Although I first saw an online news posting about the explosion in West, Texas on Wednesday night, I had no idea of the severity of the incident, and I didn’t research the matter in much depth. When I first heard news reports about the story on Thursday morning, though, I was struck by the fact that the reporters and the news networks almost resented having to take time away from covering this week’s events in Boston to report on the disastrous accident in Texas.
I wasn’t the only one to notice. Yesterday Ace and Mary Katherine Ham noted a New York Times piece faulting Fox News for focusing on the events in West, Texas rather than reporting on the failure of the gun legislation in the Senate on Wednesday. Writing in the New York Times, Brian Stelter lamented: “While most of [MSNBC's] ‘Joe’ was dedicated to guns on Thursday, Fox’s morning show, ‘Fox & Friends,’ didn’t mention the word once. It focused instead on news about a Texas fertilizer plant explosion.”
Ace’s characterization of the complaint gets at it perfectly:
The media here documents its own sick-making bias and arrogance but instead of understanding their own words — we ignored the destruction of an entire town to focus only on the minor heartburn suffered by our Liberal Messiah — they use it as a bludgeon for criticizing Fox.
See, Fox did wrong by thinking the lives in West, Texas mattered.
And as Thursday moved into Friday, that has only continued to be the case. Granted, the story of a manhunt for a suspected terrorist is more dramatic, particularly when most of a major urban area is ordered to go on lockdown and to stay indoors.
But when it comes to the magnitude of what happened in West, Texas Wednesday night compared with what happened in Boston on Monday, what happened in Texas is many times worse, not only in terms of deaths, but also in terms of destruction and lives uprooted. At this time, the death toll in Texas stands at 14 (including five volunteer firefighters and four emergency service workers) with 60 people still unaccounted for. Three fire trucks were destroyed, at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed, and at least 200 other people were injured.
An act of evil which terrorizes and disrupts a major city is certainly important. What happened in Texas, though, is just as important, as the consequences will likely be much more devastating for the lives of those involved and for the entire community, and yet the media is doing its best to bury the story, just as the media and the Obama administration did its best to deny that a terrorist incident in Texas 4 1/2 years ago was actually a terrorist incident. How many people even knew that three weeks ago, the Army formally declined to give Purple Hearts to Fort Hood shooting victims?
To listen to most of the media this week, it should be abundantly clear that some lives and some places are clearly more equal than others. And the lives and livelihoods of a bunch of folks in a tiny town in rural Texas aren’t viewed as amounting to much.
UPDATE: Assistant Village Idiot has some related thoughts (about Boston’s importance to the media, that is, not about their lack of interest in Texas) here. This paragraph stands out as a key reflection of the media’s insularity about its focus on the Northeast:
I admit, a few dead and almost 200 injured is a big deal. But the shared mentality is of the news, the politicians, and the teams combining to make it look more universal than it actually is. OMG, the kid was from Dorchester! Why, I go past Dorchester a lot! A BU grad student! Oh no! I knew some BU grad students once!
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