Fading #Hashtags

Kimberly Cecchini

#BringBackOurGirls was the rallying cry all over social media this past spring.

Now? The girls have not been seen again, the perpetrators are onto even more heinous crimes and Twitter is onto #Seahawks and #BlueMonday.

Boko Haram militants rang in 2015 by viciously attacking towns in northeastern Nigeria, including the densely populated municipalities of Baga and Doron Baga. Although Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information claims the death toll is around 150, Amnesty International argues that the numbers are gruesomely higher based on eyewitness accounts and satellite imagery.

"Before (2 January 2015) and after (7 January 2015) satellite imagery shows the extent of damage in Doro Gowon following the Boko Haram attack." Amnesty International
“Before (2 January 2015) and after (7 January 2015) satellite imagery shows the extent of damage in Doro Gowon following the Boko Haram attack.” Amnesty International

Daniel Eyre, an Amnesty International researcher, explains the information gleaned from the satellite shots, “These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days.” Eyre continued, “Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”

Victims’ reports to the nonprofit detailed the militants going from house to house to murder military age men, indiscriminate shooting at people of all ages and the rounding up of women, children and elderly folks as they fled into the bush which was dotted with corpses. According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram has been known to assault areas they believe to be collaborating with security forces and this may have been their motivation this time as well.

Overall, Amnesty International has estimated 2,000 people massacred in this latest assault.

So why has the 16 killed in the Parisian terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the market peppered our news, while many are more likely to be aware of the Nigerian assault via a Facebook post? Of course 16 people killed is 16 too many as 1 killed is 1 too many. Whether it is 150 or 2000 people killed, isn’t it 150 or 2000 people too many?

I suppose 2000 is unfathomable in the human mind.

Based on theories I heard from On the Media, Amnesty International and the Huffington Post, I am trying to understand why this is not a major headline in the Western news cycles. 

1-Unfathomable. It’s a difficult thing for the psyche to swallow this level of atrocity in a place that can feel very far removed from their own lives.

2-Too Close To Home. An attack in Paris, a city that is culturally similar to cities in the United States, and an attack on the democratic ideals for freedoms of speech hits close to home; Americans feel on edge in line with the French.

3-All Quiet on the Eastern Front. President Goodluck Jonathan swiftly and sharply condemned the terrorism in Paris, and, yet did not offer similar condemnation in honor of his own citizens.

4-Sensitized. Folks in the Western world are often not surprised to hear of conflicts in the Middle East or Africa and become sensitized to it. In addition, they often do not see a connection to their own lives as they see it with the Parisian attacks. “All too often, conflicts have been assumed to be localized, just left alone until they reach a pitch where they show their international significance,” said Michael Jennings, a senior lecturer in international development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (Huffington Post), “The danger is that we don’t see the links, we don’t see people moving back and forth.”

5. No Press Access From Boko Haram. At the present moment, it is near impossible to receive independent reporting from the attack sites in Nigeria as it is still under Boko Haram control; reports are mostly based upon eyewitness accounts and images from the sky.

Of course, there are hashtags for the freshest atrocity in Nigeria, but there must be other ways to TRULY show that “#NigerianLivesMatter”.

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2 thoughts on “Fading #Hashtags

  1. Reblogged this on Revista Latinoamericana de Derecho Internacional and commented:
    Kimberly Cecchini has this interesting blog post on Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria and the public perception which I can only recommend to our readers. It shows again the importance of not remaining silent in the face of terror and massive human rights violations. That said, RLADI will be back in the coming days with more new posts on human rights, international law and Latin America.

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