Fintan O’Toole makes a good point about why some atrocities spark huge protests, whilst others barely raise a whisper. The current bombing of Aleppo is at a pitch not seen even in the middle east for a couple of decades, yet there’s barely a whimper:
Why the selective outrage? There are, I suppose, two possible justifications. One is that the United States and Israel are in some sense “us”. We have very close ties to the US and Israel is a quasi-European country.
So there is arguably a greater moral obligation to stand up against the crimes of governments to which we are allied.
The other justification is that the US and Israel are relatively open societies and therefore susceptible to international opinion and public pressure in a way that Russia or the Assad regime are not.
Protest against the latter is therefore likely to be inconsequential. Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are probably not going to stop dropping cluster bombs, barrel bombs and phosphorous bombs and firing artillery at civilians even if millions of westerners take to the streets.
There may be something in both arguments, but it is not enough to justify the silence. Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations security council and therefore supposedly one of the pillars of international law.
And even though protests against Putin and Assad may be ineffective, they are necessary if protest itself is to remain valid. Human rights mean nothing if they are not granted to all humans and rage at the abuse of these rights is rendered illegitimate if it is conditional on the identity of the abuser.
You can’t hope to have any credibility if you shake your fist at the ugly American while ignoring the ugly Russian or react in entirely different ways to Israeli bombing of Gaza than to Saudi bombing of civilians in Yemen.
It should be said, that the admission from the Phillipines the other day that the country’s police are literally taking the law into their own hands and adopting a shoot to kill policy on drugs suspects that would put the SAS to shame.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty