“Where is the outrage about what is going on in Nigeria?” asks Ojoma Edeh Herr, professor of special education at Millersville University, in an article published in the February 1 edition of LNP a daily newspaper in Lancaster, U.S.A. “Do my people count? Where are the leaders from the Western world? Where is the American media?”
Appropriate questions which demand an answer. “The world is watching these dreadful attacks,” Ojoma Edeh continues referring to Boko Haram’s activities in Nigeria “but it seems to me that Western society has made up its mind that some people from other parts of the world are more important than those in the West African countries.”
The “West” was justifiably outraged at the recent assassination of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in France, an action described as an attack on freedom of speech. However, in discussing freedom of expression it should also be pointed out that purposely silencing or ignoring information, or presenting it removed from the context is also an affront to free expression and it reveals political, social or cultural bias.
Even in the most sophisticated and “liberal” media in the U.S., Africa and Latin America rarely exist except when there is a story about violence, corruption or an action considered “unfriendly” to U.S. interests in the area. The “marketability” of a story appears to be what editors take into consideration.
That is their choice. It also has to do with history, with inheritance. Africa and Latin America were colonized by the European countries who now so adamantly defend press freedom and democracy. During that period the colonialized world “supplied” slaves and natural resources to feed the burgeoning industries and plantations in Europe and the U.S.A. Now, thanks to “marketing economics,” what used to be called “the Third World” continues to be a supplier for the “First World.” Many are struggling to elaborate democratic structures, while dealing with sky-rocketing debts, far-reaching inequality and poverty. Yet these efforts and the rich cultural and social heritage of that “other” world is largely ignored by the press in "developed" countries.
Over the past few decades waves of impoverished immigrants have knocked on the doors of the “advanced” countries, largely doing menial work; now they are faced with demands that they be sent back to their countries or, in the midst of a financial crisis caused by the concentration of wealth, they are accused of taking away work from the “original” population.
In answer to Ojama Edeh’s question concerning why the West appears to close its eyes to what is happening in Nigeria, the answer is not easy but it clearly has to do with economics, globalization and a sort of refined racism. Also with priorities. For example, Syria is closer to Europe than Nigeria. Both have oil. Both bleed in devastating violence.
The professor mentions the January 4 attack by Boko Haram which produced 150 deaths according to the Nigerian government and up to 2,000 according to other sources. “A week after that horrific attack, there was no rally of unity by any world leader, no demonstrations by the world community, and no slogans flooding social media to show that the world was united in support of the Nigerians.” Then she concludes by referring to a well-known phrase by English writer George Orwell: “The Orwell quote now makes sense. All people are equal; but the people in my country are not as equal as those in other countries.” So, the mass media pays less attention to them.