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The Empathy Gap Between Paris and Beirut

David A. Graham



Hours before the carnage in Paris on Friday, a double suicide bombing ripped through a working-class shopping district in Beirut. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosions, which caused 43 deaths and hundreds of casualties in the worst bombing to strike the city in a quarter century. Then came ISIS’s attacks in France, which quickly subsumed much of the attention that might have been directed toward Lebanon.

It’s become a predictable pattern: One act of violence in the world overshadows a similar, concurrent violent act, inviting a backlash against this imbalance in scrutiny, sympathy, and grief. But that predictability doesn’t make the pattern any less distressing. Each time there’s a major terror attack in an American or European city—New York, Madrid, London, Paris, Paris again—it captures the attention and concern of Americans and Europeans in a way that similar atrocities elsewhere don’t seem to do. Seldom do events line up so neatly, offering a clear comparison, as the bombings in Beirut and the rampage in Paris.

Viral articles on Facebook are demanding to know why the Beirut attacks have been overlooked. Lebanese have lamented the discrepancy. Many people are asking why Facebook didn’t allow people in Lebanon to check in as “safe” on the social network, as the company did for those in Paris.

So what exactly accounts for this apparent gap in empathy?


The article’s full-text is available here

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