Tears for Brussels – but what about Lahore?

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Your views on the news

The Brussels bombings on 22 March generated widespread media coverage. In the aftermath of the attack, many people took to social media to express their solidarity with the people of Belgium.

Less than a week later, a suicide bombing in Lahore that targeted children and women celebrating Easter killed at least 74 people, with more than 375 injured. However, this did not seem to evoke the same outpouring of grief as the Brussels attack did. Both terrorist attacks were horrific atrocities, yet the public response to Lahore seemed more subdued.

While the media has been criticised for a perceived lack of interest in the Lahore bombing, The Guardian UK’s social and new formats editor, Martin Belam, wrote:

“It’s undoubtedly true that there is less coverage, but it is also regretfully true that there seems to be less of an audience.”

Even though The Guardian’s editorial team ran the Lahore bombing as the leading story on their website, it did not feature in the top five most-read stories for that day. In contrast, on the day of the Brussels bombings, five of the ten most-read stories were related to the attack.

What does this say about our appetite for news? Is there an unconscious bias that makes us care more for people who live in the West?

Media psychologist Pamela Rutledge explained that this is not a cool disregard for people living in non-Western countries. Rather, it is because the human brain has difficulty empathising with people it cannot relate to.

“People in the Western world are more familiar with the people and places in Europe than they are in other areas,” she told DW.

“These attacks, therefore, feel more relevant and have more personal meaning.”

A central tenet of the Christian faith is the belief that all people – regardless of race or religion ­– are precious in the eyes of God. But our responses to the two tragedies suggest that we may subconsciously give more attention to those we feel a cultural connection with.

On this week’s Friday Forum, we ask:

Why do some terrorist attacks receive less attention than others? Do we care less about people who live in non-Western countries?

Image by Shawn Carpenter via Flickr

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