Home / General / Muslims Pinpoint Western Racism

Muslims Pinpoint Western Racism



Muslims wondering why the West doesn’t care when they die instead of white people in Paris and Brussels. Of course the answer is that most white people care primarily about other white people.

This is not the first time that the West seems to have shrugged off massacres in predominantly Muslim countries. But the relative indifference after so many deaths caused by the very groups that have plagued the West is more than a matter of hurt feelings.

One of the primary goals of the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups is to drive a wedge between Sunni Muslims and the wider world, to fuel alienation as a recruiting tool. And when that world appears to show less empathy for the victims of attacks in Muslim nations, who have borne the brunt of the Islamic State’s massacres and predatory rule, it seems to prove their point.

“Why isn’t #PrayForIraq trending?” Razan Hasan of Baghdad posted on Twitter. “Oh yeah no one cares about us.”


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  • kped

    I’m sure you’ll get some push back for this as you always do when mentioning the more subtle forms of white racism Erik, but i totally agree. I don’t doubt that there were probably readers and commentors on this very blog who changed their Facebook profile to a French flag and cried with people over Paris who then didn’t bat an eye over these deaths.

    (for the record, I’m a robot, and I cry for no one…not sure that’s a good thing, but at least I’m consistent!)

    • I look forward to the outrage by people who never make a single comment on post after post about workers in the developing world dying on the job or working under conditions of slave labor but are horrified that I point this issue out.

      • Pseudonym

        It’s interesting that this actually affects the way people in the Middle East feel about the West, which seems a much stronger basis for criticism than the abstract notion that people should be equally upset by every death. It doesn’t paint much of a picture of what addressing that would look like though. And violence in some of those countries sadly isn’t really news, just dog-bites-man. (Though the fact that the WaPo’s Iraq bombing map seems to be broken doesn’t say anything good either.)

        • I don’t necessarily think people should be equally upset by every death so much as I, and far more importantly the people who live in the affected countries, are noting the enormous outpouring of sympathy from the West when terrorists kill white people versus when terrorists kill brown people.

          • Pseudonym

            What do you think the reaction would be if there were a giant bomb set off in Tokyo? How would that compare to, say, violence in Sarajevo or Tbilisi?

            • wjts

              Like the Aum Shinrikyo attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995? Different time, but there wasn’t much in the way of huge outpourings of public grief.

              • Pseudonym

                Yeah, it’s hard to compare since that was before both social media and the heightened US fear of terrorism. It also came from a group that wasn’t really threatening the US, or that people here had even heard of.

                • Philip

                  Yeah, I don’t think anything pre-Facebook-and-Twitter is a fair comparison.

                • wjts

                  I had to look up the date, and I was surprised to find that it happened before the Oklahoma City bombing. I would have sworn it was after.

              • Warren Terra

                Not a lot of grief, as I recall, but a fair bit of “what if it happens here”, a response that attacks in predominantly Muslim countries just don’t seem to inspire very effectively.

            • Crusty

              I think there would be a sympathetic reaction. Maybe not quite Charlie Hebdo level sympathy, but major sympathy because it would be recognized that ISIS are/is not Japanese. Its ISIS attacking an innocent parties. The Muslim countries and their non-ISIS citizens are not seen as innocent or neutral.

              Just so clear, this isn’t what I think, but how I think people perceive things.

      • DrDick

        I think a lot of this is simply indifference to what happens in the developing world generally, along with an attitude of “what do you expect from those people?”. There has certainly been no international outcry over the pervasive, large scale violence against Muslims in India or Myanmar.

    • Porkman

      The French flag on facebook is not evidence of wider apathy. It’s evidence of Facebook’s apathy.

      People could change their profile pic to France because Facebook made it a one click step.

      It wasn’t like 4 million people suddenly developed identical photoshop skills.

      Facebook didn’t make a one click thing to change the profile pic to lebanon, turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, or Iraq.

      So no one changed the pic.

      People do value western lives more, but the facebook profile pic is not evidence of that. It’s evidence that people show sympathy when facebook makes it convenient.

      • Perhaps. But it is evidence of who people clamor to support. Facebook in this isn’t diabolically evil or racist. It’s reflecting the desires of its users. Its users were a lot more upset about Paris and Brussels than Dhaka. It responded accordingly. In this sort of case, the tech companies reflect society, not shape it.

        • Pseudonym

          The lack of Facebook safety checks for incidents of violence in non-Western countries is pretty telling and unfortunate. That would be a huge opportunity to demonstrate goodwill and solidarity. On the other hand I can imagine a huge, ugly backlash.

        • Porkman

          When Paris happened, the way to change the profile pic to the French flag was to click on a link to Mark Zuckerberg’s wall and then make another click. No mess, No fuss.

          Within a few days, people pointed out that there was no option for Lebanon and Nigeria, which had attacks at nearly the same time.

          Facebook has never again made the flag thing possible. There has been no option to change to a Belgian flag, an American flag, a Turkish flag, an Iraqi flag, a Bangladeshi flag or a Saudi flag.

          I have seen this video on facebook.

          In it, (it’s a minute long) a guy tweets that no one has changed their pic… neither has he. Same with the second person… The third person blames the lack of changed pics on a tendency to be distracted by the Eurocup. Her profile pic is unchanged.

          Three people have shared this on my feed… yet, none of their pics are changed. This isn’t because they don’t care. It’s because they lack the photoshop skills to manually overlay the flag. Facebook isn’t making it a two click process.

          Facebook should make it possible to use an Iraqi flag, but, since everyone one wants to blame it on public apathy, no one is holding facebook’s feet to the fire and asking for the option.

          • One can easily change a profile picture if one wants.

            • Porkman

              Oh so voter ID laws aren’t a problem either since it’s also easy to get a state ID?

              Are you not understanding the structural difference between facebook making it two clicks and doing it on your own?

              Here is the step to change to a French flag.

              1) Get on Facebook

              2) Get a prompt asking if you want to change to a French flag.

              3) Click on a link to Mark Zuckerberg’s wall

              4) Click a link again.

              5) Your profile pic is changed!

              Now, here is what it is for any other flag. (Let’s call these voter ID flags)

              To make a flag profile pic on my own… here are the steps.

              1) Find a picture of the Iraqi flag online

              2) Download it

              3) Find a picture I want to use as the base.

              4) Open an image editor that has transparencies.

              5) What!? You don’t have an image editor with transparencies.

              6) Try to get Photoshop.

              7) Realize it’s really expensive.

              8) Get Gimp instead.

              9) Open both images in Gimp.

              10) Copy the flag over onto the profile pic as a new layer.

              11) Change the opacity of the new flag layer to 30%

              12) Merge the image down

              13) Save as a new file

              14) Log into facebook

              15) Click “Update Profile Picture”

              16) Click “Upload Photo”

              17) Find the photo in your computer

              18) Center it

              19) Click ok.

              The second process is not that difficult but it’s a lot more arduous than the first so not a lot of people do it.

            • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

              Porkman isn’t talking about simply changing a pick, he is talking about superimposing a country’s flag on the existing profile pic. A very different, and more difficult, thing.

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      the more subtle forms of white racism

      This seems to me to be a lot more about Western identity than it does about white identity. After all, the US isn’t exactly a “white country” these days, but we are as guilty (if not moreso) than other, whiter, countries in the West are.
      Anecdotally, I noticed the same discrepancy between the outpouring for France, and the indifference to attacks in Middle East, among both my white and non-white friends.

      • jpgray

        Right – if we really wanted to race the racists, we could analyze sympathetic social media posting levels by race in each country – then we could bring any uncomfortable disparities to light! Here we could see decadence and useless posturing, there meaningful solidarity and brother/sisterhood in oppression, or failing all we could just write something up on selection effects due to disparities in access to technology, etc.

        Or we could just admit that this is a poor method to measure people’s secret thoughts/beliefs, subject to a variety of mundane and uncontrollable factors, and have done.

    • brewmn

      I find it hilarious that you decide the best way to mourn deaths at the hands of terrorists in the Middle East not by mourning the deaths of those innocent people, but by pointing out the “racism” of other people also not mourning those deaths.

      Apparently, the racism at play here is so subtle that you can’t even detect it in yourself.

      • kped

        I find your statement to lack any reading comprehension. I clearly said

        (for the record, I’m a robot, and I cry for no one…not sure that’s a good thing, but at least I’m consistent!)

        “I cry for no one”. Meaning, I didn’t personally shed tears over the white people in Paris, nor the brown people in Turkey.

        How you turn that into “you don’t notice your subtle racism” is beyond me. But these kinds of conversations do bring out people’s utter hackery. At best, you can say I’m possibly a sociopath for not caring about any of these events (I mean, I think it’s horrible, and sad in abstract, but I personally don’t get sad or spend time thinking about any of them).

        But trying to turn it into me being racist? Step up your game child, this foolishness is pathetic.

        • brewmn

          You’re the one who pre-emptively labeled people “on this very blog” racists for changing “their Facebook profile to a French flag and cried with people over Paris who then didn’t bat an eye over these deaths.”

          At a minimum, you’re showing yourself more eager to call(completely made-up) people racist than lament the deaths of innocent brown people. If you’re not racist, your priorities are completely fucked up.

  • BartletForGallifrey

    This is a shallow “analysis” and beneath what I expect from LGM.

    • LOL

      Please then Mr. Real Analysis, respond to the people in Iraq, Turkey, and Bangladesh who feel this way.

      • BartletForGallifrey

        I would, but I haven’t seen any of them try to reduce the entire thing to “white people are teh worsts.”

        White people are, of course, the worst. And there is a tremendous amount of racism in the West/US. It does no one any favors to add things that are not just “racism” to the pile of racist shit.

        And perhaps we should discuss Erik’s sexist default to the masculine.

        • And perhaps we should discuss Erik’s sexist default to the masculine.

          Go for it.

          As for the rest of it, they are noting that people in the West do not care if they die. Whether that’s white people are bad or not, I don’t know, but try to address the question at hand.

          • BartletForGallifrey

            “Of course the answer is that most white people care primarily about other white people.”

            That’s what you said. That’s the question at hand. Not what the people in the article said or what people in the countries in question said, but what *you* said.

            (And didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s rude to toss off a snarky one-liner and then edit your post after, as you’ve now done twice?)

            • I haven’t edited this post at all.

              • BartletForGallifrey

                Then it must have only loaded partway or something, because all I saw was “Go for it.” until I refreshed a minute or so later.

                • I edited the comment within the normal timeframe allotted for comment edits, yes.

                • Uh, I’m inclined to agree with Erik on this, but I don’t know how this “I haven’t edited this post… I edited the comment” turnaround is justifiable. Either it was edited or it wasn’t.

                • Pseudonym


                • Thom

                  BFG quoted from the original post, then complained about Erik editing his post. How is Erik supposed to know that BFG is referring to the comment, not the OP?

            • kped

              I read Erik’s post to you as soon as he wrote it. There is nothing that was changed. What are you implying was changed?

              • BartletForGallifrey

                See above. And his first comment was originally just “LOL.” I guess I missed the memo that one should wait five minutes before responding to something, in case the poster was just too eager to drop some snark and couldn’t think out the full comment before posting.

                ETA: “ETA” is your friend in such circumstances!

      • AdamPShort

        Stop distilling complex issues into brief, pithy articles linking to other, longer articles, Loomis. It’s unbecoming a fine blogger such as yourself.

        • It is indeed outrageous that I imply LGM readers should read the links.

          • Philip

            Objectively etc

            • Changing out of my pleated khakis as I type

              • Pseudonym

                Into your mom dad jeans, one presumes?

                • Given it’s almost midnight, into some sort of old man pajamas

          • tsam

            What is links?

    • DrDick

      Your offended Western white privilege is duly noted.

  • wjts

    “Racism” seems… not quite correct; “tribalism” might fit slightly better. Personally, I’d be more upset by, say, a school shooting down the road at Arsenal Middle School than I would by one in Bangor. Paris and Brussels are “closer” to Americans than Istanbul or Baghdad. (I suppose it’s also a matter of empathy; an American can more easily imagine themselves caught up in something like the Paris attacks as a tourist than they can imagine themselves as a victim in Baghdad.)

    • I accept tribalism as more accurate. Although it can’t be disassociated from colonialism and it’s modern implications.

      • wjts

        I’m not sure how well Turkey, as a successor state to a fairly expansive empire, fits into ideas of colonialism and its modern implications, but otherwise fair enough.

        • mikeSchilling

          Turkey fits into colonialism because the Ottomans had lots of colonies.

          • The Temporary Name

            There’s a military museum in Cairo that makes much of Egypt stomping on the weakened and decadent Turks to gain their freedom from empire.

            Most things in that museum appeared to be complete bullshit, so I assume the same of the story, but it represents some mythology around Turkish imperialism.

        • DrDick

          Because Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries, has been subject to Western neocolonialism since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following WWI. Just ask the Turkish guest workers in Germany.

          • wjts

            Turks were admitted to the gastarbeiter program in the 1960s with a bilateral agreement modeled on existing ones between Germany and Italy, Germany and Spain, and Germany and Greece following pressure on Bonn from Ankara, not the other way around.

      • JonH

        “Although it can’t be disassociated from colonialism and it’s modern implications.”

        Because tribes were invented by the British Empire.

  • Crusty

    I agree that there’s a general racism whereby people don’t care about brown people dying.

    But I think there’s more too it. An ISIS attack in Turkey is seen as a problem of “their” making, or at least as their issue in the same way that white folks over here might own white kids shooting up schools or wherever as their problem.

    • heckblazer

      Am I alone in finding it weird that people in the Middle East are assumed to be brown but guys like Ralph Nader and Steve Jobs are assumed to be white?

      • It’s almost as if race is a social construct!

        • heckblazer

          Yes! And I didn’t mean snark or anything, I literally get a weird feeling in my stomach. Upon a little reflection I suppose it’s because I see an arbitrary line being drawn and have no clue what to do about it.

        • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

          Yet, you are happy to use that social construct in your blog post.

          • wjts

            Traffic laws are social constructs. That doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant.

            • Pseudonym

              What does that make being pulled over for driving while black?

            • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

              That doesn’t mean they’re irrelevant.

              But it also doesn’t mean they’re relevant.
              As you mentioned above:

              “Racism” seems… not quite correct; “tribalism” might fit slightly better.

              • wjts

                Tribes, of course, are not social constructs but immutable facts of nature and are completely and wholly separable from race.


                • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

                  Tribes, of course, are not social constructs but immutable facts of nature and are completely and wholly separable from race.

                  Really? A race isn’t just an expanded tribe? How?

                • NonyNony

                  You forgot to use the sarcasm tag, wjts.

      • vic rattlehead

        Well, for this to be a valuable insight it would help to know how many people actually know that Jobs and Nader are of Middle Eastern descent.

      • mikeSchilling

        They’re both assholes, so of course we assume they’re white.

      • xq

        Given that Syria has lots of people who would code as white if they lived in Western societies, and that has apparently done little to inspire sympathy, maybe “whiteness” isn’t very useful as explanatory factor.

  • jpgray

    Muslims Pinpoint Human Nature?

    If I trawl LGM records like a bitter weirdo and pinpoint a culture whose tragedies you’ve consistently failed to post about, does that prove your bigotry towards that group? Or does it rather prove you feel closer to some groups, and further from others? Shouldn’t I believe you if you say it was not your intent to degrade or belittle their suffering?

    In the end we’re all like Smith’s example – the closer it gets, the more we care. On the extremes most would likely suffer more pains and anxiety over losing a single pinky toe than over the aftermath of a tsunami halfway around the world. No sane person would admit the one more important than the other, though, and sometimes you have to listen to what people wish to believe of themselves rather than their selfish reflexive actions, right?

    • If I trawl LGM records like a bitter weirdo and pinpoint a culture whose tragedies you’ve consistently failed to post about, does that prove your bigotry towards that group? Or does it rather prove you feel closer to some groups, and further from others? Shouldn’t I believe you if you say it was not your intent to degrade or belittle them?

      Well, it just might would prove my bigotry. Why do I feel closer to some groups, if I do? For many people, that’s because they are white and the affected groups are white. Even if it’s your intent not to degrade others, does it matter? In other words, racism is not just Trump sending out anti-Semitic tweets. It’s structural and influences our entire society, a fact even too many LGM readers are incredibly resistant to admitting about themselves and the society in which they live.

      • kped

        Like clockwork, ain’t it?

        • Yep. It sure is. Might be time for a public school post tomorrow.

          • Pseudonym

            Are you suggesting that these reactions are hostile to the spirit of brown people?

          • jpgray

            Convincing yourself you know better than other people what they think and why they think it, and that for them to contradict this is merely to dissemble their hidden inner beliefs, is certainly a formula for endless victory parades and high fives.

            What I mean to say is, I’m seething for my discovered crypto-racism. Foiled again! Loomis!

      • John Revolta

        Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall in an open sewer and die.

        • At least in the movies, has anyone ever not found people falling into sewers funny?

          • John Revolta

            I dunno. Some Commies probably.

            • Pseudonym

              Zhdanovists, maybe the Maoist International Movement?

              • wjts

                I would pay good money to read MIM’s review of Man Getting Hit by Football (Hans Moleman or George C. Scott version; I’m not picky).

              • John Revolta

                Collectivism is a tough room.

                Workers of the World, Lighten Up!!

      • jpgray

        Let’s imagine you are not Erik Loomis, human, but Loominator 3000, an impersonal program designed to bot-post human tragedies wholly impartially.

        Absent infinite time and resources, you’d still have nasty proportional gaps in your posted tragedies just by virtue of some tragedies having fewer sources, or their sources being more difficult of access. What a bigoted program you are!

        Now in the actual case here you’re losing a great portion of the Western sympathy that was there for Paris because some portion of them actually are bigoted toward Muslims, tragic or not, no question. But probably a greater portion are showing the care deficit because they don’t feel it as closely for reasons not attributable to hate.

        If you asked these people, they could honestly (I hope) answer they don’t really believe one life more important than the other in the two cases.

        I can’t see that as being anything but a human trait.

        • But the question is why they aren’t feeling it so closely. And the answer to that is race.

          • BartletForGallifrey

            The answer to why Alton Sterling was murdered is race.

          • jpgray

            But where race isn’t a factor, you see this effect by distance, or politics, or gender, or religion, or, on the worst end of this universal human scale: it’s-not-exactly-me.

            “I don’t identify as strongly with this person” =/= “that person’s life is worth less than mine”

            All decent humans refuse to believe and express the second, but all humans decent or not act on the first one, so either racists = all humans or the second part has to be present.

            Edit: some MAJOR grammatical errors fixed. :D

  • AdamPShort

    ISIS is doing that comic book villain thing, showing the captive that the supposed hero doesn’t care about him.

    In comic books, of course, the villain turns out to be wrong. That’s why it’s called fiction.

    • JonH

      “ISIS is doing that comic book villain thing, showing the captive that the supposed hero doesn’t care about him.”

      The hero who isn’t welcome. We’re the X-Men?

  • Juicy_Joel

    Muslims are all terrorists anyway why would I care if they die?

    • Pseudonym


      • N__B

        That takes all the fun out of it.

  • Philip

    In general I agree with you about this, Erik. But e.g. I don’t remember ever seeing these kinds of outpouring of support when attacks happen in Israel either. There’s political grandstanding, but not the same genuine emotional, empathetic response. So at the very least it seems like there’s more than one factor involved.

    • AMK

      The answer is that terrorist attacks in Israel are not SHOCKING NEWS because they happen regularly (for another white country example, bombings during the troubles in NI were not NEWS either). By contrast, terrorist attacks in Western Europe are very rare, so they get lots of attention.

      • Thom

        This whole thing is more complicated than most commenters seem willing to allow. Terrorist attacks have been happening in Western Europe most of my life, since at least the early 1970s, though not as frequently in some other parts of the world. In terms of, e.g. Iraq, most Americans have no personal connection to it, and even those who do (except for Iraqi immigrants) have seen it only as a place of violence. I think that Erik is right that racism is an important factor, but I think physical distance and lack of direct emotive ties is a factor in some cases.

        I’d be curious to know how heavily the recent Bangladesh incident was covered in London, which has a large South Asian population, including a mayor who is the son of immigrants. We could compare that to coverage of Paris, but of course even though there are fewer Londoners of French origin, it is a stone’s throw away, directly connected.

        Though much of the reaction to Orlando is of course more hysteria about terror, it does show that many Americans at least have the capacity to sympathize with people who are LGBT and Latino, at least if they are seem as American citizens or residents.

        • DrDick

          A good point. I do not recall quite the same reaction to IRA or ETA attacks, some of which killed more people. Munich certainly did, but not the Baader-meinhof or Red Army.

    • mikeSchilling

      The Israelis have it coming.

      • DrDick

        Actually, they do, but you also do not see this kind of reaction to the much more destructive Israeli attacks on Palestinians either.

        • mikeSchilling

          If only Elie Wiesel had realize that killing random Jews is a good thing, we’d all remember him so much more fondly.

          • DrDick

            What about the mass slaughter of Palestinian civilians and their illegal forcible eviction from their homes and lands? You seem shocked that they would fight back.

            • mikeSchilling

              I see, Jews have collective guilt for that.

  • Pseudonym

    The failure of empathy is broader than the Islamic State, he said; it extends to the international community’s unwillingness or inability to stop the slaughter of the Syrian civil war, which began with protests for political change.

    “If we lose all humanity,” Mr. Kilo said, “if you allow the slaughter of a nation for five and a half years, after all the leaders of the international community declared the right of these people to revolt against their government, then expect Islamic State — and many other Islamic States in other forms and shapes.”

    Damned if we [the West/international community] do something, damned if we don’t.

    • Pseudonym

      “Why isn’t #PrayForIraq trending?”

      Pray to whom? (Question does not apply to Michel Kilo.)

      • bender

        Possibly because people who pray regularly for strangers are a set that does not have a large overlap with the set of people who use Twitter to exhort other people?

        People who pray regularly are more likely to be affiliated with an organized religion than people who aren’t. Younger people are less likely to be affiliated with an organized religions than older people. Younger people use Twitter more than older people.

    • JonH


      I guess we’re supposed to crank up our Western wishing well technology and make things better magically.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      Congo (Kinshasa) has had near constant violence and conflict for a couple decades now (apparently the last couple years has seen a respite), and not only have I never seen a Congolese flag overlay, I’ve never even seen a post complaining about the lack of a Congolese flag overlay.

      • Pseudonym

        You can’t really expect Americans to distinguish Kinshasa and Brazzaville, can you? (Though you might light up some bulbs if you mention Rwanda’s involvement.)

      • brugroffil

        It’s almost as if Loomis is a self righteous blowhard

        • Domino

          Where’s this blog outrage over the Japanese government’s policy towards the Ainu people over a hundred years ago?

          Further, where are the posts with outrage at the Japanese government waiting until 2008 to officially recognize them as a group? These are white people who are a very small minority in a country, and most of their culture is gone. Why, their language is nearly extinct!

      • DrDick

        That came to my mind as well, along with the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria.

  • Mike in DC

    I agree it’s a valid point. At the same time I would suggest that the more that news coverage of these attacks individualizes the victims, portrays the local reaction, etc, that there’s at least a slight uptick in empathy.

    • JonH

      It’s the “bus plunge” effect.

      When the story is that a bus full of locals goes off a cliff in Peru, and no more detail is provided, it’s a punchline.

  • pianomover

    The logic that one would join the group that just attacked you because people thousands of miles away apparently aren’t expressing proper concern is crazy.

    • BartletForGallifrey

      No more crazy than the people willing to vote for a Nazi because their preferred progressive lost to another, similar progressive.

      • pianomover

        Bit of a stretch I think.

    • Pseudonym

      It’s crazy to join the side that seems to be winning the war and would be a bigger threat instead of the side that doesn’t seem to particularly care about it or you?

      • heckblazer

        Well, DAESH also seems to have just tried to bomb the Prophet’s Mosque during sunset prayers during Ramadan. That’s going over about as well internationally as trying to bomb an Easter week mass at St. Peter’s Basilica would with Catholics.

      • JonH

        “seems to be winning the war ”

        Except they aren’t, they’ve lost territory. That’s why they’re lashing out.

        • Pseudonym

          Emphasis on “seems”.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    I’d appreciate examples of countries where people don’t care more about people in their own country/culture than they care about people who are outside it. It seems to be general human behavior. Certainly there are many individuals who do care about humanity as a whole, but the majority don’t.

    The main difference I can see is that if you’re at the bottom of the heap you need to pay more attention to those who are at the top because they can make your life miserable. Studies have shown that Black people in the US understand Whites far better than Whites understand Blacks here.

    The other factor, partially geographic, is American’s famous ignorance/indifference to non-Americans. Again, this isn’t universal.

    I’m not defending this tendency; in fact, if humanity destroys itself in war this flaw will probably be a major cause. But I don’t see that we’re behaving much worse than any other country that was at the top at some point in history.

    I will, however, look at historical evidence that says otherwise, if you have it, because I’d like to try to understand why they behaved differently.

    • Isn’t this basically irrelevant? No one is arguing that Americans should care as much about attacks in Dhaka as in Orlando.

      But if we are talking about Paris versus Dhaka, well, isn’t that a different kind of question? Are we a French nation? How many of us go visit relatives in Paris? Some, I assume. But a very small percentage of Americans.

      • Pseudonym

        A much higher number of Americans have heard of Paris and could possibly even find it on a map or identify what country it was in.

        • No doubt. But the question is why that is and what it says about a legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism, that most white people, Paris or Providence, would like to not think about but which matters very much.

          • brugroffil

            “why do westerners care more about /know more about one of the most prominent western cities with centuries of cultural influence over their own cultures than a city in Bangladesh” seems like a dumb question with an obvious answer.

      • wjts

        But if we are talking about Paris versus Dhaka, well, isn’t that a different kind of question? Are we a French nation? How many of us go visit relatives in Paris? Some, I assume. But a very small percentage of Americans.

        They may not be visiting family, but it’s not exactly unknown for Americans to visit Paris as tourists. Moreover, Americans “know” Paris from books, movies, TV shows, songs, etc. in a way that they don’t “know” Dhaka or even Marseilles.

        • Crusty

          Also Americans are taught in school that France helped “us” during the American Revolution, whereas Dhaka sounds made up.

          • Pseudonym

            On the other hand, both the US and Bangladesh are former British colonies, so clearly we have more in common with them than we do with the French, right?

            • Crusty

              I feel a close connection because they make most of my clothes.

            • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

              On the other hand, both the US and Bangladesh are former British colonies, so clearly we have more in common with them than we do with the French, right?

              Hahahaha … oh, you were making a serious point.

              • Pseudonym

                I forgot the <code></code> tags.


        • mikeSchilling

          We know the Marseilles from that scene in Casablanca where they sing it.

      • Porkman

        Umm.. We’re a lot more French than Bangladeshi.

        France helped during the Revolution.

        We purchased more than half the country from France.

        Louisiana still uses French law.

        We eat a lot of French foods.

        There are tons of American movies set in France.

        We were a French ally in both World wars.

        English borrows a ton of French words.

        Can you make the same case for Bangladesh?

        It is racism to a degree, but East Bengal is genuinely more different from America than France is. Objectively and historically.

        • mikeSchilling

          As a first step, next time we get mad at France we should rename them Bangladeshi fries.

      • Joe Bob the III

        I would argue that many white Americans have affinities with Europe they wouldn’t have with Bangladesh because of their ancestry. They may not have relatives in France or Belgium, but they feel a connection to the countries their ancestors emigrated from.

        Some people in my family have made a decades-long hobby of tracing our ancestral roots back through Europe. I’m not that into it but I could tell you the primary European origins of each of my four grandparents: Germany, Wales, England, Ireland.

  • NeonTrotsky

    A big part of the privilege the comes with living with the west, is the ability to ignore the violence that is simply an everyday part of peoples lives in places like Syria, Iraq, the DRC or what have you, some of which we are arguably even responsible for.

    • Or for that matter, the violence experienced by non-white people in our own nations.

      • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

        Or for that matter, the violence experienced by non-white people in our own nations.

        I think this is where your point fails. The non-white people in our nation (the US, I won’t speculate about the others) showed the same discrepancy in their reactions to the different terrorist attacks around the world.

        • jpgray

          It fails on several points, and fails harder the more you remove the method from comfortable narratives. Run Orlando v. Paris social media stats in the gay community. Uncovered nest of Francophobia, or methodologically bankrupt flailing?

      • Nick056

        To make it even better, Erik already admitted to what’s that tribalism is a better fit than racism to describe this phenomenon. But he’s st I’ll yuk king it up over those pred

    • JonH

      “A big part of the privilege the comes with living with the west, is the ability to ignore the violence ”

      Um, actually, most of the developing world has the privilege of ignoring violence that occurs far away from them.

      Nobody’s asking Bangladesh “What have you done to help bring back the girls taken from Chibok? Why haven’t you changed your avatar?” Let alone are they being harangued by white academics to do so.

      Which is fortunate, because poor people don’t have time for that shit.

      • Anna in PDX

        One of the very few things I know about Bangladesh is that many years ago when we had a huge natural disaster of some kind – I believe it may have been Hurricane Andrew, I think that it was way before Katrina – Bangladesh sent us crates of tea and rice. It blew me away how generous this poor, disaster-ridden country is, to think of the richest country in the world in its time of tragedy and send some sort of help.

  • LosGatosCA

    There are a number of factors:

    1. Physical distance – closer is scarier

    2. Emotional distance – my tribe, my allies, people who look and dress like me getting killed is scarier. That’s why white racists talk about black on black crime – they are putting emotional distance between them and anything that includes a black person as a victim. Racism and bigotry fit right in here.

    3. Axes to grind – Paris bombing is 1 and 2 close plus neocons and Republicans want to terrorize the taxpayers to authorize more use of force, greater expenditures on security theater. Iraq bombing is 1and 2 distant plus it points out failures of previous neocon and Republican alarms to do anything close to competent in dealing with Middle East security – better just to ignore it.

    4. Emotional rationing – significant outrages happen every day, people get numb or emotionally paralyzed if they become focused on all the negative events. That rationing will be based on 1, 2, and 3.

    5. Plus any Clinton pseudo scandal supersedes all common sense and prior hierarchy of empathy for any subject beyond your immediate family and intimate circle of friends.

    ETA: Domestic mass shootings function along the same lines. But have additional emotional dimensions.

    • LosGatosCA

      IANA psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist.

      I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

      And Faux News has not approved of this message.

  • ForkyMcSpoon

    I will say that I felt more strongly about Orlando than I have about pretty much any terrorist attack. And yes, it’s because I am a gay man and the very night of the shooting, I was at a Pride weekend event, in a crowded gay bar, spending my evening much the same way that the victims of that shooting were. So I identify a lot more with the victims.

    But I’ll also say I felt more strongly about the attack in Dhaka than I did about most of the attacks I hear about in the West. My roommate is from Dhaka, the place of the shooting is visible from the apartment where he lived, and when he was last there, he went to that restaurant several times. In fact, his parents had ordered food from it that night, and he was on the phone with them at the time, saying they should really go eat there instead of ordering because it’s so nice… and literally, while he was on the phone they heard the gunshots. And they chose that restaurant precisely because it’s the sort of place a gay atheist visiting from America would go to (it was also run by and popular with foreigners).

    I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I will say that making Dhaka about whether the West cares about Muslims is wrong, because in that case, it was an attack specifically on non-Muslims/foreigners, and most of the victims were not Bengali. And any calls for solidarity with Islam fall pretty flat with my roommate, what with growing up gay in Bangladesh not giving a good impression of the religion.

    • PJ

      How unfair of you to bring nuance!

      This whole conversation seems like a not-terribly insightful exercise in grief-shaming.

      The combo is: some parts racism, other parts cultural affinity real or imagined (I mean, go to TJ Maxx and see the amount of crap they have with the Eiffel Tower on it), and other parts very close economic and political ties (NATO/EU).

      Policing other people’s reactions is not really going to bring about a more nuanced understanding of Islam, orientalism, imperialism, or the implicit assumptions of the war on terror. If you want to have a conversation about those things, you should probably just point them out instead of approaching those issues sideways by making a big hullabaloo about how people are doing empathy wrong.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        My roommate has a problem with all the “this is not Islam” and “ISIS is against Islam” and things of that nature. Even from family members who know and accept him as a gay man, he is irritated by the fact that their thoughts go first to defending Islam, rather than defending people like him.

        In many of these countries, too much of the populace is okay with oppressing gays, women, religious minorities (including other sects of Muslims!), and/or those who wish to leave Islam or practice it loosely, and too many of those who aren’t are afraid to say otherwise. And that helps enable these groups.

        When a gay rights advocate was murdered in Bangladesh just a couple months ago, the US embassy made a post expressing praise and condolences. The comments asked why America was pushing un-Islamic, Western perversion.

        So what is the proper response to these attacks in Bangladesh?

  • ajay

    So, for the last decade or more the US and its western allies have been:

    Making numerous speeches about the danger posed by ISIS and its precursors (ISI)
    Giving billions of dollars in aid to people displaced by ISIS
    Taking in thousands of refugees from ISIS territory and supporting hundreds of thousands more in third countries
    Spending billions more dollars to support groups fighting against ISIS
    Sending thousands of troops to fight ISIS
    Launching thousands of air strikes against ISIS
    Devoting significant efforts to interfere with ISIS’ funding
    Devoting huge efforts to stopping our own citizens volunteering to join ISIS

    And the conclusion here is that we don’t really care about ISIS killing people in the Middle East?

  • ajay

    Also worth noting, of course, that Loomis’ own reaction to the murder of 129 people in Baghdad was to put up a post mourning the deaths of… Michael Cimino and Elvis’ guitar player.

    • And Elie Wiesel, which you keep leaving out.

      You tried this idiotic line of argument before. I write about dead Bangladeshis all the time. I don’t recall you ever caring about that either.

      • ajay

        You tried this idiotic line of argument before.

        Yes, and you didn’t have an answer to it then either. You have now put up two posts condemning as racists the people who failed to respond adequately to an incident which you yourself completely ignored when it happened.

        • witlesschum

          Why do you think this is a good point? Attacking Loomis as the messenger is stupid. If you show he’s as racist and blind as the rest of Western society is, congratulations?

      • Thom

        I would add that caring about the death of people in political attacks (terror) or caring about their working conditions, as Erik clearly does, does not preclude, nor should it, caring about culture in its many manifestations.

      • ajay

        Though I admit I like

        “I write about dead Bangladeshis all the time”

        as a new internet tradition. It could definitely replace “Some of my best friends are…”

        • This is tremendously stupid.

          I don’t generally write about terrorism. I write about labor and environmental issues. When I write about these issues in foreign countries, I don’t focus on France or Belgium. I write about India and Bangladesh and Honduras and Vietnam. I write child slavery in Ghana and slave labor in Myanmar. I wrote a whole book on global labor and how people forgotten about by the West generally become exploited by American corporations for your benefit. I didn’t write about the terrorist attacks in France and Belgium either. Pointing out–and linking to people in the affected countries believing this–that white people are more concerned with white people dying than brown people globally is another way of getting at the point of my labor issues–or global health or political repression or any number of other issues that don’t get attention in the western media.

  • rachelmap

    Somewhat on topic: John Chilcot reports The UK did not exhaust all peaceful options before joining the invasion of Iraq, and that is not all he has to say. It is scathing for Blair and Straw.

  • paul.c.klos

    I did not read all the replays but I disagree (with the premise). The simple fact is I don’t care was is trending on any social media for anything because I well ignore them all. Maybe that says I’m a 45 year IT security expert/programmer who simply longs for the days of a black screen and a prompt.

    What is the point if any attack trends on social media. Who cares does it revive the dead if you get enough hits? Played to many video games or something.

    Also last time I checked the US been funding efforts against Islamic Extremists (good or bad or poorly or effective) for quite a while we do seem to care.

  • pseudalicious

    What the balls is going on in the comments here? Holy white fragility, Batman. Jesus.

    • ajay

      I think the approved phrase is “touched a nerve, I see”, but you should check with a more senior troll.

      • brewmn

        That’s another aspect of these posts I love. I mean, shouldn’t someone calling you a racist “touch a nerve?” If, in fact, you care about racism, that is, and are not merely concerned with implying your moral superiority in that regard.

        The people who are fine with the way these posts are presented are either so smugly certain that they couldn’t possibly be racist that of course Erik couldn’t be talking about them, or they simply don’t care.

        • I look forward to you whining about my school posts some more.

        • The people who are fine with the way these posts are presented are either so smugly certain that they couldn’t possibly be racist that of course Erik couldn’t be talking about them, or they simply don’t care.

          Or, like with me, we’ve come to terms with the implications of institutional racism? I mean, I’d done so well before I’d ever heard of Erik.

          It’s not easy to get to such a state, but it’s doable. Done right, you don’t get complacent or fatalistic, but strive to be more mindful of the challenges and pervasiveness of racism.

          I mean, it’s should be like finding out about implicit bias. We all have implicit biases and their content would not be flattering to most of our self images. But learning about them should prompt us to do things like anonymising resumes so the biases have less pernicious effects.

  • Jonny Scrum-half

    I’m sure “tribalism” plays a role, but isn’t the bigger issue that terror attacks in “the West” are much rarer than in the Middle East? It would be interesting to see the American reaction to a terror attack in Mexico City.

    • Thom

      As I said above, yes they are rarer, but on the other hand terror attacks have been happening in Europe for over 40 years, with some regularity.

  • Jonny Scrum-half

    Also, it rubs me the wrong way to read about victims of a terror attack lamenting that Americans don’t care about them, which seems to remove agency from the actual perpetrators of the attack.

    • Anna in PDX

      Some people in the Middle East could point out that one of the catalysts for the spread of terrorism in their region is American military action.

  • Crusty

    Its nice that we’ve established tribalism as a more apt descriptor than racism.

    But the upshot of this is that tribalism is more complicated than racism. Racism is bad. Oppressing the other is bad. But while tribalism might be what makes someone not give a shit about something bad happening to someone who looks different and lives on the other side of the world, it is also the force that makes lots of people care about lots of other people who are not their parents or children or friends. I don’t know that eliminating tribalism is a better goal than taming it. If tribalism gets someone to take care of a co-religionist or fellow national, or whatever, however big the tribe is, if it isn’t countered by harming someone outside the tribe, its a good thing. The tribes should be large, and should not give a shit about what the other tribes are doing. Now, maybe hostility between the tribes is inevitable. I don’t know.

  • Darkrose

    In general, yes–white Westerners don’t respond the same way to horrible things happening in white parts of the world as they do in the non-white parts of the world. But I feel like using social media as the primary indicator of this is confusing correlation and causation.

    I changed my Facebook overlay after the Paris attacks because I know people in France. I changed it again after the Planned Parenthood attacks because I’m a) female and b) live down the street from a PP, so that hit very close to home. I’ve mostly been avoiding Facebook of late, and since Orlando, I’ve been pretty scarce on social media because I’m tired and angry and I feel helpless and like there’s nothing I can do or say online that’s going to make a difference.

  • Manny Kant

    I think people mostly haven’t responded to the attack in Baghdad because there is a general expectation that Iraq is basically subject to horrific political violence at all times.

    And Paris got a lot of attention not just because it’s a mostly white western city, but because it’s Paris, which a significant number of Americans have either visited or want to visit, and which most have seen pretty frequently in movies and the like. It feels like a place we know, even if we haven’t been there.

    I don’t actually think the response here to Brussels was significantly greater than the response to Istanbul. Maybe a little bit, but I think that was more that we were amped up for that kind of thing after Paris than any particular issues of racism. But I could be corrected. I feel like both of them were reported on, but not really as a lead story in the way that Paris was. Correct me if that’s wrong and I missed a whole ton of Brussels coverage.

  • Anna in PDX

    I’m really pressed for time so am not reading the other comments but I wanted to weigh in here. This Ramadan has been a bloody one, starting with Orlando and ending with the carnage in Iraq right before Eid. Muslims all over the world are horrified and depressed at the way that extremism and violence seems to be spreading. A typical story on my facebook feed yesterday was not about a car or suicide bomb, but about two brothers in Saudi Arabia who murdered their mother for resisting their desire to join the Jihad. I have seen some Muslim commentary about the West’s relative silence on the absolutely horrible off the scale attacks in Iraq last week, but mostly we are just soul searching and grieving. There does not seem to be a great deal to celebrate this Eid.

    I also saw a map of all the attacks during the month of Ramadan, it was very sobering, they were everywhere in the world. Here is a link:

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