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#ParisAttacks #NigeriaAttack: Our outrage exposes our bias and that’s OK

I have never been one for the “save the rhino” campaign. Not that I have anything against the beasts, they are majestic and an integral part of wildlife across the continent. I will just not donate much money or any time to the cause.

Does that make me a bad person. To some, yes.

But the cookie does crumble the other way. I may not have much interest in the rhino but I was, and still am, mentally and emotionally involved in the heightened nature of police brutality from #FeesMustFall to Marikana, from Nairobi to the US. I once saw a particularly crude (but on the mark) joke about how if you wanted to make a certain race care about police brutality make sure an animal was hurt in the march.

We all have a hierarchy of things we care about. Every time a terrorist incident such as the Paris attacks happens, we see it in the level of reaction to the loss of human life.

In the wave of solidarity one sees very little spoken about France’s retaliation, the bombing of “Isis recruitment centres”, which results in the loss of civilian life — people not involved in the conflict — and loss of amenities and utilities, plunging innocent people into an even more dire situation. If the outrage is to be in context and is about all lives then surely this must also be taken into account.

Also the Paris attacks happened the night after the Beirut attacks. The world slept through the first attack and stopped for the second. This is the case every time and we have the same online debate of “Why do you care more about X than Y?” This is the fundamental question we must ask ourselves “Why do I get outraged about X more than Y?”

What of those who lost their lives in a similar attack in Nigeria? Will candles be lit for those lives? Cartoons and hashtags made for them, a Facebook status or two?


Well then, guess all outrage is equal but some is more equal than others and some lives deemed more innocent than others. The #JeSuisChien hashtag honouring a dog that died in the Saint Denis raid trended harder than #PrayForNigeria.


It’s not politically correct to say that you care about Paris more than what happened in Beirut, Kenya or Nigeria but your Twitter/ Facebook/ general outrage says it for you. Pointing this inequality out doesn’t make it a competition or minimise the pain in a way, it simply exposes who and what society or individuals deem important

We must explore and engage with the bias that fuels our outrage.

South Africa for me reads like a micro social experiment on wider global issues. It does not take a social media analyst to spot the pattern that Eurocentric issues cause an intense stir on the timelines of a certain demographic. Suddenly a considerable amount of people are with “Charlie”, stand with France and the tricolore filter covers profiles. But many of these profiles remained unchanged when the Garissa attacks happened in a country four hours away.

This is simply a request for people to check their bias. Do you not relate to the miners living just outside your city as you do to people living 10 hours and one Schengen visa away? Why does my DStv Comedy Central stop to show me the Eiffel Tower but never once uttered a word about the university students that were attacked next door in Kenya.

Maybe it’s a case of some lives exist in such a precarious and exposed state that it does not matter if a few are lost. It was bound to happen anyway, right? Maybe it’s the shock that something like the Paris attacks could happen to Europeans in their much more “civilised” existence while others live in an urban jungle. Maybe the rhinos are the future and not the girls who are still missing. Maybe you really just feel that European lives matter more and thus you care more.

And that is fine because there is not enough space to care about everything, that is the awful truth. So much is wrong with the world that to care about everything is to have the mental and emotional capacity to care about nothing. But let us at least be cognisant of our conscious and subconscious outrage to certain things.

It will expose our bias and let us quickly move forward knowing who really does give a damn and who doesn’t.


  • Kagure Mugo is the co-founder and full-time curator of HOLAAfrica! She is a part-time pseudo-academic and part-time wine-bar philosopher. A nomad (who has been everywhere and belongs nowhere) with a firm belief that no-one will love Africa till she loves herself.


  1. Sam Dixon Sam Dixon 19 November 2015

    The question I ponder over is how much outrage is required before our leadership will act. Is failure of our leadership to act against acts of violence on the continent a factor of our outrage. Do we have to march to the Union Buildings every time we want to get something done. If South Africa is to genuinely assist Nigeria in their fight against Boko Haram how many South Africans do we need to march to the Union Buildings and Parliament? How many will actually be bothered and will that expose the fake outrage which is more about them and their profile picture than the victims.

    To be honest I don’t think many South Africans care about what it happening in Nigeria. The Facebook French flag profile overlay did more to raise awareness about the bombing in Nigeria than the bomb itself and even then most of that outrage was focused on western apathy and not Boko Haram.

    This war in Nigeria has been going on for 6 years with 20 000 dead and all of a sudden people are outraged.

    Are South Africans prepared to send the SANDF into Nigeria to fight Boko Haram with the full knowledge that South African soldiers will die?

    How much do #blacklivesmatter How far are we prepared to go to make them matter?

  2. Voldemort Rupert Voldemort Rupert 20 November 2015

    I don’t think it’s ‘our’ bias. It’s very obviously media-led. You said it yourself:
    “Why does my DStv Comedy Central stop to show me the Eiffel Tower but
    never once uttered a word about the university students that were
    attacked next door in Kenya.” Does it interrupt every time the people in Gaza are attacked?

    We, as a global community, are very much led by the media – and platforms like facebook and twitter are just as accessible to media-exploitation as our TV’s etc.

  3. exafrica exafrica 20 November 2015

    I could not agree more. It is for this reason that I try to steer away from the English media (and for this reason that I consider monolingualism such a threat. Only one narrative rules.). One will not, on English media, learn about daily USA attacks on Muslim communities. One will remain ignorant and indifferent about the terror inhabitants of villages in Yemen, Waziristan, Afghanistan etc etc, suffer whilst drones threaten their daily existence, terrorise them and wipe them out indiscriminately. The horror of Paris is experienced daily by these people, but no one takes note. (And should the USA be watching, monitoring and taking note, I am not Muslim, just a human being who believes in the rule of law.)

  4. exafrica exafrica 20 November 2015

    The other thing is that we must look at the effects of our actions. US bombing and destabilisation of the Middle East is directly linked to the rise of IS. Western Europe can no longer afford the consequences of the refusal of the USA (and its poodle the UK) to abide the rule of law.

  5. Pierre Aycard Pierre Aycard 21 November 2015

    That is not true. Western media also talk about these attacks. I could point at three articles in the French papers about a young Tunisian shepherd who was beheaded last week. Did African media mention it?
    And if you want to judge their concern from twitter, maybe you should try counting how many French are on it, and how many Nigerians? That would be a way to not create bias while claiming to denounce bias…

  6. Bongani Bongani 24 November 2015

    The Westerners (Europeans and Americans mainly) care when their citizens get killed. They make a big deal out of it and generate noise. This makes us pay attention and this drives us to care. Our African governments not only don’t make noise when citizens die, they are sometimes complicit in the killings as well. Africans don’t care about African lives, so why should the rest of the world?

  7. RSA.MommaCyndi RSA.MommaCyndi 5 December 2015

    Therein lies the irony. I heard about the Nigerian attacks from a FB post by an American. It was on their news, but not on ours. Our media also doesn’t cover the many marches, in support of Muslim communities, from all over the world. It also doesn’t show the marches, by the Muslim communities, against the terror attacks.

  8. Waxfoot Waxfoot 9 December 2015

    Bongani, sadly I have to agree. There is a deep sickness in this double standard.
    The obfuscation , finger pointing and sloughing of political responsibility as well as the attempts to water-down and suppress information around the Marikana massacre is shocking.
    African lives and African human rights seem to matter little : (

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