Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris Attacks: Did Facebook Favor Paris Over Beirut? #Paris #ParisAttacks

Drawing courtesy of Micha Khalil

During the Paris Attacks, Facebook initiated the Safety Check tool, which allowed residents in Paris (or their friends) to mark themselves "Safe." Facebook also allowed Facebook users the ability to turn their profile picture into the French flag to show solidarity with the people of Paris.

Not too long after, some people complained that the same treatment had not been given to Beirut and Kenya, which also suffered terrorist attacks.  A Lebanese doctor blogged, "When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag." The New York Times said, "The implication (of the complaints)... was that Arab lives mattered less."

Facebook Executive, Mark Zuckerberg, explained that it was the first time they had used the Safety Check tool for a conflict situation; it had been activated only for natural disasters. I have not found Facebook's response regarding the French flag overlay.

What many people may not know is that France and the United States have a longstanding relationship, dating back to the 1600s when the French and English fought their wars on American soil. France supported the American revolutionaries, thanks to Benjamin Franklin who had been the American minister to Paris. The French even provided "boots on the ground" most notably the Marquis de Lafayette who fought as a major general in the American Revolutionary Army.

Some people may not even know that French is spoken in some parts of Louisiana, which had belonged to the French, and which the US bought from Napoleon for $15 million. The US also inherited the French claims to Texas.

Photo of the Statue of Liberty courtesy of Wikipedia

The French-US relations continues through the years, with the French gifting the United States with the Statue of Liberty in 1886, which has become an icon of freedom and the United States. Flash forward to World War II, American blood was shed on the beaches of Normandy as the Americans and French fought against the Germans. The Americans liberated Paris at the end of World War II.

The Franco-American ties are deep and entangled.

It is understandable that Americans responded strongly to the Paris Attacks.

For my part, the Paris attacks affected me.  I have friends there. I have visited Paris many times and am familiar with the places that had been attacked.

All this does not mean that one life is more important than another. A life is a life.

It is true however that we need to bridge gaps between peoples and cultures to create a better sense of brotherhood. We all need to be better educated; we all need to personalize rather than generalize.

Map courtesy of

I am sharing the following excerpt about the topic of Franco-American relations from The Guardian.

The revolutions

The French fought in the Continental army alongside the colonies against the British. In turn, the Americans were early supporters of the first French republic. A Frenchman drew the plan for America’s capital city. An American helped draft the French Declaration of Rights. The French gave America Rousseau and Lafayette. The Americans gave France the Thomases Paine and Jefferson. There’s a reason that Obama’s first stop with Hollande will be a visit to Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Virginia. The two republics were born together.

The Louisiana Purchase

What would the United States be like if they spoke French in Omaha? The question is moot, because the trans-continental United States would probably not exist if Thomas Jefferson had not bought the entire middle bit from Napoleon in 1803, in what the Library of Congress modestly refers to as “the greatest real estate deal in history”.
Jefferson got everything from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains for a cool $15m (about $.04/acre), doubling the size of the young country and decisively opening the west. Napoleon was the ultimate motivated seller — he had a war to wage against Britain. To this day you can hear Creole French in New Orleans, although not in St Louis, which is named, of course, for the crusading French king.

Democracy in America

When will an American return from France with a work of social observation as piercing as the one Alexis de Tocqueville produced after his trip to the States in the 1830s? The best we’ve managed is Bringing Up Bébé. De Tocqueville was dispatched to report on American prisons and came back with a report on the American character. He is especially beloved of American politicians, who famously love to quote him. President Bill Clinton was partial to the line, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” In keeping with the grand tradition of quoting De Tocqueville, De Tocqueville never actually wrote that.

La Liberté éclairant le monde, aka the Statue of Liberty

A kind of renewal of the joint Franco-American vows of commitment to the ideal of liberty. When the statue was conceived, both sides had rather botched the project. The United States had just fought a heinous war over its peculiar institution. France had an emperor again. With the fall of the second empire in 1870, France thought fit to mark the occasion with a gift to its old republican counterpart. Édouard René de Laboulaye, a historian of America and an anti-slavery activist, organized it; Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculptured it; Gustav Eiffel engineered it; and the French public paid for it. The Americans built the pedestal. It was dedicated in October 1886.

The Lost Generation

As Europe exhaled after the Great War, Paris inhaled Americans hungry for a life without consequences. For some reason they organized themselves around Gertrude Stein, history’s worst novelist. TS Eliot handed an early version of the Waste Land to Ezra Pound, and Pound dressed like a fool, pretended to read Chinese and challenged Hemingway to box.
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were there when The Great Gatsby came out. William Carlos Williams dropped in to visit Pound, his old classmate, but the author of The Red Wheelbarrow didn’t really fit in with the author of The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas. “I am not of this club…I can never be at home here,” Williams wasquoted as saying.

The World Wars

Subject to much misapprehension on the American side. Americans think the United States single-handedly liberated Paris in the second world war, conveniently ignoring the heavy lifting being performed by the Red Army in the east. Americans also think France exhibited simple cowardice by capitulating so quickly to the Nazis, failing to appreciate the trauma of the Great War, which killed one out of every two Frenchmen between the ages of 22 and 32. Almost twice as many French died fighting the Central powers as Americans died fighting each other in the Civil War, and in a much smaller geographical radius.

Read also
The Syrian Passport Found at the Paris Attacks
Salam Neighbor, Documentary on Syrian Refugees
Low Water Level of the Danube and Refugee Crisis
Haunting Scenes of Refugees in Munich, Germany
Tags: Paris, Beirut, France, Lebanon, Syria, Syrian War, #parisattacks, #paris, Facebook, profile overlay, safety tool

This is all for now,

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