenya’s flag as they have been for France.
Many took to Twitter when House Speaker Paul Ryan had the Capitol flag flown at half-staff “out of respect and solidarity … in honor of the victims of the Paris attacks” to ask why the Baghdad and Beirut victims were not being recognized as well.
However Monday, the UN Security Council did observe a minute of silence in tribute to all terrorism victims.
The most popular trends on Facebook in regard to Paris in addition to the tri color photo stain of the French flag, are the Eiffel tower peace sign and statuses reflecting sympathy while using hash tags such as “#parisattacks” and “#prayforparis.”