Russia Today reports that a car bomb attack against a police college in Yemen killed 30 people and injured 50 more on January 7th. This is the same day as the now-infamous Paris shooting at the magazine, Charlie Hebdo. A quick Google search of news stories for both of these appalling incidents reveals 78,800 results for the Yemen car bombing and 26 million for the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
If we could attach a moderately objective standard to evaluate the exposure level of these two incidents—say loss of human life; then, obviously the Yemen car bombing deserves our attention more. So what’s the difference?
I’ll brave a guess: we, as Westerners, assume we know what the Paris shooting was about; whereas, we have no idea what the car bombing in Yemen was about. The narrative for the Paris shooting we are provided is cut-and-dry: it was about narrow-minded religious intolerance of ‘free speech’. It even fits into a 10-second or less sound-byte. It rings true and warms the heart. There’s no need for a broader context of decades of Western government brutalization of Muslims around the world, nor the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic fervour that is sweeping Europe.
The Yemen car bombing, on the other hand, is ambiguous and involves people who live in a violent and chaotic Islamic country. It also dovetails well into that other aspect of the Paris shooting narrative that is more controversial—Islam is a war-like religion, and its adherents are fanatics who are out to kill all non-Muslims if they don’t convert. No one has time to delve into the complex history of US foreign policy in Southwest Asia that has worked to destabilize societies by flooding countries with weapons, training, and the funding of insurgents across the region.
Details don’t matter when it comes to the cherished Western mythology of ‘freedom’ and rational secularism, because only religious fanatics are violent, especially in the face of our ‘freedom.’