Why We Completely Ignored the Largest Terror Attack of the Year in Somalia
This past week, Somalia was devastated by a terror attack that took hundreds of lives and injured hundreds more. The country is still reeling after the truck explosives killed over 300 civilians and left many more missing in the city of Mogadishu.
While the attack was originally thought to be a plot from the Al-Queda linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab, officials are now reporting that the attack was more carried out by a former Somali soldier who’s Hometown was subject to a botched US-led raid that left many civilians dead including 3 children. Some are speculating that the attack was a response to the botched raid, meaning that this would be the first recorded motives for a terrorist attack that involved US military intervention.
While this whole situation is as horrifying as it is captivating, you probably didn’t hear much about it. In the wake of the World’s deadliest single terror attack in years, the tragedy shared screen time with many other stories with increasing Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegation, the skepticism around Trump’s conversation with a Gold Star family,
This story has many global implications including how the attack may affect the debate surrounding the current travel ban being discussed by the courts in the United States as well as the use of force Somalian foreign policy efforts. While the details surrounding this story are important, I find it more important to look at why this horrific tragedy didn’t receive much attention in the first place.
Over the last Century, Africa and the middle east have been inundated with human rights abuses legally sanctioned by state and non-state actors. Terrorist attacks, beheadings of civilians, Female Genital Mutilation, and many other atrocities have become almost commonplace in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and Somalia. This, in part, is why many in the western world tune out when they hear stories relating to terror in the east.
Another possible reason you didn’t see this on the front page is a media industry that understands its audience. News, like so many other forms of media, are competing for the attention of a consumer. Because the bandwidth of individuals is limited, institutions go through painstaking efforts to make sure that the content for that bandwidth is what the consumer cares about. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks in Somalia did not rank on the priorities of many in this country.
This is not to outright call Americans or any other part of western civilization callous or harsh. It is simply to say in a world dominated by subjectively ‘important’ information we must choose what is subjectively important to us on a daily basis. There could be a number of factors that have caused this apathy including an inherent lack of empathy when it comes to stories about the lives of black and brown human beings.
It is worth asking the question on the other side. Do the people who are affected by these tragedies in places like Somalia care when a tragedy of the same magnitude occurs in the US? While this question cannot be answered concretely the question is relevant for the very same reason the question is relevant here in the states. Perhaps people in other countries may be too concerned with they have subjectively prioritized to be concerned with our issues as well.