Selec­tive out­rage says more about us than them

Dubbo Photo News - - Soapbox. - Kevin Saul

AT 9.29am on Sun­day last week­end, a head­line caught my at­ten­tion on a side­bar of on­line news plat­form, “Burk­ina Faso ho­tel siege ends, 32 dead”.

It wasn’t very in­ter­est­ing, ap­par­ently – it wasn’t front page or even in the main sec­tion, but in the spot for tid-bits.

It quoted: “The al-qaeda fight­ers who stormed a pop­u­lar hang­out in Burk­ina Faso’s cap­i­tal at din­ner­time came with a mis­sion to kill as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, fir­ing at peo­ple as they moved to a nearby ho­tel and set­ting the cafe ablaze.

“When the gun­fire stopped af­ter a more than 12-hour siege, at least 28 peo­ple had been slain in an un­prece­dented at­tack on this West African coun­try. Like the ex­trem­ist at­tacks from Paris to Jakarta, the as­sailants in the Fri­day evening at­tack tar­geted an area where peo­ple from dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties gath­ered to en­joy life.”

But un­like the at­tacks from Paris to Jakarta, the main­stream me­dia had, at the time, hardly spo­ken of the in­ci­dent.

One of the pop­u­lar ra­dio sta­tions I was lis­ten­ing to said at 8.55 that there would be re­ports in the 9 o’clock news… But no. Plenty about Essendon, the one day in­ter­na­tional and the “big bash”… but noth­ing – noth­ing – about the vic­tims that came from 18 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Noth­ing about Burk­in­abe forces backed by French sol­diers based in neigh­bour­ing Mali man­ag­ing to help free at least 126 hostages. All quiet on that as well. No men­tion of the city in which it hap­pened, the cap­i­tal Oua­gadougou. Must be too hard to use Wikipedia and look it up.

If I want to go look­ing, the ABC, the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald and some other news out­lets car­ried some in­for­ma­tion, but where was the 10 page lift-out, the likes of which the Daily Tele usu­ally does when its out­raged? Or the break­fast tele­vi­sion crosses for spe­cial re­ports live from the scene?

Why is this? Be­cause they don’t know where Burk­ina Faso is, let alone what it is (for­merly called the Re­pub­lic of Up­per Volta – the coun­try was re­named Burk­ina Faso in 1984) and since there is no oil, beaches (it ‘ land­locked below the Sa­hara Desert, in fact it is due south of Tim­buktu) no-one gives a rat’s arse.

Some­times I want to be told about news, not have to go look­ing for it.

Change that to a sexy beach babe smug­gling weed into… but I di­gress.

I guess be­ing al-qaeda, not ISIS, isn’t so sexy any more.

It’s been hard to find out any info on the Burk­ina Faso tragedy – why is that? Why do we not care as much about this lit­tle coun­try and its peo­ple? Can we only look in one di­rec­tion at a time? Do we not look at the world as a whole? We keep say­ing the world is a global vil­lage, so is Burk­ina Faso on the wrong side of the vil­lage rail­way tracks?

Why does the main­stream me­dia talk about who’s’ do­ing, sorry, see­ing who, worry about which “bach­e­lor” and/or “bach­e­lorette” buys a house to­gether or sells be­cause they break up?

Or is the prob­lem US? Are we, or have we be­come, so in­sin­cere, so plas­tic, so blase, so de­sen­si­tised to life in gen­eral, that we don’t re­ally care?

Worse still, if that’s pos­si­ble, was the news (in a state­ment from Aus­tralia’s Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs and Trade) that an Aus­tralian doc­tor, Dr Ken El­liot and his wife Jo­ce­lyn had been kid­napped in Burk­ina Faso’s north.

The two were ab­ducted from the town of Djibo near the bor­der with Mali. The re­ports said the cou­ple have lived since 1972 in Djibo, near Baraboule, where they work in a vol­un­teer med­i­cal clinic they built. Dr El­liot is the sole sur­geon at the hos­pi­tal.

At the time, this was just a foot­note to a tid-bit in the quick catch-up sec­tion of an on­line news­pa­per and at the time of writ­ing, fewer than 33 – YES 33 – peo­ple had read about it on­line. How do I know this? The top five were listed and it didn’t make the cut. The main­stream me­dia was slow to re­act.

Where was the SAS? Where was 2CDO? Why weren’t we go­ing in and find­ing out what was go­ing on? I should have in­ves­ti­gated with great gusto, and then I would have found this:

In a state­ment, Act­ing Prime Min­is­ter War­ren Truss said the Aus­tralian govern­ment was tak­ing the sus­pected kid­nap­ping “very se­ri­ously”:

“Our thoughts are with the fam­ily of the Aus­tralians at this dif­fi­cult time and we ask all to re­spect their re­quest for pri­vacy,” Truss said. “The safety of the Aus­tralians in­volved is our high­est pri­or­ity. All ac­tions the Aus­tralian Govern­ment takes will be in the in­ter­est of their wel­fare. How­ever, I can say that we are work­ing with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties through our High Com­mis­sion in Ac­cra, Ghana, which is re­spon­si­ble for Aus­tralian in­ter­ests in Burk­ina Faso. For the safety of the Aus­tralians in­volved we will not be pro­vid­ing fur­ther com­ment at this time.”

“Is the prob­lem US? Are we, or have we be­come, so in­sin­cere, so plas­tic, so blase, so de­sen­si­tised to life in gen­eral, that we don’t re­ally care?

Glad they’re all over it.

I guess Africa just isn’t sexy enough to worry too much about.


Sol­diers stand guard in front of the Splen­did Ho­tel af­ter last week's ter­ror­ist at­tack on the ho­tel and a restau­rant in Oua­gadougou, Burk­ina Faso.

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