It’s only the Congo, so that’s all right then….
6 September, 2010
Today’s Irish Times has an interesting (but not particularly unusual) juxtaposition of stories from around the world.
On page 11, the aftermath of an earthquake in New Zealand is given extensive coverage, amounting to almost half a page. Number of fatalities incurred: zero.
On page 8, details of a riverboat fire in Congo are (barely) given – three column inches I would estimate. Estimated number of fatalities incurred: 200.
So to sum up, it’s big news if there is a non-fatal earthquake in a small white, rich, country on the other side of the world. But it barely justifies a mention if 200 poor black people are killed in an accident in a country which is a lot closer to home.
This is not a criticism of the Irish Times (for once), as I am confident that they are accurately reflecting the news demands of their readers.
But it starkly shows how we regard Africa generally: a place so full of death, disease, famine and downright brutality that we don’t really want (or need?) to know about the latest disaster, even if 200 deaths are involved. There are just so many horror stories one can be exposed to, before fatigue and numbness sets in. (A lesser, domestic, example is the fact that many Irish people have stopped reading to and listening to the domestic news because it is so unrelentingly gloomy on the financial and political front.)
Sub-Saharan Africa is such a dreadful mess (with one or two honourable exceptions) that the Western world is in danger of losing interest. Maybe the Chinese can sort it out.