Comedian Trevor Noah is calling out a double standard in media coverage of the crisis in Ukraine in comparison to devastation in other regions such as Africa and the Middle East.
On Monday's episode of "The Daily Show," Noah sharply criticized TV reporters stunned by the violence unfolding in a "relatively civilized," "relatively European" country that is "not a developing, Third World nation" — as some broadcasters put it.
Journalists have garnered widespread criticism over the past week for implying that the predominantly white people of Ukraine deserve more sympathy than people living in places with mostly nonwhite populations.
"I don't know about you but I have been glued to the TV all weekend watching all the news," Noah said.
"And beyond the war itself ... there's a really interesting thing that I learned. And that is: A lot of people on TV didn't expect a war like this to happen in, let's say, certain neighborhoods."
To underscore his point, Noah presented a compilation of TV reporters talking about Russia's offensive strike on Ukraine, launched last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"These are prosperous, middle-class people," said Al Jazeera English anchor Peter Dobbie. "These are not people trying to get away from areas in North Africa. They look like any European family that you would live next door to."
"This isn't a place — with all due respect — like Iraq or Afghanistan," remarked CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata. "This is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully too — city where you wouldn't expect that or hope that it's going to happen."
After playing a few more clips of pundits comparing the situation in Ukraine to attacks on areas that "could seem very far away, in Africa or Middle East or whatever," Noah denounced racism in the media and gave viewers a quick history lesson about war.
"Wow, that was you choosing your words carefully? That was the careful version?" Noah said. "What were you going to say if you weren't choosing your words carefully? 'I just hope the next time this happens, it happens back in the Middle East where it belongs.' ...
"Let's forget the racism — oh, how I wish we could forget about the racism. You do realize that, until very recently, fighting crazy wars was Europe's thing? That was Europe's entire thing. That's all of European history."
Over the weekend, the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Assn. released a lengthy statement urging "all news organizations to be mindful of implicit and explicit bias in their coverage of war in Ukraine." The AMEJA also condemned "orientalist and racist implications that any population or country is 'uncivilized'" and rebuked Western newsrooms in particular for perpetuating such beliefs.
"Now people are going to be like, 'Ugh, to see this in Europe! To see this,'" Noah continued.
"I don't know about you but I was shocked to see how many reporters — around the world, by the way — seem to think that it's more of a tragedy when white people have to flee their countries. Because, I guess, what? The 'darkies' were built for it?"
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.