Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP

Mattathias Schwartz writes:

When crucial pieces of our infrastructure fail, they do so gracelessly, without much warning and in ways that are difficult to anticipate. The job of sifting through the wreckage falls to official investigators, who determine the event’s ‘root causes’ and offer proposals for new safeguards. Their interventions restore our sense of security by placing what happened in a moral framework. The idea that accidents are caused by a few greedy or negligent individuals is more palatable than the alternative, that the guilty parties were doing exactly what was asked of them, blind to any consequences, like an engine that keeps pumping steam after its pipes break.

(LRB 6 October 2011)