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Paris, Beirut, and Grief Shaming

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/11/2015 Lev Raphael

Facebook has been a strange place since the Paris attacks Friday.
While many people have expressed outrage and sympathy for the victims, they've been criticized for not mentioning the bombings just a day before in Beirut. It's grief shaming, plain and simple.
And the implicit charge is of racism: Paris is first world and predominantly white, Lebanon is Middle Eastern, Arab. Those charges are fallacious.
Like many people I followed overage in newspapers on-line and on CNN and MSNBC about the bombings. They were not remotely ignored despite widespread Facebook claims that the media didn't care. But they were understandably swamped by the news from France--because it was a much bigger story.
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Beirut is a city of fewer than 400,000 people, unlike Paris which not only has over 2,000,000 citizens but is an international tourist destination, drawing some 32,000,000 tourists per year. It's filled with instantly recognizable icons like the Eiffel Tower. Not only that, but as a major global capital, it has an unusually high representation of media, unlike Beirut, which has dealt with travel advisories for many years. Anything tragic happening in Paris is exponentially a bigger story, like it or not.
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And yes, I was more shocked by what happened in Paris for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with racism. I've never been to Beirut, but have studied French, French history, culture and literature since fourth grade. I was my high school's star French student, got a certificate from the Alliance Française and shook the French Ambassador's hand, and have visited Paris and France half a dozen times.
I've always felt comfortable there, even somewhat at home, and connected to it more than most other European cities, so Paris has always loomed large in my internal geography. I don't have to apologize for that. The Charlie Hebdo/kosher market massacres are also still fresh in my mind. The Facebook grief bullies seem to have forgotten the terrible stamp that's left on countless friends and followers of France and don't understand that this new horror has revived those memories.
The damage done in Paris and the plan of the attacks was also far more grotesquely dramatic and pyrotechnical than in Beirut, spread over a wider area. It created a higher death toll, a higher casualty rate, and was done to draw the most press attention possible. It worked.
Expressing concern about what happened there doesn't make people heartless, racist, or even narcissistic as has been claimed, but it definitely brings out the worst in the Cultural Monitors of Right Feeling. Funny how they haven't see concerned about the Russian jet deaths of the week before, though....
Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres available on Amazon.

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