The bad news fatigue


What do you associate with the exclamation “Never again”? The Holocaust of Nazi Germany? The Columbine School shooting? The sight of a drowned refugee child on a Mediterranean coast?

Sure, these historically sad events have engraved emotionally laden images into our brains. Of course, these low points of our shared past have outraged us, depressed us, shamed us. The one thing they all have in common however, is that they have all happened again. ‘Never again’ has morphed into ‘Over and over again.’

Is the outcry of disbelief, the utter determination to change the world for the better unachievable, not believable any more? The recent death of Nazi terror survivor Elie Wiesel has brought up the abysmal depth of our human capacity for evil again. But what happened to ‘Never again’? The Khmer Rouge mass killings happened, the Tibetan and the Rwandan genocide, the Kurdish and the Bosnian ethnic cleansings, do we even need to mention Iraq here?

The breaking news of mass shootings in schools, entertainments outlets and places of worship show a very similar fate. Columbine was the first horrendously sick act of a private killer to be televised live and triggered emergency cabinet meetings, worldwide discussions and grand political speeches and gestures. And what’s happened to this cry for ‘Never again’? The Mumbai attacks happened, and the Norwegian summer camp massacre, the Paris and Brussels shootings, the Orlando nightclub massacre and way too many school shootings in the USA to even attempt to mention here. Never again or rather don’t even bother?

As for millions of innocent civilians leaving behind their livelihoods and every earthly possession in a bid to save at least their life, this phenomenon is as old as humanity itself. Was the Exodus, the migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt into Canaan our history’s first documented refugee crisis? Probably not. And ever since, each major conflict from the Spanish Inquisition to the French, American and Russian Revolutions, from Korea to Vietnam to the fall of Yugoslavia, they all triggered massive migrations. Televised modern time emigration crises have given notoriety to many little known regions around the world. Darfur, South Sudan, Golan, Kurdistan and so many more are household names only in connection with humanitarian tragedies of which Syria is only the most recent example.

So, what do we do? We, as in you. And me. We watch the news, we feel terrible. We mourn the victims of the latest tragedy for a few days. We change our Facebook profile picture to a country flag or to the colours of the rainbow. Ultimately, we move on, we accept the random calamity and hope the next one will happen far from here again.

Are we stone cold? Unable to feel real compassion for our fellow humans? Or are we simply desensitised, numbed by too many details of too much bad news? How and when did ‘Never again’ turn into ‘Oh well’?

Fanny Bucheli is an FMT columnist.

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