Culture

Australian Landmarks To Be Lit Red, White And Blue; Social Media Asks: What About Beirut?

"If they're going to light up the Opera House with blue, white, red, then light it with a cedar too."

France was in lockdown this morning after multiple coordinated attacks unfolded across Paris. Believed to be acts of terrorism, although no terrorist group has so far claimed responsibility, police say six locations were targeted on Friday night, with mass shootings and explosions leaving around 160 people dead and more than 200 injured, 80 seriously.

About 120 people were killed during a hostage situation at the Bataclan concert hall in eastern Paris, where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal had been playing to a large audience. Witnesses say a group of men dressed in black entered the venue and “calmly” fired AK-47s into the crowd, before killing others execution style. Those responsible for the attack are believed to have been killed when police stormed the building.

We are still currently trying to determine the safety and whereabouts of all our band and crew. Our thoughts are with all of the people involved in this tragic situation.

Posted by Eagles Of Death Metal on Friday, 13 November 2015

Around 40 people were also killed by gunmen at nearby busy restaurants and bars, as well as by explosions near the Stade de France, where France were playing Germany in a international football match. Most people inside the stadium were not aware that the explosions were an attack until near the end of the game, when they were made to stay inside until the area was able to be cleared for evacuation.

An AFP source told the ABC that a total of eight militants have been killed — seven of which were killed by their own bombs — while police continue to search for accomplices who might still be at large.

French president Francois Hollande, who was at the Stade de France during the explosions, declared a state of emergency and closed the borders, while also instating 1500 soldiers around the capital. He described the events as an unprecedented terrorist attack.

Parisians were quick to start the hashtag #PorteOuverte (#OpenDoor) for people stranded during the lockdown and in need of shelter, and Facebook promptly activated a “Safety Check” feature so people in Paris could let family and friends know they were safe.

Leaders and politicians around the world have condemned the attacks and offered their support, while iconic landmarks were lit up overnight with colours of the French flag.

Back home, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed President Obama’s comment that the incident was an “attack on all humanity”, and pledged solidarity with France. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was aware of one Australian injured, with the government providing consular assistance.

NSW Premier Mike Baird also joined the outpouring of support for Parisians, announcing on social media that the Sydney Opera House will have the French flag’s tricolours projected onto its sails tonight. He added that the flag would also fly on the Harbour Bridge.

Later tonight, the sails of the Opera House will be lit in the blue, white and red tricolore of the French flag. I’ve…

Posted by Mike Baird on Friday, 13 November 2015

Several Melbourne landmarks will also be illuminated in the colours of the French flag tonight, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Arts Centre and the State Government Office (aka 1 Treasury Place).

But while the blanket coverage of the Paris attacks rolls on, and the stream of condolences on social media continues, some are asking where the extensive media attention — and stream of condolences — for Beirut is.

Yesterday, two suicide bombers from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) killed 43 people and wounded over 200 others in a popular commercial and residential spot in southern Beirut. According to Al Jazeera News, the bombings happened during a busy time in the evening, when the streets were full of families leaving work. One of the suicide bombers blew himself up at the gates of a school.

But, despite the bombings being described as the worst to happen in Lebanon in years and resulting in a national day of mourning, the attacks received minimal coverage in western media — and definitely no internationally trending Twitter hashtags. That apparent inconsistency has not gone unnoticed.

In an article just published on New Matilda, Chris Graham wrote: “The bombings in Lebanon drew no tweet from Malcolm Turnbull, no social media statement from Barack Obama, no live media blogs from Western media, no wall-to-wall media coverage. And no twitter hashtags from Australians in solidarity with the Lebanese.”

He also pointed out that there are “around three times as many people of Lebanese descent living in Australia, compared to French nationals” — if Australians are able to identify and empathise with anyone, wouldn’t it be with Lebanese Australians?

Feature image via Jean Jullien/Twitter.