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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Let's Not Forget About Texas

Last week's Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt captured the attention of most Americans. Coverage of the bombing and manhunt dominated most print, TV, radio, and Internet outlets for the entire week. What got lost in the coverage, however, was the tragedy that struck two days later in West, Texas, when a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 people, injured over 200, leveled several houses, demolished a 50-unit apartment building, and damaged a nursing home and a handful of schools.

Of course, the reason why the bombing attracted so much attention is because acts of terror strike fear in the hearts of most people. Indeed, that "is the whole point of terrorism... [it] leverages the psychology of fear to create emotional damage that is disproportionate to its damage in lives and property" (The Better Angels of Our Nature, p. 345). As Steven Pinker and others have noted, each year, more Americans are killed in traffic accidents, homicides, drownings, fires, falls, bee stings, peanut allergies, and lightening strikes than by terrorist attacks. But the emotional damage is real, which is why it elicits a disproportionate share of media coverage and why last week many of us forgot about the people of West, Texas.

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