Everyone rightly condemns what has happened and is happening in France this week. Jean-Jullien-Je-Suis-Charlie-illustration_dezeen

But stepping back I am struck by the difference between the news as curated by the news companies and the news as mediated by my friends, both on and off line. And the self serving reactions of politicians & pundits.

Thursday I had Sky News running in background, Friday afternoon I had BBC News running in background. It was noticeable on Friday that both stopped giving live pictures of what the police were preparing. Something we’d debated at dinner on Thursday night.

Mainly the coverage was of journalists endlessly interviewing each other or the ‘man in the street’. Questions were inevitably aimed at stoking up something to say. A Sky News debate with extreme views from both sides was a farce, exemplifying why arguments with added bigotry can lead to violence.

4 Facebook posts this morning caught my eye.

1) Darren posted a link to “Je ne suis pas Charlie” The FT.com has an article explaining why we don’t have the right to be Charlie. We’re not brave enough to work under armed guard for what we believe in. It quotes how 66 journalists died last year, a third of them in Syria and Ukraine. They have the right to be Charlie but went unnoticed. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/6ddff0c2-95c4-11e4-a390-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3OPtx0MmO

2) My Icelandic friend Villi, posted “The killings in France are horrible and upset all of us. How will history rank this compared to Stalin’s cleanings and the Holocaust ?” And a debate followed.

3) Darren also posted a video from CNN showing how inane and ignorant we can be about “Moslem countries”. An intelligent American tries to take questions from the typical American fact-free perspective about other countries. Using facts doesn’t seem to change minds too easily. He illustrates beautifully how self interest works, quoting how 19 people had been beheaded in Saudi Arabia that week, but the rest of us said nothing because they’re on our side.

4) Gerald posted a piece on Boko Haram from the Guardian saying ‘lest we forget the roots of what’s happening in Europe and focus too much on what we are suffering, this barbarity is global’ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/boko-haram-deadliest-massacre-baga-nigeria?CMP=fb_gu  Boko Haram’s ‘deadliest massacre’: 2000 feared dead in Nigeria. Amnesty International calls the killings ‘a disturbing and bloody escalation’ and a local defence group says its fighters have given up trying to count the bodies

Having scanned the BBC and Sky sites earlier, it got me wondering. So I looked for the Boko Haram story and added what I found to Villi’s debate. To find out about the killing of 100s of civilians in Nigeria by Boko Haram this week, you have to go to the Africa page of the BBC and look under other stories. It’s a terrorist organisation and 3m people are affected. France has an initiative calling for international troops but there are none. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-30743030. On Sky News site, you have to go the world page and it’s a small item underneath a slightly larger item about knitting mittens for Koala bears. Apparently 20,000 displaced people are also dying of hunger, cold and malaria. http://news.sky.com/story/1404523/dozens-killed-as-boko-haram-attacks-villages

So what’s my point(s)?  Point 1: We view the world through our own eyes, through our own model of the world. What we see is all there is. It will always be so.

kahneman thinking fast and slowRead Daniel Kahneman if you want to know how we as humans work like this. It is natural to see what happened in France this week as more important, scary or newsworthy than what happened in another part of the world. Unless you live in that other part of the world.

Point 2: It’s the job of good journalists, world wide to try to bring home to the rest of us what other people think, perceive, fear, love, live with. Whether that’s by cartoon, film, interview or written word. Only by listening, being informed and understanding first, can we be prepared for the debates let alone the answers to problems that will not go away. Charlie is important.

I’m reading TE Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ at the moment. Beautifully written about the WW1 campaigns in Arabia. What strikes you is his keen observation of people, tribes, cultures, languages, accepted behaviours. His understanding is developed by living in their shoes, their ways and their norms. And then he can debate and win, fight and win rather than wasting energy. And of course Sykes_Picot_Agreement_Map_signed_8_May_1916the Arab uprising all ends in the treachery of Western politicians for which he never forgave himself. Those secret Sykes-Picot lines on the map of Asia Minor and how we have dealt with them since – they have a lot to answer for.  As maybe do Bush & Blair later in the same theatre – but they had “God on their side” to quote Bob Dylan. Read the words below the youtube clip if you can’t stand Dylan’s voice. It’s a great illustration of how politicians and people react. How we see the world.

Talking of Sykes-Picot lines, Iraq accounted for 6,362 of the 17,958 people who died of terrorist activities in 2013. 61% up on 2012. 14,722 of the total were in just 5 countries were in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and yes Nigeria. But keep it in context, that’s very close to the number of gun related deaths in the US at over 12,000 or 30 per day. And 40 times as many as this died in murders worldwide.

So point 3: Invest time understanding context, facts and situations before you rush to react to this week and every other week. Read what Charlie and everyone else writes. They probably took a risk to write it.

That applies at work too – when you get that next board presentation, give it respect and the time to understand it, rather than passing subjective judgement. Ask questions for understanding, show you invest time to absorb what people are saying. Only then make judgements. It’s the behaviour you see from the smartest CEOs.

Point 4: Facebook is not such a bad thing and Lord knows it’s better than Linked In’s corporate crap. I discovered that my friends curate news better than most mainstream journalists. So be braver BBC, be braver Sky and keep your valued position above gutter journalism.

And at work social networks are the life blood of communication, collaboration i.e. knowing what to do and getting things done. Don’t dismiss them as a a waste of your time or something that you’ll learn one day. And of course be brave in standing up for what you believe in.

And thank you to all the Charlies who posted this morning.

To conclude: Paris can do what London did. Keep calm and carry on. I’m not sure the people of Baga or Baghdad can.

Postscript, Nov 29th 2015 after further Paris attacks and calls to bomb Syria: http://stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news/john-pilger/john-pilger-how-the-media-promotes-the-lies-leading-us-to-catastrophic-war