Beirut Blast: Ammonium Nitrate and Human Nature

Last Tuesday, August 4, 2020, something exploded in Beirut. It was around 6:00 p.m., Beirut time, 15:00 UTC.

By Wednesday afternoon, I’d read that the blast killed at least 100 folks and hurt some 4,000. Upwards of 100 people were missing. My guess was that the body count would increase.

I was right about that, sadly. By Monday, August 10, the acknowledged death toll had passed 200.

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Don’t Be Verbicidal

Words matter—and little things add up.

We live in a time when people are constantly talking past each other—or all too often, shouting past each other, whether the topic is public health issues, political decisions, pastoral priorities, or questions of faith. “If it bleeds, it leads” has long been an apt description of media practices, and today we might update that to “If it causes outrage, it goes on the main page.” This is a nonpartisan phenomenon, an ecumenical, equal-opportunity temptation, and so is bad behavior online. Jumping to conclusions, being uncharitable, passing along fake news, oversimplifying and misrepresenting people’s views, indulging in mockery and abuse—these are temptations of the internet age, and Catholics are by no means immune. In particular, it’s easy to get drawn into an over-heated, rage-fueled, micro-attention-span online culture.

What can we do about it?

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