What about #JeSuisNigerian? A hashtag we want to see more of

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Bodies still "litter the bushes" in northeast Nigeria where hundreds, possibly even thousands, of civilians were killed in a recent extremist attack.


It was described as the deadliest massacre in the history of the Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram. Children and women were among the defenseless victims. One survivor reportedly told Nigeria's Premium Times they were slaughtered "like insects."

And the tragedy was compounded, observers say, when the massacre was eclipsed in media coverage by another deadly scene a continent away: the shootings at the Paris satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The hashtag #BokoHaramKilled2000People has sprung up on social media as a way to call attention to the situation.

There’s also #JeSuisNigerian, a riff on #JeSuisCharlie, the record-breakingly popular hashtag that displayed solidarity for the 12 victims of the attack on the magazine and 5 others in shootings soon after.

But so far, neither has gained the traction needed to recall the success of #bringbackourgirls, which drew international attention last year — from the White House to the red carpet — to another underreported event: when the same terrorist group kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from a Nigerian boarding school. (Most of the girls are still missing.)


There are a few ways to explain the gaps in media coverage when it comes to Paris and Nigeria, said Max Abrahms, a politicial science professor at Northeastern University who studies terrorism.

Boko Haram is not an official affiliate of al Qaeda, and there aren’t a lot of terrorism experts on this specific group, Abrahms said. Plus, there’s a weak media presence in that area in general, which means fewer photographers and reporters to cover the story. And the Nigerian government “has an interest in suppressing these kinds of stories.” (President Goodluck Jonathan is running for re-election next month. Voting will take place in areas controlled by Boko Haram.)


Another explanation: prejudice.

"Both the perpetrators and the victims are black, and I think if we were talking about 3,000 white people, there might be more attention, particularly in the West," Abrahms said. The #bringbackourgirls hashtag, Abrahms speculated, connected with a wider audience likely because the victims were young girls, a particularly disturbing detail. (Boko Haram was also accused of using a 10-year-old girl to detonate a bomb at a market on Saturday, killing nearly a dozen people.)


But there are signs of success: The Guardian ran an op-ed condemning the gap in media coverage.

And then the Nigerian people gained an even more influential voice: actress and U.N. Ambassador Angelina Jolie, who made a statement calling for diplomatic action.