Seventy Tibetans have, one after the other, in relentless and purposeful succession, set themselves on fire for the cause of their people’s freedom. If anything so heroic, selfless, spontaneous, non-instigated, and entirely non-violent had happened anywhere else in the world, especially in the West or in places important to Western interests, like the Middle East or North Africa, these self-immolations would not only have become headline news but would have been discussed to death (if you will forgive the expression) in TV news-shows, chat-rooms, newspaper op-eds, editorials, blog-rooms, think-tank forums and so on. The issue could even have come up in the American presidential elections, and Tibetan TV viewers watching the foreign policy debate might have been amused by the vision of Mitt Romney scolding president Obama for ignoring the immolations in Tibet and “apologizing” to China — or its equivalent in this alternate reality.
But, of course, nothing of the kind has happened in our space-time continuum. Far from being the subject of international discussion, the world media has given the Tibetan immolations the absolutely minimum attention it is possible to give to a major news story, without actually opening itself to the charge of deliberately and cynically ignoring the issue altogether.
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