JE SUIS ANKARA: Hennessy launches campaign for Facebook filter “to tackle Western hypocrisy”
No Facebook filters, no weeping BBC reporters for non-European victims – now these Cantabs demand we start caring about terrorist attacks all around the world.
With its Facebook page racking up over 2,600 likes in the space of a few days, the ‘Je Suis Ankara’ campaign has struck a chord with Cambridge students.
Allan Hennessy, perennial student activist and The Tab’s #5 BNOC, started the campaign in response to the “hypocrisy” in Western media coverage. With dozens of students posting photos of themselves on the page, in solidarity with the Turkish victims of the third suicide bomb attack in Ankara this year, ‘Je Suis Ankara’ is gaining rapid traction amongst students.
One post, by Hana Gudelis, has gained more than 2,600 likes, many from supporters outside Cambridge.
It follows Hennessy’s penning of a piece for The Independent entitled “You can’t change your Facebook profile picture for Ankara, because brown lives still aren’t worth social media’s grief”. The article, which argues “if you have used Facebook’s flag feature after the Paris attacks, you are guilty by association of Euro-centric mourning” has reached a large audience, having so far been shared over 7,000 times.
The ‘Je Suis Ankara’ campaign contends that the lack of Facebook filters and the relatively limited media coverage of attacks outside Europe shows an unjust bias in Western attitudes. Demanding “All lives are equal. Let’s show it”, Hennessy’s campaign further highlights the claim that brown lives matter less to Western media.
To the campaigners, the overwhelming and virtually universal show of support from world leaders, newspapers, and Facebook in response to the Paris attacks stands in stark contrast with the reaction to the more frequent attacks in Middle Eastern cities. They see Ankara as just the latest example of a blase attitude towards what is often far more brutal forms of terror in non-western states.
One recent post, featuring Eddie Millett, says: “Say what you like about the value of these filters – in many ways the jury is out about the value of clicktivism – but at least recognise the inequality placed on human life by Facebook’s active refusal to create one for the Ankara attacks. If it helps the people of Turkey in their grief a tiny bit, it is of value.”
But questions have been raised over the political context of these bombings, and whether or not such losses of life are so straightforwardly comparable.
Although Hennessy’s campaign carries a disclaimer that it is “not about the political conflict between Turkey and the PKK”, Turkish President Erdogan’s authoritarian leanings and sustained persecution of the Kurds has been raised as a significant difference with the Paris attacks.
One commenter on Hennessy’s piece for The Independent noted that, unlike Turkey, the Charlie Hebdo attacks were an “attack on free speech”, adding: “I feel for the innocent victims, but Erdogans[sic] misbegotten, barely legitimate government is reaping the whirlwind that it created for itself.”
At least Sunday’s bombings in Ankara appear to have been politically motivated, with Kurdish group TAK claiming responsibility. Authorities in Turkey have also blamed the group.
Of the comments on Hennessey’s piece, the one which received the most “up-votes” asked a quite different question: “Were the people of Pakistan or Turkey wearing ‘Je suis Charlie’ badges? No, of course not. And am I offended on behalf of West European culture because they didn’t? No, of course, not.”
However, this view was opposed by a recent Guardian article, which, like ‘Je Suis Ankara’, questioned the lack of support from Western media for the victims in Ankara.
Posts on the campaign’s Facebook page question the “selective mourning encouraged by mainstream and social media” and emphasise that “We – in the West and East – are fighting the same fight; it is one we must fight together. We may have different languages, different cultures and different appearances, but we all bleed the same, we all experience pain and loss the same”.
Students call on Facebook “to recognize that solidarity, sympathy and mourning should not be restricted by geography, nationality or race. It must recognize that it needs to offer the same options, and the same respect, to all tragedies and to those affected by them”.
It is clear that there is significant support for the movement in Cambridge, with many Cantabs continuing to post messages and photos of support on the page.