Why Every Single Terror Attack Matters, No Matter Where It Occurs

by John Haltiwanger
REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

On Tuesday, March 22, Brussels was struck by brutal terror attacks that left 30 people dead.

There were explosions at the airport and a central train station, and a European capital once again found itself reeling in the wake of a horrific and senseless tragedy.

France immediately exhibited solidarity with its neighbor, having gone through this just five months ago. Heartfelt images expressing camaraderie between France and Belgium appeared on social media shortly after the attacks.

Meanwhile, others were left wondering why there weren't similar responses via the media and elsewhere following recent terror attacks in Ankara and Istanbul, among other places.

Are terror attacks in Western Europe or the US more important than those that occur across the world on a daily basis?

Of course not. But media bias, as well as the self-centered nature of societies, perpetuates a lack of comprehensive coverage.

It's understandable people in France can relate more to people in Belgium after they suffer a terror attack. These countries border one another, they share a language and culture.

Moreover, historically, culturally and even diplomatically, the United States has far more ties with Western Europe than the Middle East or Africa (where terrorism unfortunately occurs far too frequently).

The Western media responds to these events in accordance with these sentiments. This isn't a defense of the biased coverage, but a partial explanation.

There are also certainly elements of prejudice regarding how the media responds to terrorism (a product of bigotry and racism). It's difficult to accept this, but the sad truth is Western societies often care more when the faces of those who died in terror attacks were white.

This doesn't mean every white Westerner who didn't respond to a recent terror attack in Ivory Coast, for example, is racist, but it does mean we have work to do in terms of balancing our approach to the subject of terrorism.

We need to get to a point where we truly believe and act as though every single terror attack matters. If we don't, we will only fuel further terror and violence. Working toward this will also aid the larger effort to rid our societies of bigotry and racism -- evils that fuel terrorism across the world.

Whether a terror attack occurred in Lebanon, Mali, Ivory Coast, Turkey, the US, Syria, Iraq, Kenya, Afghanistan, Nigeria or Israel, it matters.

Wherever and whenever innocent lives are stolen from this world because of hatred and extremism, it matters.

Violence is contagious. When we prioritize certain acts of violence over others, we contribute to the vicious cycle.

The imbalance in our response to terror is precisely why many in the West are seemingly unaware Muslims are the primary victims of jihadism.

If this was a widely known fact, it's conceivable fewer Westerners would falsely believe Islam is their enemy. In turn, fewer Americans and Europeans would be likely to support misguided conflicts in majority Muslim countries (which only increases enmity toward the West, kills innocent civilians and breeds more terror).

The more we become aware of the terror that occurs across the world, the better equipped we are to defeat it together.