Laura Clawson is spot on.
We basically have agreed that disasters like this are, as Kim puts it, "the presumed cost of living in a modern, industrialized economy." We should take disasters like this one as a reminder of the recklessness with human life that our political and economic systems tolerate and even encourage.One step further: The reason for the focus on the Boston Marathon bombing vs. the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion is not just because the Boston Marathon is a world-class event. It is not just because the alleged perpetrators hail from a heavily Muslim area of the world and that this area of the world has previous experience with violent extremism (though this is no doubt is a contributing factor). It is not even because of the innate human need to assign blame and seek justice, as discussed in the Atlantic. Rather, the primary reason lies in the way traditional media operates and the worldview it chooses to perpetuate. A worldview dominated by deference to the corporation, to the free market and more recently, to a desire to eliminate most or even all regulation of and accountability for private industry.
The Boston Marathon offered the above-mentioned characteristics – a high-profile event, potential foreign (Muslim) terrorist activity and awful images of blood and death, including the death of a child – that makes for great TV, print and social media. Multiple outlets even provided images, not just insinuation or implication but actual images on the front page of alleged suspects who turned out to be completely unrelated.
Conversely, the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion can be explained by some combination of corporate negligence, incompetence and accident. The first two possibilities are rarely reported by traditional media outlets. When corporate negligence or incompetence does make the news, the corporation can easily explain away the problem and often does by blaming burdensome government over-regulation. But in this case, the lax regulation was easily discovered. So instead, the story is largely ignored relatively to the bombings in Boston.
It is much easier to want to assign blame and seek justice when the suspects have foreign sounding names and detonated a bomb at an otherwise peaceful, world-class athletic event. The fertilizer plant in West, Texas was a terrible event and possibly nothing more than an accident. But, as many have written, the death toll was far higher, the damage likely worse and the coverage far less. Of course, the great David Nir wrote this morning about the special election for Congressional in SC-1 and felt obligated to rehash the bizarre details since last week was blurred by both Texas and Boston.
Both a well functioning democracy of humans and the well functioning capital markets of corporate people require committed participants, transparency in action and consistent application of rules and accountability for those who break them. There was immediate and extensive debate over how to classify the Boston suspects and whether or not to “Mirandize” them (we even make up words, depending on the nature and significance of the event). There has been little coverage in the traditional media about corporate regulatory reform or even proper oversight and enforcement of existing laws.
When these features are over applied to democracy and under applied to private industry, the result cannot be good for either.