Emotional Dictatorship

Saturday afternoon in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. Explosives packed into a truck unleash their devastating energy in a busy district. In an instant, many are vaporised by the sheer energy of the explosion, many are crushed in rubble from buildings collapsing on their occupants.

The death toll is going to be significant, it proves to be, and then continues to rise. As of Monday morning, 276 are reported as dead with 300 injured. Survivors will sadly succumb to injuries and death toll will rise. The deadliest attack in the history of Somalia. A fact that is acutely bleak as Somalia remains in perpetual civil war, suffering from insurrections by Al-Shabaab. No-one as yet has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The loss of life is an undisputed tragedy. A country plagued by the term ‘failed state’ has slowly been establishing its legitimacy in North Africa. Only for the deadliest blast in its history to rock its steady progress. From my experience, I have no doubt that the Somali people will mourn, bury their dead, and then re-build and not be deterred to continue with tenacity. Their resilience is written throughout their history.

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The internet mob however is not concerned with how to help Somalia, or why Somalia has been targeted with such ferocity, indeed I imagine many of the mob, who I will soon reveal, could point to Somalia on a map or globe. The mob I refer to is the ‘outraged’ mob. Not outraged at the blast primarily, but outraged that ‘we’, (‘we’ being from what I deducted white people and the West) were not appropriately outraged. Thankfully these individuals expressed their opinion on Twitter to prove they had applied great purview and analytical practice to the matter. Nothing says I have really thought about this than colloquial text speak, hashtags, and emoji’s.

I digress.

This mob included TV presenter heavyweight Stacey Dooley who tweeted: “You should be as devastated about the sheer loss of life in Somalia, as you were about the senseless killings in Las Vegas.”

Dooley’s tweet was a real saver for many I am sure. Reading about the largest bomb blast in the history of Somalia I was unsure what to feel. But good old Dooley was there to make sure myself and others knew how to feel: “You should be devastated…”.

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Documentary Maker Stacey Dooley

Dooley sticks to the dominant narrative within the echoes of the internet. She raises herself above all others, ‘You’, and shamelessly tells us how to feel. Then why and in comparison, to what. I would have liked to hear the flesh and bones of her demand but I assume she was overcome with devastation and left unable to write above the 140-character twitter limit. Telling other people how they should feel is the apogee of smugness and arrogance; it is emotional manipulation of the highest level. Then expressed in the simplest and laziest terms.

It seems out of character for Dooley who has gained wide acclaimed for her challenging and unforgiving documentary productions. Placing herself in challenging environments that require a view of the bigger picture while also looking at the personal story. For her to demand we should all be devastated does not fit with a usually flawless presenter.

The most shocking part of the story was the unprecedented scale of the blast, Somali being a tragically, repetitive cycle of inter-clan violence. That shocked me particularly. However, Somalia is a violent place, I myself share no particular cultural heritage with Somali people, I have not been to the country but I have met and spoke with Somali communities now settled in the UK. In much the same way people’s knowledge of Rwanda is limited to genocide. Peoples knowledge of Somalia is limited to the film Black Hawk Down and Al-Shabaab.

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Many of the twitter mob drew the abstract comparison between the Manchester arena attack, 23 killed, and this bomb blast in Somalia. Perversely suggesting that body count alone should dictate our level of outrage. It shouldn’t. I was far more affected by the attack in Manchester and the attack on Westminster bridge because they took place in my country, because the victims were people we all share streets with, share schools, hospitals, and moments with. Friends I worked with while serving in the Metropolitan Police would have been involved directly, so my thoughts and immediate concerns go to them.

Meanwhile, yesterday evening, less than 1 mile from my front door three men were stabbed in a now ubiquitous gang on gang moped enabled attack. One of the men dying from his injuries at scene. The proximity of such a violent event to my home, my neighbours, and my community means that its capacity to shock and affect the daily lives of the community is far greater than a truck bomb in Somalia.

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Police investigate after a 20-year-old man was stabbed to death outside London’s Parsons Green Tube Station on Monday evening

Call me inhumane, the twitter mob will I am sure, but I am considerably more outraged and shocked by violent events that are geographically and culturally closer to me and us. Than by events in Somalia, where to even pretend I can empathise with daily struggles of the Somali people would be an insult. I wonder if Dooley and the Twitter mob have been to Somalia to make sure they are as devastated at the attacks in the UK, as they are with attacks on their own soil.

Some of the online commentary revealed the naivety of human understanding on how tech works. Some claiming that the fact #Somalia was not trending online was down to race and the inhumanity of the West. Entirely wrong. Topics trend based on geography and access to the technology. Events at Parsons Green 3 weeks ago trend because of the density of tweets to the proximity of the event. Combined with our universal access to the internet, unlike Somalia, but also as Dooley has demonstrated. We are thinking less. A bomb detonates on a tube train: we stop to photograph it, tweet it, share it, upload it, trivialise it, downplay it, and finally, exhaust it so rapidly that no-one truly considers what has taken place. While we tweet and bicker, Somalia picks itself up, tenacious as ever and proceeds onward. United by their culture and ambition.

Yet again an alarmingly large proportion of internet users have concluded that because an emotion was not digitally expressed on the internet, then no-one is devastated or affected. Which of course is preposterous, the internet being based on algorithms. The sad story here is that we have to hashtag and reduce the deaths of 250 people in Somalia to 140 characters and claim these deaths are more significant than the ones happening on our very own streets.

William Tucker




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