What do I mean? Well, if I said that the number of children who die in school shootings every year was statistically insignificant in a nation of 311 million people or that there is an acceptable level of death through terrorism, many would accuse me of being a cold, soulless bean counter. But don’t we in essence live this attitude all the time? Every year approximately 175,000 children die through drowning, but we haven’t yet outlawed swimming pools or called for exhaustive government surveillance of them; and about 42,000 people die yearly in traffic accidents — 115 a day and 1 person every 13 minutes— but we haven’t yet mandated a five-mile-per-hour speed limit. Death is often accepted as the cost of doing business, and in this case the business is living.
That is, we accept death within certain contexts. But the context here isn’t “avoidable” deaths — it’s deaths that manage to avoid the news.
Just imagine if the media made showcasing juvenile drowning deaths a cause célèbre. Imagine they showed cute pictures of the now-deceased children; talked about their now dashed dreams, their hopes, their hobbies and happy natures; ran interviews with distraught loved ones and brought them before Congress. Wouldn’t there soon be a drumbeat to “do something” about this intolerable problem? Why, 175,000 children a year! Sen. Chuck Schumer would be on the air bloviating about how he pledges to take action and Barack Obama’s teleprompter would kick into high gear.
Of course, there already are regulations governing swimming pools and cars. The point, however, is that we’re still losing more than a million people to these two problems every half-decade, yet we don’t discuss them nearly as much as certain phenomena that cost far fewer lives. Clearly, the level of government intervention in an area doesn’t always correspond to the severity of the problem as much as to the intensity of news coverage.
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