On Khashoggi, but really on apathy

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Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb leaves his country's consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. The Turkish fiancee of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi has called on U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders to ensure that his death in Istanbul is not covered up, while Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor on Tuesday visited the Saudi Consulate where officials from his government killed the writer. (Can Erok/DHA via AP)

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb leaves his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. The Turkish fiancee of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi has called on U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders to ensure that his death in Istanbul is not covered up, while Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor on Tuesday visited the Saudi Consulate where officials from his government killed the writer. (Can Erok/DHA via AP)

On October 2, journalist Jamal Khashoggi went to file documents for his divorce from his ex-wife at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. He never walked out of the building that day and is now confirmed dead. In the weeks following the event, statements came from the groups involved, many of which contradicted each other. Saudi officials first lied, saying that he left, then claimed he died in a fight with a rogue agent. Trump seems to mostly agree with this narrative, but obviously, Turkey is furious at the killing of its citizen. In fact, they believe this to be premeditated. There is still a haze over how high up this plan went, but it wouldn’t be the most surprising to believe it was a Saudi Arabian effort.

Basically, a Saudi-born Turkish citizen was killed in Turkey by people representing Saudi Arabia. This man was U.S.-affiliated in that he worked as a columnist for the Washington Post. Despite that, Donald Trump would prefer to believe that this killing was not planned by Saudi Arabia so that we can get back to selling them millions of dollars’ worth of weapons.

Remember all this?

Look, it’s been a few weeks since the story started to unfurl. And we just had another K name in the news with the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s even international news, sort of! That doesn’t even matter to people in the United States! It’s completely understandable that, in the current media landscape, one would forget about this brutal and still hazy event.

That’s exactly the problem, though, a problem I am sure Khashoggi would have been aware of and sympathetic to as a journalist. The volume of news happening has made it hard for the public to keep up. In this way, our attention becomes dull, and we start to tune out all news, good or bad, consequential or not. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is a horrific act that directly impacts America’s values of free speech. Despite this, the story has already been swept under the rug and faded from public consciousness. While some countries have punished Saudi Arabia for what happened, it looks likely that the United States, where Khashoggi worked, will not.

And this is one of the stories that actually manages to attract our attention! How many people have actually read a story about the Rohingya refugee and genocide crisis in Myanmar? How many people have followed the recent Brazilian elections, especially now that they’ve elected an extremely far-right president? It’s rare, and I’m not innocent either. I hardly know about what’s going on around the world; I barely have enough time to understand what’s going on in my own life.

The problem is, indirectly or not, these events do impact our life. It might not seem obvious how the murder of a Turkish journalist, the displacement of a South Asian ethnic group or the rise to power of a Brazilian fascist matters to us, but they do. These events represent threats to the values that form the core of our lifestyle and systems. As a newspaper writer, I’m deeply unsettled by the precedent set by Trump’s value of Saudi money over free speech. As an environmentalist, I fear (or continue to fear) for the future of the Amazon under Brazil’s new leader. As a human, I’m disgusted by our collective disinterest towards these stateless Rohingyas being thrown out or killed.

This apathy towards news, especially international news, will destroy everything we hold dear. Of course, no one will be coming in and taking our phones or something, but the world will change to no longer respect the western values on which our country and lives are based. The collective disconnect is just not sustainable. There has to be a better way for us to learn, filter, understand and take action towards the events of the world around us. This is not me suggesting one in particular. I feel just as clueless as anyone on the matter. But, I know that somehow, there is a way to make us all care. There has to be.


Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist  for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.  

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