NEW HAVEN – For around a week in late June, Western media were obsessed with the fate of the Titan, a small submersible carrying a few billionaires and others to the sunken Titanic and later found to have imploded within hours of beginning its descent. Meanwhile, a boat carrying some 750 economic refugees capsized off the Greek coast, killing hundreds who had boarded in Libya after making perilous journeys from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. Pakistan declared a national day of mourning for its citizens lost at sea. But the West paid hardly any notice.
Of course, it is unfair to fault the press for responding to the demands of its audience. The relatively scant coverage of the migrants’ tragedy is symptomatic of a larger tendency to ignore the plight of those who happen to have been born in less privileged parts of the world. The mood has changed since the 2015 refugee crisis, when chilling photos of a migrant boy who had washed up on the Turkish coast elicited outrage and a vigorous response from policymakers in rich countries. In the intervening years, the Western public has become inured to such images, more often looking inward, or focusing on other priorities.