A government crackdown on protestors in Egypt has resulted in the death of 278 Egyptians overnight, a number that One News reports is roughly the equivalent of 13 white people in western media terms.
The Egyptian military has cracked down on what it claims have been violent, unruly protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammad Morsi, but those crackdowns were fiercely resisted and have resulted in mass casualties.
New Zealanders and other western nationalities were shocked to learn that approximately 13 white men and/or women had died as a result of the military action.
“Thirteen is a lot of white people to die,” said Greymouth resident Samuel Cooper. “We lost 29 at Pike River, and the Queensland floods I remember killed 38. So while not quite so big as all that, they’re probably still feeling it, I imagine.”
TVNZ Head of News John Gillespie said it was important for western media outlets to convert foreign death tolls into numbers that better reflect their significance to those receiving the news, and to help ascertain how much priority to give stories on an evening bulletin.
“Generally speaking, in terms of news value, the death of 21 brown or foreign people is equivalent to the death of one white male or half a white woman,” said Gillespie. “Obviously that’s just a general guideline; the calculus can get quite complicated sometimes. For example, in New Zealand, the death of a Maori individual is nearly a one to one conversion, whereas, in Australia, you’re looking at about 30 aborigines for one top notch bloke.”
Gillespie said that when several white people die, particularly in an unusual circumstance such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, it was important that any news item about it go at the top of the bulletin.
“But when 20 to 30 die in a car bomb in Iraq, that’s really only about one white person, so you could run that at 6:20 or 6:25pm.”
He noted that this also made it acceptable to ask challenging questions or write satirical articles on the subject, something that would not be acceptable had the casualties been white or from New Zealand.
Gillespie said it was important not to offend white people because they have access to Facebook.
“People in Syria largely don’t,” he added.
He wanted people to understand it wasn’t that the lives of brown people were worth less, but just that viewers “don’t care as much,” which he said was “only natural” because “whatever.”
Gillespie said that events that happen less frequently are “more significant” and require “more urgent action.”
“If something happens every day, such as the death of thousands of African children in poverty, there’s really no need to do anything about it,” he said. “But if something happens once every ten years, it’s important that governments act swiftly and without legal boundary to ensure whatever it was never happens again.
“Our job is to hold them to account on that.”
Today’s death toll may be revised upwards to 14 after it was learned that an actual white person was killed during the violence.