I am not a Calvinist, but it became very clear this past week that my "think piece" entry this weekend was predestined to be about this question: Why did the Charlie Hebdo massacre receive so much more coverage than the massacre of thousands of Christians and moderate Muslims in Nigeria?
On Twitter, I tried to point this out with a simple appeal: #IAmANigerianChristian. There weren't many takers.
How bad was this latest wave of death and destruction by Boko Haram? By the end of the week, GetReligion readers were sending in URLs about the fact that the best way to assess the damage was through satellite images. Check this out in The New York Times:
DAKAR, Senegal -- Thousands of buildings were burned, damaged or destroyed in northern Nigerian towns in recent days when Boko Haram militants stormed through, using scorched-earth tactics against civilians, according to a new analysis of satellite images by human rights groups.
In a succession of attacks, fighters from Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group that has gripped northern Nigeria and battled the government for years, have swept through a cluster of villages along the shores of Lake Chad in a “systematic campaign of arson directed against the civilian population in the area,” according to Human Rights Watch.
About 57 percent of one town, Doro Gowon, the location of a now-destroyed military base, appears to have been leveled, probably amounting to several thousand residential and commercial structures, Human Rights Watch said.
Amnesty International, which has also analyzed the satellite images, said Thursday that about 3,100 buildings in the town had been damaged or destroyed, demonstrating a “deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt-out ruins.”
How bad was it? Eventually, journalists were so tired of hearing questions about the imbalance between the coverage of these two big stories -- almost always framed as lots of coverage of white, French secularists vs. minimal coverage of black, Nigerian Christians -- that some journalists began to fight back.
Finally, we had this Washington Post "PostPartisan" web feature with the angry headline, "Stop being angry at Western media for 'ignoring' Boko Haram." The main thesis: Blame the Nigerian government, not western reporters, for what's going on.
I thought this part hit home:
Remember #BringBackOurGirls after more than 200 girls were kidnapped from northeastern Nigeria? The hashtag began as a powerful, organic expression of masses of Nigerians infuriated by the kidnappings, and it arguably prevented President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration from glossing over the kidnapping. #BringBackOurGirls helped pave the way for the world to be talking about Baga today. For some to imply that the world doesn’t care about Baga’s devastation because a globally viral hashtag like #JeSuisCharlie hasn’t emerged ignores the hard work of Nigerians on the ground who have been pressuring the government to act for months.
The hard truth is that #BringBackOurGirls did not compel the government to return the girls any more than #JeSuisCharlie has compelled French society to protect all forms of speech.
But if you are a journalist and you are interested in some basic facts, then I have a good think piece for you -- "Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and the Baga massacre: a study in contrasts" at The Conversation website.
Americans, listen up. It appears that if we want to blame anyone for the lack of headlines about the massacre in Nigeria, we need to blame ourselves. The charts that accompany this feature are pretty ugly. The bottom line: Americans just don't identify with people in Africa.
Whether #JeSuisCharlie or #JeSuisAhmed, millions of us apparently see ourselves as part of the tragedy in Paris.
Not so for the deaths in Baga.
We don’t know the names of parents who sacrificed themselves to save their children, or villagers who sheltered fleeing families.
Beyond Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, we know little about the men who’ve become this brutal army or their grievances with the Nigerian government. And we are largely free from speculation about what the attacks on Baga mean for the relationship between secular and religious groups, between Islam and other faiths, for the stability of Nigeria and its survival as a single state.
With so little discussion of African issues in American media, it’s not surprising that most American pundits are ill-qualified to comment on the massacre in Baga.
All of which, leads us pretty directly -- alas -- to The Onion. Watch it and weep.
Or, once again, it was possible to find Nigerian coverage -- in France.