Social Question

chelle21689's avatar

Why Americans don't seem to care about mass killings in Syria?

Asked by chelle21689 (4961 points ) July 21st, 2012

A mass shooting happened at a movie theater where 12 innocent people were killed in Colorado. Seeing this on the news makes me sad and want to cry when I see people breaking down crying over loved ones. I see on Facebook all over people’s feeds about praying for them, showing support, etc.

Yes this is tragic, but in Syria almost every day almost 100 people are killed. Yet, I never see anything on my Facebook about that. That is a mass murder EVERY DAY. Seems like no one seems to care.

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19 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

The sad fact is that in order for empathy to kick in, people tend to need a personal connection. We need images, voices, personal narratives, names, etc. Study after study confirms that we have great difficulty connecting emotionally to dry news accounts and numbers, no matter their magnitude. Data gets processed intellectually, but not emotionally. This is no doubt why the Syrian government has been so active in suppressing the out-flow of images and personal accounts.

Add to this the fact that it’s so much easier for us to imagine ourselves sitting in a theater watching a movie premier. When we try to put ourselves in the place of the average Syrian, the result seems far less vivid. We don’t know what their lives are like.

Our sense of empathy is a wonderful faculty, but it evolved to operate in close quarters, among people we see and understand, and doesn’t deal well with reports from far away peoples.

zenvelo's avatar

Syria is in a civil war, and in civil wars horrible things happen over and over. It is awful and tragic that the Syrian government would treat its people the way it has. Yet it is at least understandable that there is an oppressive government killing its citizens, and citizens struggling to fight back and be free.

Aurora CO is not in a civil war, and there is no sense of danger in just going to a midnight movie, so when a crazed person opens fire in a theater it is not only horrible and tragic, but completely nonsensical and presents most of us with an unanswerable question of how something like this could happen and how do we keep it from happening again.

chelle21689's avatar

Great answer thorninmud.

digitalimpression's avatar

In short: We tend to be more emotionally involved with things/people that are close to us.

Aethelflaed's avatar

There’s not really anything most of us can do about Syria. If our government was talking about doing something, we could support them or not, which might do something, but for most of us, we can really only be in horror. That’s really hard for most people to take, simply having intense emotions and not really having any way to change that, so we avoid having those emotions. The Aurora shooting, on the other hand, is something we have more control over. We can discuss gun control laws and the mental health system and media representations and war, and then we can vote and fund candidates. For those who actually live in Denver, we can discuss more local issues – did UCD Anschutz provide enough affordable and accessible mental health care? Should we vote in new regents? Should we, as a state, fund our schools more, so that they can give our students better medical and mental care? Are there specific shops we need to shut down for their illegal operations? So, being able to combine empathy with our perceived ability to actually do something positive about the situation is key to us caring.

Blackberry's avatar

I actually don’t even know what’s happening there, lol.

Trillian's avatar

Why stop at Syria? There is strife and conflict all over the world. What is your definition of “care”? What would you suggest people do about it if they do care? What difference would those actions make? Are you suggesting we try to put a stop to violence in other countries? As opposed to the violence here? Are you suggesting we impose our beliefs in another country? Using what mechanism?
Is it possible that many people see so much violence and unfiarness in the world about which they can do nothing that people just turn it off as a natural self defencse mechanism? Are people already at their saturation point?
Posting a blurb on facebook accomplishes what?
How do you know that the people not posting on facebook aren’t taking action of some sort? Action which actually accomplishes something other than somehting for someone to read, shake their head over, and go on to the next piece of gossip?

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
YARNLADY's avatar

The same reason people don’t seem to care about the 20,000 men, women and children who starve to death every single day of the year. There’s only so much we can do about it, and daily outrage is not productive.

ucme's avatar

Doorstep empathy.

DominicX's avatar

Every time someone says something like this, I always say the same thing: what are we supposed to do?

And no one really ever gives me an answer. I agree with @thorninmud that there are significant differences between something that happens at home, in a situation we could easily have been in, and outside of a civil war and something within a civil war like in Syria. Now, I have been following the Syrian uprising/Civil War since it began because I do care about world issues and I like to know what’s going on. But as @YARNLADY said, daily outrage is not productive.

Just because I’m not outraged daily or rant about it every day doesn’t mean I “don’t care”, but since a lot of people don’t seem to know what it means to “care” about issues like this, I don’t think it matters. As soon as this shooting story passes and something else enter the news, the same people will be saying “how come no one cares anymore?!”

Nullo's avatar

The degree of interest depends on the proximity of the event. 12 dead in a theater four states away doesn’t have the same impact as 12 dead in a theater in your own town. I used to have a formula someplace for calculating it. Something like 1 local = 10 state = 100 national = 1000 first-world international = 10,000 in the second or third world.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Arabs have a long history of killing each other. (Of course, so do other ethnic and religious groups, but Muslims over the lat 60 years or so have been involved in probably 90% of mass killings, massacres, terrorism, and civil uprisings.)

So right or wrong, Americans have come to expect that Muslims/Arabs kill other groups and each other, and it is no longer fresh or exciting news.

And frankly, Americans care more about dead Amrericans than dead Syrians. Like it or not.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I wouldn’t say 90% or the last 60 years is accurate. There are just as many mass killings in other parts of the world. The Tiananmen Square protests were in 1989, remember. And Africa has had the issue of genocide.

I wouldn’t say people don’t care about Syria. At my college, there have been plenty of meetings and talks about Syria, and not a day goes by where there isn’t a new chalking about it in the main area.

It just isn’t as close to home. It is more of an intellectuals issue than an everyman issue.

tranquilsea's avatar

Dunbar’s Number is the number given to how many relationships humans can realistically hold onto in a stable way, about 150.

A Cracked.com article says it better (and funnier) than I can. From the article: “First, picture a monkey. A monkey dressed like a little pirate, if that helps you. We’ll call him Slappy.

Imagine you have Slappy as a pet. Imagine a personality for him. Maybe you and he have little pirate monkey adventures and maybe even join up to fight crime. Think how sad you’d be if Slappy died.

Now, imagine you get four more monkeys. We’ll call them Tito, Bubbles, Marcel and ShitTosser. Imagine personalities for each of them now. Maybe one is aggressive, one is affectionate, one is quiet, the other just throws shit all the time. But they’re all your personal monkey friends.

Now imagine a hundred monkeys.

Not so easy now, is it? So how many monkeys would you have to own before you couldn’t remember their names? At what point, in your mind, do your beloved pets become just a faceless sea of monkey? Even though each one is every bit the monkey Slappy was, there’s a certain point where you will no longer really care if one of them dies.

So how many monkeys would it take before you stopped caring?

ETpro's avatar

I care a great deal about carnage where ever it happens. I care about people contracting cancer, or Alzheimer’s disease, or having strokes. Unfortunately, there are lots of things I care about but can’t reasonably do anything about.

If you want to shame the people that are preventing any action to stop the violence in Syria, don’t pick on Americans. It’s Russia and China that keep vetoing UN Security council action.

Ron_C's avatar

I think, after all of the years of Bush-Cheney inspired murder it is nice to know that we aren’t the ones killing brown people.

That being said, what can we do? All we have is military power. We no longer have an ethical standing, after-all, the Syrian army is just doing what we have been doing for the last 10 or 12 years, killing “insurgents”.

I’m all for letting them all kill eachother and we negotiate with the winner. The same for Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t want to be the country that kills and tortures people. I am really, really tired of it.

basstrom188's avatar

Why not negotiate with the losers like you did after WWII
You gave no aid to the Soviet Union and cut off support to the United Kingdom because the people had the audacity to elect a left leaning government and throw out the war monger Churchill. Instead you lavished Marshal aid cash on Germany and Japan.

whiteliondreams's avatar

Not to knock on the Judeo door, but if this were Israel, we would be inside Palestine or Iran’s ass right now. Talk about interest.

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