When you turn on the TV and watch the international news, you will see often see headlines on the ongoing Hong Kong protests, Trump’s alleged coercion of Ukraine’s government to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden to advance his own interests and Turkey’s offense into northern Syria.
But have you seen news of other countries, especially developing nations, going through ongoing crises of their own?
In Lebanon, people are walking in the streets to protest against their longtime corrupt government and severe economic crisis and calling for a revolution. What triggered the protests was a monthly fee ($6 USD) planned to be implemented for free messaging apps and the government’s poor responses towards deadly forest fires in the Mount Lebanon region.
Iraq is also protesting against their corrupt government for similar reasons. In addition to corruption and an economic crisis, there is also a high unemployment rate among the youth. Protestors have also been subjected to violence by Iraqi forces.
In Chile, unrest began from the increase of metro fares, which was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Violence erupted, and a state of emergency and curfew had been declared. Despite the nation being perceived as one of the most prosperous and stable countries in South America, the income inequality gap is very high.
A majority of mainstream news outlets do not focus or report on this news. But why is there a lack of focus on these events?
“Most of what is reported in the U.S. is directly linked to American politics,” said Joseph McLaughlin, Pd.D., professor and chair of sociology and urban studies. “Additionally, news of crises from developing countries do not sell as well as news about Trump, Pelosi, Giuliani and the rest. The presidency and all that surrounds it has become an obsession with mainstream media. If there is a bias, it is driven by economic considerations.”
Most people in developed countries cannot easily relate to circumstances going on in the other countries due to either lack of understanding or having no living experience in there. Developing countries still struggle with poverty and lower standard conditions, and there tends to be a pattern of slower economic or industrial growth, major income inequality, severe corruption within their governments and human rights abuses.
The developed world has its own share of corruption and income inequality, but many of us do not have to worry about our lives being in major risk. We are fortunate to live in a privileged world where there are generally high standards of living and high industrial growth.
We are more likely to be affected by tragedies that occur in our own country or other developed nations. For example, the Notre Dame Cathedral fire from earlier this year was seen as a tragedy despite the fact that no one died or was injured. Because it is a significant historical and cultural site in the West, the incident garnered intensive media coverage, upset reactions and donations from the wealthy. We have different priorities and our own “First World Problems.”
Whatever news we hear, whether from developed or developing nations, it almost always conflicts.
The more you hear about negative news, the more desensitized and indifferent you become. When it comes to developing nations, your subconscious will over time form an idea to believe those countries must be some of the worst places in the world to live in. You become cynical in that those places are less likely to ever get better, especially since developing nations are notorious to oust dictators or corrupt politicians for new governments, only yet again for corruption to continue.
It becomes a cycle.
It seems humans are evolved to have selective empathy or indifference in order to avoid descending into complete despair from all these struggles.
In the age of the internet and social media, sometimes there are posts informing people about what is happening in their countries from people living there. But the Internet can also be seen as a threat to those in power in the developing nations.
“Another problem is getting accurate information from some third world countries. For example, eighty percent of media outlets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are owned by politicians. Reporters who try to report the truth are punished severely,” McLaughlin adds.
In Iraq, there was even an internet blackout implemented to censor any coverage of the unrest.
Despite this, social media posts mentioning unrest from those living in nations under turmoil still have potential to garner attention.
All platforms have an algorithm that can boost content, and the internet has provided humans the ability to communicate and form relationships with different people around the world. The original poster may have a caring online friend or follower from the West to inform about the situation, and it could create a quick snowball effect of reposting about the news.
I have learned of the crises in Chile, Lebanon and even Hong Kong from Twitter. I have seen there are many people who retweet posts from natives that want their country or region’s crises known.
Journalists and news reporters do use social media so if you want to give a signal boost for any news that deserves to be covered by major news outlets, directly contacting, reposting, or retweeting can increase the chances.
Sometimes the outlets have to gain sources for their reports from social media. And just simply talking about it even on your social media platform can show you do care.