Tsunami Sympathy Fatigue
Brian Whitman, guest hosting today’s Glenn Beck Program , made an interesting observation: Despite 70,000 deaths (now over 100,000) from the tragic earthquake and tsunamis that have devastated South Asia, most Americans–himself included–really don’t seem too broken up. He contrasted our reaction to the 3,500 or so Americans killed during the 9/11 attacks, when the whole world seemed to stop for days on end, or even the sympathy for Laci Peterson or Bobbie Jo Stinnett. After 9/11, all other news stories (remember Gary Condit?) were pushed out of the papers. Even ESPN became an all-9/11 network for a few days. By contrast, we’re pretty much going about our daily lives despite a natural disaster that has caused probably 35 times the death toll of 9/11.
While proximity is certainly an issue–we’re naturally going to be more traumatized by the deaths of our countrymen than those half a world away–there is something else involved. Callers had several answers, the most compelling of which was articulated by Glenn Beck himself, who called in on his cell phone: We react differently to natural phenomena–acts of God, if you will–than to the intentional acts of humans. Beck observed that we react much more viscerally to the Nazi Holocaust than to the 1918 Influenza epidemic.
When 3,500 people die at the volition of Islamofascist terrorists, it’s an outrage. When 100,000 die from a natural disaster, it’s incredibly sad but chalked up as “these things happen.” The natural reaction to the Holocaust is “Never Again.” To a flu epidemic, merely “Let’s find a cure.”
Despite our stoicism, Americans are donating heavily to charity.
- Glenn Reynolds notes that donations at Amazon alone have topped $2 million.
Scott Ott is collecting donations for the Bible Fellowship Church Board of Missions.
Steve Bainbridge links to Catholic Relief Services, which has made an initial pledge of $500,000.
Donald Sensing warns of bogus charities exploiting this tragedy using the “Nigerian widows” but notes that several worthwhile charities, including the Red Cross and United Methodist Committee on Relief are doing yeoman work.
Bill Hobbs links to World Vision, which he suggests as a worthwhile venue for donations.