Over the past month, Americans have heard heartbreaking news accounts of Syria’s brutal regime and the barbaric tactics it used against its own people. Pictures and film clips of victims writhing in pain, convulsing, and gasping for their last breath after a poisonous gas attack by Bashar al- Assad’s forces have made headlines all over the world. The U.S. government has reported that at least 1,429 people; including 426 children, were killed in the attack.
Urgently seeking the attention of the American people, President Obama addressed the nation to explain the importance of drawing an international red line when governments engage in a policy of deliberately targeting their civilian populations. He went on to declare that when the Syrian government used poisonous gas on its men, women and children, they committed a ‘crime against humanity’ and violated international human rights laws. And those crimes against humanity demand action, whether it is a ‘pinpointed militarily strike’ or through the new Russia-U.S. agreement on chemical weapons.
Yet, while this was occurring, what was dominating the news cycle? Who exhaustively made front-page headlines of nearly every newspaper, magazine and evening network news program? Miley Cyrus. Cyrus, with her provocative new song “Wrecking Ball” and performance at the VMAs, has captured this nation by storm. USA Today reported that a recent survey conducted by OutBrain, a data resource center, calculated that among Americans, Miley Cyrus is 12 times more popular that the mass murder occurring Syria. Apparently, Cyrus’ gut-wrenching lyrics describing her recent heart-break with ex-fiance Liam Hemsworth and her new video featuring her seductively swinging naked on a wrecking ball and a make-out session with a sledgehammer has been far more engaging than alternate news about these severe human rights violations.
While it is “tragic” that Miley and Liam have parted ways, the magnitude of their situation compared to mass murders in Syria does not compare. What is perplexing is why our country is 12 times more interested in the sexually provocative young adult’s love life and racy dance moves than weighing in on the unjustifiable suffering of over a thousand in Syria.
Our country already experienced the shame of ignoring human rights violations upon learning of the Nazi plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews by using gas. We’ve watched in horror as Saddam Hussein used poison gas against Iranians and the Iraqi Kurds. Do we really need another lesson on this crime against humanity? As Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
It is our duty as College of Wooster students to become educated about world atrocities so we can identify humanitarian emergencies and be prepared to stand up to governments that blatantly and brutally violate human rights and international law.
Rachel Korest is a Staff Writer for the Voice and can be reached for comment at RKorest15@wooster.edu