And you know what, I think the economic effects of terrorist attacks are more important news than whatever the death toll is. People die every day: almost 2.5 million people in the US alone died last year. Even the 3000 or so people killed by the 9/11 attacks are merely drops in the bucket compared to how many die every day from cancer, car accidents, heart disease, and so forth. The attacks were horrific, barbaric, tragic, and all that, but they didn’t directly affect 99% of the population.
On the other hand, nearly everyone in the US was touched by the economic slowdown that the attacks produced. The potential economic effects of any disaster are a lot more relevant to me than human interest stories on people who were killed or injured. What am I supposed to do, cry about it? Millions of people die every day, often in horrific and violent ways. What’s so special about the fifty or so people who had the dubious distinction of being killed by a terrorist bombing? It may sound cruel and uncaring, but people killed by terrorists aren’t any more deserving of my sympathy the hundreds of thousands of children dying of starvation in Africa, who you only hear about on late-night commercials on PBS.
There’s nothing unique or especially newsworthy about people dying. What is newsworthy is a terrorist attack that has the potential to cripple the economy. Hell, the only reason it’s worth reporting the death count from these attacks at all is because that’s an indicator of their severity, and their severity is what affects the economy.
News on the stock market and economic indicators is far more relevant than morbidly harping on the death count, because the response of the stock market is a good prediction of what the response of the economy will be (or at least, the best we have available). Even if you don’t own any shares directly, if there’s an attack and the market tanks, you will most definitely feel it. Economic news is not solely relevant to fat capitalist pigs who greedily clutch their stock portfolios.
I read an article lately about how US culture is turning mourning into a recreational activity. I wish I could find the link, because I think it’s absolutely correct.