Breaking news reached us yesterday: In the French Alps, an airplane of Lufthansa’s affiliate German Wings with 150 people on board crashed. The plane with flight number 4U9525 was on its way from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. Among the victims, there were 72 Germans, including a whole school class.
We wear black ribbons. A tragedy occurred again that claimed many people’s deaths. A disaster follows another – almost daily. And we wonder: Where are we still safe? Statistically, it is more likely winning the lottery jackpot than to die in an plane crash. But what about the Malaysian plane that has never been found again? Or the shot down plane from the same airline?
Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and probably also the next two weeks, there will only be one topic on the news: the question about why. Why did this plane crash? Why did such a disaster happen just on a low-budget flight? Why are there more crashes in the last years? Questions upon questions, which unsettle increasingly many travelers. Media plays a huge part. Always concerned about up-to-dateness and locality, special news about the plane crash, interviews with managers and documentaries about flight safety dominate the TV program for the last 36 hours. The recipient is filled up with information until he switchs off voluntarily. The same program schedules as for other disasters, such as on 9/11. If Germans or other Western allies are affected, media informs extensively until the recipient is supersaturated. Of course, my sympathy goes with all the victims and I understand the urgency of such events.
But – to stay with 9/11 – does anyone ever notice how many innocent people exactly died in Bush’s “anti-terrorism-war”? Probably not. Finally, and that’s the irony, these are “only” Muslim countries – somewhere far away from here – culturally and geographically.
Also, Africa and South America come off badly on the news. As a 20-second episode, it was reported last week that Liberia is experiencing a new, exponential increase of ebola deaths. No sign of anxiety. A few months ago it was quite different as two American doctors were infected and a diseased ebola researcher was flown to Germany.
And can you remember the Charlie Hebdo shooting? Three days – until the execution of the assassins – European news channels reported live about the incidents. And we watched tensely, held our breaths. In the past week there were new attacks by Islamist extremists. Those times, it happened in Tunisia, Syria and Yemen. More than 200 people were killed. On the news, Tunisia played a major role because there were tourists among the victims. Yemen, the country with most victims, didn’t arrest much attention. And after 24 hours, the bombings were already forgotten. That fast changes the news world – insofar no Western country is affected.
Not too many Germans also noticed the manifestations in Brazil. No, I don’t mean those protests of 2014 – before “our” World Cup. I talk about that ones this year. A week ago, there were demonstrations because the president, Dilma Rousseff, is accused of corruption. It is about several million reais. Uli Hoeness’ tax fraud caught far more attention in Germany and caused controversies for weeks.
All these examples illustrate how selective our news are. Nationality, ethnicity and religion determine what and how we see. A media staged class society arises between us and them. Those others who are just a side note in our reports. And it’s not because there are fewer disasters in other countries, but simply because Western society cares more about itself. But let us forget all the differences and look on every disaster, no matter where, as important. Shouldn’t our flags fly at half mast all the time and we always wear black ribbons?