Tragedy happens and the press incites panicIn writing about this week's tragic bridge collapse over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, some of you may think that I am demeaning the significance of the event in saying that the mainstream press is engaging in a festival of panic inducement and over-reaction, but all we really need to do is examine how the national press is dealing with the story to see that in the wake of the terrible tragedy the mainstream press seems to enjoy spreading panic.
To believe CBS News, all of our bridges are going to collapse and we are all going to die since our national infrastructure is crumbling. We shall daily read of headlines that this or that bridge has collapsed. NBC tells us that so many of our bridges are old and decrepid that none of them are safe to travel on. Indeed, not just the bridges, but the entire highway system is in need of repair, and the only way to solve the problem is to raise the gas tax. Meanwhile, ABC warns us that the disaster in Minneapolis may intensify a widespread phobia of bridges, while just above that story they ran one warning everyone that their local bridges may not be safe (I suppose ABC News thinks that their story will somehow not contribute to the phobia they speak of). CNN also adds to the climate of fear, and of course U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada got his licks in:
"There is crumbling infrastructure all over the country," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
To be fair to Senator Reid, he joins a bipartisan chorus of leaders all over the country now calling for bridge inspections and highway scrutiny. I do find it funny that we weren't hearing this kind of talk much at all (especially from Democrats) until the Minnesota bridge collapsed. Now it is point-the-finger and shift-the-blame time, so let us use the opportunity to score cheap political points for ourselves off of the injuries and deaths of innocent people, shall we?
Don't get me wrong, I am glad that our State government has finally found the time to inspect East Tennessee bridges. It took a bridge collapse almost 1,000 miles away to trigger what should be a routine inspection? TDOT has work crews all over the place around here working on all sorts of road projects, not all of which are necessary (here in East Tennessee, we are in a perpetual state of Road Construction Eternal), and yet we are just now getting around to a bridge inspection? I can smell the pandering from here.
The bridge collapse in Minnesota was not only a terrible tragedy, but it has triggered a much needed discussion on the state of our bridges and roads. Let's not let this important moment turn into a needless exercise in fear and cheap political point-snatching.