A few weeks ago I wrote this post. I was angered by the disingenuous response to the refugee crisis, and the way the stolen picture of a child’s corpse was claimed. It later transpired that there were reports that the father of the child in the picture, could have been the one driving the boat. To me this made no difference. I hadn’t had the right to see the picture of that child as flotsam on the beach in the first place, and every day children die because inequality renders their lives meaningless and the people claiming ownership of that image are partially responsible. Inequality is ugly, and the belief of certain people that their awareness of inequality and their changed perspective is key to making a difference to this is offensive. The child’s death and the father’s pain not changed by any of these events. My understanding of the complexity of their lives, rendering me unqualified to judge this family.
I was told that Caitlin Moran and an actor called something Cumberbatch were behind a single advertised with the hashtag #helpiscoming, and the same anger I felt at the exploitation of a stolen image of a dead child came back.
While these people are happily tweeting and publicising how marvellous they are with hashtag that demonstrates how clearly they misunderstand the problem, they believe they are due a pat on the back. They believe they are doing something good. Except help is not coming for most refugees. Help is not coming for most migrants. What is coming is demonisation. In the UK alone, detention is coming, age assessments conducted by social workers bullied by the border agency is coming. Exploitation and physical and sexual abuse is coming, and existing on a pittance inadequate to eat, clothe, or heat a home, if one exists, is coming.
Abuse by the media is coming, the same media that pays their very handsome salaries. Most refugees will not hear the song, very little of the money raised will benefit them directly, and they certainly will not see the faux humanity of celebrities tweeting to say that because they are aware something happens that ‘help is coming’. Help is not coming. And as long as our vapid and toxic media culture defend a world where only their perspectives matter, help will never come.
More conflicts will be sold, many sold using the images of the people our conflicts displace.
What Moran and Cumberbatch are doing is exploiting the invisible, for their own benefit. Extracting value from those we have decided have lives that are dispensible. People patting them on the back for exploiting these people for their brand, their twitter feeds and their self image, are helping someone. It’s not the people who are the subject of this publicity storm.
Help is not coming and how dare these people say it is, because their attention was interrupted for a split second by images that were not theirs to ogle at.