Empathy VS Fear Mongering
By Leah Ching, Staff Writer
The role of social media played a huge role in reaction and mobilization both internationally and locally in the aftermath of the deadly attacks on Paris. For France and international spectators alike, social media was a tool used to share sympathy, concern, and to offer shelter to those stranded in the French capital.
On Twitter, the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door) allowed citizens to offer a safe place after the attack for those in need. Soon after, Facebook deployed their “Safety Check” campaign, prompting Parisian users to check into their personal page and let their social network know they are safe. This feature, previously reserved for natural disasters, was used for the first time for a human caused disaster.
Unfortunately, some social media responses are not based on compassion and care, but rather with linking sympathy for Paris to insidious and dangerous perceived threats. Many news media outlets and social media platforms have contributed to the fear mongering and the linking of Syrian refugees to the Paris attacks and the terrorist group ISIL.
In the United States, Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 refugees and has linked the threat of terror in the U.S. to Obama’s plan. A multitude of U.S. senators have vehemently opposed the resettlement of refugees in their state and stated that they will continue to do so.
Fourth year History student Chris told the Argus, “I think the media reaction is pretty scary. It’s ridiculous to foster this kind of xenophobia before refugees are here, it only begs the question as to what kind of responses will spring forth once the refugees are settled. The lack of compassion is astounding.”
Some musicians are also adding their voices to the current state of global politics. Singer-Songwriter M.I.A. recently released a music video for her recent release “Borders.” With raw lyrics and striking visuals, the video shows M.I.A. surrounded by groups of refugees as they try to cross oceans in small boats, cross boarders, and find safety. M.I.A wears a Paris Saint-Germain soccer shirt in reference to the recent Paris attacks.
Her lyrics ask “Borders, what’s up with that?” and “Broke people, what’s up with that? Boat people, what’s up with that?” and “Your privilege, what’s up with that?”
Even in Thunder Bay, a Facebook group has popped up with hundreds expressing their rejection of refugees being settled in the city. Alternatively, the groups in support of refugees in the city far overshadow the negative reactions.
Reg Jones, a Thunder Bay local who is heading a committee at Redwood Park Church to fund and sponsor the immigration of a Syrian refugee family to Canada has been outspoken on the need to mitigate negative media perception surrounding refugees. Addressing a support circle, he said, “you may find yourself having to defend our sponsorship of a refugee family given recent events. There is great fear out there – and hatred. This is exactly what ISIS wants. We can’t let them win by falling into their trap.”