Thomas Wictor

Some victims are worth more than others

Some victims are worth more than others

I wrote yesterday about how I can’t get anyone interested in how Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity bilked me of $40,000 by exploiting the suicides of my parents. It’s a combination of factors, but the most decisive is that I’m not the right kind of victim.

This bias permeates journalism all over the planet. Some victims are worth more than others.

Take, for example, the quote by French photographer Jerome Delay, who witnessed soldiers murdering a suspected Muslim terrorist in Central African Republic.

Today I met the Devil. In a scene Quentin Tarantino would not have dreamed scripting, I saw a man killed. Butchered. By his fellow countrymen. His mistake was to be named Idris and to be Muslim. What was first an orderly cheering crowd happy to hear they were finally going to get paid, turned in an instant into a tidal wave of barbarism. The VIPs had barely left. We have reached the point of no return in sectarian violence.

This statement is ridiculous and offensive on so many levels that’s it’s hard to know where to begin refuting it. For one thing, Quentin Tarantino has scripted far worse scenes: ears cut off, eyeballs plucked out, heads blown apart at close range, legs severed, tires driving over faces, decapitations, heads smashed in with clubs, and so on.

Also, Jerome Delay has photographed the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the Iraq war, the 2011 election in the Congo, the violence in South Sudan, and the war in Mali. Just look at his page on Corbis. He’s seen more violence firsthand than all the citizens of entire nations put together. Yet this one murder makes him state quite histrionically that he’s “met the Devil” and that sectarian violence has “reached the point of no return.”

The violence in Central African Republic has a context. Muslim militias known as Séléka overthrew the government on March 24, 2013, despite the presence of peacekeeping troops from France, South Africa, and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), comprised of ten nations including the Central African Republic. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch say that the Séléka committed atrocities against civilians.

According to the United Nations Security Council, the Séléka-run government posed a serious threat to regional stability because the Central African Republic was now in a state of total lawlessness. Save the Children said that the Republic’s health-care system was in collapse due to looting. After the Séléka militias were ordered disbanded, they went on an orgy of murder, rape, looting, and arson. Their goal was to simply destroy. They targeted infrastructure and communications-administrative systems.

On January 20, 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza was elected interim president, but the violence continues. The Muslim Séléka tend to be nomadic, while the Christians they target are landowners. What do the Séléka have to offer? During the brief period they were in power, they destroyed the country. They’re nihilists. When they get what they want, they demolish everything, and when they’re thwarted, they demolish everything. Regardless of the situation, their answer is to wreak havoc.

That doesn’t mean that all Muslims in the Central African Republic should be murdered in the way the man named Idris was. But Jerome Delay reports the murder as though it happened out of the blue, and he says it means that the entire nation is doomed.

Christians are being systematically murdered and ethnically cleansed all over the world. At Westgate Mall in Nairobi, the terrorists didn’t just shoot the victims, as most of the press reported.

“Those are not allegations. Those are fucking truths,” the doctor, a forensics expert, told The Star newspaper. “They removed balls, eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body. Actually, if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers.”

I’ve studied terrorism since July 20, 1982, when my brother Paul and I were nearly killed by the Irish Republican Army in Regent’s Park. Never once did I think to myself, I’ve met the Devil, or that the violence had reached a point of no return. It never occurred to me to amp up what was already bad enough.

Why does a seasoned photojournalist who’s seen wide-scale violence for over twenty years tell us that this one murder is essentially the worst thing that’s ever happened? Google “beheading Gassanieh” if you want to see three men having their heads cut off by Muslim terrorists in Syria. The initial reports were that a Catholic priest named Father Francois Mourad was among them, but that information was wrong. Mourad was only shot to death when he tried to defend his nuns from the terrorists.

The only thing I can conclude from the overly emotional reporting of certain atrocities and the ignoring of others is that the world’s press views some people as having more worth than others. Not only only that, some people’s horrific, unimaginably awful deaths are less newsworthy than those of others. Who made the determination that the murder of one class of people is worse than the murder of others? No idea. The mindset is incomprehensible to me.

I’m glad that media outlets are suffering financially. They’re producing worthless trash, putting their agendas ahead of simply telling us what’s happening.

What always upset me was the photos of starving children. The photographers who create those images never try to help the children. They shoot the photo and then leave. I’ve heard them say that they’re only there to report, not get involved. These photographers are given awards and praised for caring so much that they brought attention to the plight of these children.

But they didn’t even give the kid food or water. The photographer got an award, and the child died.

Again, the mindset is incomprehensible to me. I could no more walk away from a starving child than I could murder her. But I’m not an important, internationally famous journalist. Maybe if I were, it’d be easier for me to see human beings as subjects, mere fodder for Putlizer Prizes.

If I were an important, internationally famous journalist, I might see some subjects as having more worth than others. And I might find it necessary to shape opinion rather than report facts.

No. Actually, I wouldn’t. I have far too much more personal integrity to do that. Which I why I languish in obscurity. It’s okay. I’m not willing to compromise myself in order to get on the Fame Train. No amount of money or prestige could induce me to promote the toxic notion that some people are worth more than others, based on race, gender, or religion.

A couple of nights ago, I tried to get Tim to take a picture of me in his back yard, but it was just too dark. As Tim handed me back my camera, he accidentally shot a photo.

If I were starving and Tim were an important, internationally famous journalist, he’d be patted on the back for producing that image. The empty hand would never be remarked upon.

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