The reality of dead babies might be too much to swallow, and indifference to dead babies might strike a guilty chord or two. Thus, to free public conscience from sorrow and compassion for the dead children, a new story was injected in the media: The picture of the dead babies was staged.
by Anna Azzopardi
Image: The three children who drowned after the wreck of an inflatable boat off the coast of Libya. Mahmud Turkia / AFP
It is a shame that people are dying on shores. It is an even greater shame that the mini summit held last week in Brussels was an epic disaster, a power game of people who refuse to concede, discuss and solve. A simple play of ‘I do not want the migrants in my backyard, keep them’. The greatest shame however, is that numbness is growing towards these deaths.
We need to recognise why society has grown to be so numb and indifferent to human suffering. The seed of hostility towards migrants has long been nourished in our society. It has been cultivated by politicians and the media, and its roots are now deep. The arrival of migrants is portrayed as a foreign invasion—a narrative which encourages the Maltese population to express hostility and upon which many rulers, including local ones, ride their waves of power.
Thus, governments are alienating people by creating a scapegoat—migrants. The plight of the working class, the growing cost of living, the increasing rent, precarious job conditions, unaffordable housing, are all given the back bench, as foreign workers and migrants are being appointed as the enemy and the cause of social ills. Hatred and blaming are the symptom of an administration that has given up on tackling issues at the root, and prefers an easy way out. Rather than creating a society which is welcoming and prospers economically on solidarity and inclusion, we are feeding into hate and on hate, and becoming a society which is desensitised to death.
In the middle of all this, a picture of three dead babies being carried out of sea on the shores of Libya appeared on the front pages. The reality of dead babies might be too much to swallow, and indifference to dead babies might strike a guilty chord or two. Thus, to free public conscience from sorrow and compassion for the dead children, and to ensure that the ‘NGOs are evil’ narrative is maintained, a new story was injected in the media: The picture of the dead babies was staged. “Fake news—those were not drowned babies”, the new story said, “Rather, they were all baby dolls.”
I would admire the creative mind that invented this story, were it not for the fact that I fear horrendous acts such minds are capable of justifying. Thus, brushing off the death of migrant children by claiming they were mannequins signifies a new level of ruthless propaganda that the manipulative fact-twisting right has reached in a post-truth era.
The true sources of migration require long term intervention, and are beyond immediate EU control since they depend on highly complex issues such as climate change, famine and war. The way we tackle arrivals on our shore, however, is not beyond control. Seeing through racist propaganda is not beyond our control. Hatred is not beyond our control. Although there is no easy solution, the governments ought to stop yielding power from xenophobia. No good can come out of a society that is approving deaths of innocent people. How many more people will die if this apathy and hostility continues?
Anna Azzopardi is an educator with a firm dedication for human rights. Her main interests are feminism, minorities, and disability rights. She is Deputy General Secretary of Alternattiva Demokratika. She has been active in AD since 2013, acting as General Secretary to the youth section from 2013 till 2018, becoming Deputy General Secretary of AD in 2016. She is currently reading for a Masters in Inclusive Education.