Reflections On The Response In The Aftermath Of Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, on November 13, 2015, will be remembered in history as one of the worst terrorist acts that has taken place in Europe. In the days that followed, the solidarity of the world’s people rallying behind the victims was heartwarming.

The blanket coverage of Paris by the media following the attack, however, showed both the best and the worst of media biases. On the one hand, the extensive news coverage brought the terror and suffering of the people in Paris on that night, and in the days afterwards, to the homes of millions across the globe.

On the alternate hand, however, for 2-3 days it was as though the rest of the world had ceased to exist. The round-the-clock coverage left little time to cover other terrorist attacks in different parts of the world. The suffering of thousands of other victims who also lost loved ones and were desperately in need of aid, both materially and spiritually, was ignored.

Even more damaging was the global governments’ response.

Instead of remembering the victims of Islamic extremists, trying to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, or brainstorming how to combat radicalized youths, the consensus is apparently “more bombs” – an approach that has not worked in the last 4 years in Syria. Instead reflecting on what went wrong in Western societies and how to stop home-grown terrorism, the quest for vengeance is leading to more deaths, more division, and ultimately more terrorism.

For a few days after the Paris attack, the media bombarded us with live news coverage of Paris. Other news events, including similar attacks carried out by ISIS in Beirut that killed 40 people, the continued chaos in Libya that is seldom talked about, the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, the recent attacks on Afghan villages by militants suspected to be linked to the Islamic State, or the continued fighting in the Egyptian Sinai, were barely mentioned in news coverages.

The deaths of 129 victims in Paris is a tragedy and deserved all the sympathy and support people around the world had showed. However, by focusing almost exclusively on Paris, the news media was derailing the debate surrounding the attack. Terrorism is bigger than Paris, France, or Europe. It is a global epidemic that is affecting millions across every ethnicity and religion. By exclusively focusing on Paris, people lose sight of thousands of other people who have to live with terrorism on a daily basis, who, too, have lost friends and family members. Instead of viewing the plague of terrorism as extremists versus everyone else, it had become Europe versus Islamic terrorists, with non-extremist Muslims being viewed as apathetic at best, accomplices at worst.[1] This mentality will only strengthen alienation, ethnic tensions, and benefit terrorists.

Another disheartening reaction can be seen in the world’s leaders in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. French President Francois Holland promised vengeance, and the French military soon escalated attacks against the Islamic State, primarily against urban centres including the Islamic State’s capital Raqqa. In the United Kingdom and the United States, calls for banning encryption and expanding the mandates of various security services gained renewed vigor from politicians.[2] Instead of asking themselves “why do so many descendants of migrants, who were born and raised in western countries, and educated in its values, want to travel to a war-torn country which they had never seen and fight for an ideology that is completely at odds with the values people around them have”, Western leaders have decided on the simple “solution” of bombs.

The U.S., too, wanted vengeance in the aftermath of the September 11th attack. Yet, decades later, instead of burying Islamic extremism under the weight of bombs, each turmoil and intervention only seems to create more radicals and more extremist offshoots that seek to outdo their predecessors in gruesome spectacles and body counts.



[1] Kilpatrick, W. (2015, 19 Nov. 2015). Who will reform islam? Catholic World Report

[2] Volz, D. (2015, 16 Nov 2015). Paris attacks revive U.S. arguments about encryption, surveillance. Reuters

Hanyu Huang