The Irish Anti-War Movement organised a protest against the bombing of Syria outside Dáil Éireann last night. The severity of the situation cannot be overstated, yet the turnout was low. Is it true that we are helpless to protect our fellow citizens of the world? According to UK prime minister Theresa May, “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” But that is exactly the attitude promoting xenophobia, nationalist extremism and outright racism across parts of the rich world right now.
There are complaints that the media is failing to report on violence across the Middle East because of a western bias. And there is a western bias but that is down to us. This week’s The Economist describes it as ‘The Business of Outrage‘. Shrewd entrepreneurs are making huge profits off the back of anger. They try to convince communities that society is in tatters and that the Apocalypse is just around the corner, despite hard evidence that Western societies have never had it so good. We see this most evidently in US presidential candidate Donald Trump. His entire raison d’être is to convince voters that America is crumbling and their only chance of survival is his bigoted-style of politics.
Media outlets are not shunning stories about wars in the Middle East because of censorship, although it can seem like it at times. We live in a digital era where it is instantly possible to analyse what news people are consuming. The primary revenue stream for media companies is advertising. And the only way to attract advertisers is by proving a strong newspaper circulation or more relevantly, website traffic. The sad truth is many people increasingly prefer fluff, so media companies are moving further from news and into entertainment.
If we are serious about improving our societies, we must start by taking an active role within them. The first step is to keep ourselves informed so that we can make appropriate decisions about the direction of our futures. After all, public demonstrations have furthered the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT. But if our concern is mere empty words, we’re as well to keep our mouths shut and accept that there is no better.