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Fearless communication can help stop terror divide

If terrorism aims to inspire fear, hatred, division and invite a continuation of its perpetrators’ murderous and xenophobic intent, then last Friday evening’s attacks in Paris are achieving their goals.

In this age of social media, where everyone can communicate and broadcast their opinion to a few, a thousand or a million, live comment as events unfolded was sometimes factual, but for the most part delivered a mass of cathartic horror, shock and confusion.

This stream of speculation as to the ‘why’ is set to continue for the foreseeable future until, like mourning, time helps dissipate the pain or the next outrage occurs.

Both press and social media commentators continue to fill a void of solid information with a mixture of shared grief, bewilderment, empathy and hatred.

Facebook’s option to include the French flag as part of users’ profile pictures opened debate as to why this facility wasn’t previously extended to comparative atrocities in Iraq, Kenya, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Pakistan.

Argument is rife and those within my own social media feeds have expressed surprise at how some of their contacts appear to have voiced support for religious and ethnic spite and announced subsequent ‘unfriending’ and follower culls.

As Charlie Hebdo illustrator Joann Sfar has aptly commented in the wake of the attacks: “Thank you for #prayforParis but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and joy! #Parisisaboutlife.”

Professional communicators have a responsibility to participate in the terror debate, if only to encourage reasoned communication that helps cut through the rage and propaganda which threatens to deliver on the terrorists’ aims and divide us all.

Picture credit: Cartoon by Joann Sfar (Instagram/Joann Sfar)