Fear vs. Facts

Despite the rabid hype by Republicans, we are not in danger of getting killed by terrorists.

Consider, for instance, that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – the equivalent of “a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day.”

Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has observed that “[e]ven in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never [comes] close to the number of traffic deaths.”


Aside from pushing us into an unnecessary war, there are other consequences to the campaign of fear being foisted upon us:

America’s panicked obsession with Islamist terrorism is understandable but may skew public policies in costly ways. In particular, a serious public policy problem emerges when unsubstantiated fear fuels excessive public spending. More than a decade after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has committed trillions of dollars to fighting the war on terror.....

Consider, however, that federal spending on improving vehicular safety and research for Alzheimer’s and diabetes pales in comparison. Yet traffic deaths, Alzheimer’s and diabetes account for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in the United States.

After a briefing with his security team, President Obama said yesterday:

“There is currently no specific, credible threat” to the US from the terror organisation.

So go about your plans. Enjoy your holiday. And pay more attention to your driving than ISIS. Don't let Republicans jockeying for their party's nomination for President and the makers of war machinery who profit from war ruin it.

< Over the Vain-Bow
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  • Display: Sort:
    these statistical comparisons (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by The Addams Family on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 04:06:39 AM EST
    are accurate, as far as they go

    but i wonder what accounts for the assumption that citizens who are skeptical of our leaders' self-serving assurances are consumed by fear, of all things

    The yearly risk (in the United States) of dying from a shark attack is roughly 1 in 250 million. In contrast, the yearly risk of dying from a vending machine accident is roughly 1 in 112 million. The vending machine is indeed roughly twice as lethal as the shark! . . . One day I tried learning to surf . . . . After returning to shore, I learned . . . of a great white shark that had been sighted swimming around the bay. It was probably the same shark that had bitten the leg off a surfer a few months earlier. Don't tell me that, while surfing in that bay on that day, a vending machine posed more danger to me than that great white shark! . . .  These statistics are averaged over everyone in the United States. In most places in the U.S., such as Kansas, people are nowhere near a body of water with sharks. The comparison of the risk to a vending machine, while true as far as it goes, ignores highly relevant information--such as whether one is swimming in the same bay as a shark.

    & the statistical comparisons offered here ignore whether one is in Boston on 15 April 2013, or in New York City on 11 September 2001, or in London on 7 July 2005, or in Madrid on 11 March 2004, or in Paris on 13 November 2015, or . . . well, we'll see, won't we?

    oh, and there's this:

    First hiker: "Whoa! We should get inside!"
    Second hiker: "I'ts okay! Lightning only kills about 45 Americans a year, so the chances of dying are only 1 in 7,000,000. Let's go on!"
    Footnote: The annual death rate among people who know that statistic is 1 in 6.

    The best (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 06:55:47 AM EST
    comparison really is gun violence.

    John Oliver (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by CoralGables on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 07:35:12 AM EST
    It is a wee bit (none / 0) (#2)
    by lentinel on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 05:34:48 AM EST
    partisan, I think, to blame the "rabid hype" about terrism solely on the republicans.

    The administration is doing its part to keep us edgy.

    In fact, you linked to and quoted from a travel advisor issued by the State Department.

    The State Department has issued a world-wide travel alert for U.S. travelers.
    There's no mention of an imminent specific threat. And it's not just travel:

    U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowed places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.

    Not is it directed solely to ISIS:

    And it's not just ISIS: It's also al-Qaida, Boko Harem other groups. And of course there's also the lone and loony wolf mention: attacks "inspired" by these groups, rather than directed by them.

    Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali.

    Imo, just about all the politicians in power, republican or democrat, are profiting by keeping us afraid and trying to make us believe that they are doing something to protect us - when in fact they are actively pursuing policies  that continue to place us in danger.

    In any case, the danger is real.

    I take the downing of the Russia plane by Turkey very seriously.
    What in the world were they thinking?  And, if I read it correctly, the two hapless pilots who managed to eject in time, were shot to death as they came to earth in their parachutes.

    They were shot to death as they were helpless.
    And they were shot by Syrian "rebels". The ones we, at the urging of Secty Clinton, and implemented by Pres Obama, have been "training".

    And Obama's comment was, as I read it, something about Turkey having a right to defend its air space. I would have preferred some conciliatory message to the Russians - who called this shooting, "a stab in the back". And Obama allies us with the back-stabbers. Oooof.

    That is what I read. If it is true, it is chilling to think that we have allied ourselves with people like that whose cruelty matches those we are allegedly fighting.

    I do think that there is rabid hype about the danger in which we find ourselves. That is what these pols do.

    But I also think that we are in fact in danger, thanks to the actions of successive administrations from both parties.

    BBC and Russia (none / 0) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 07:32:39 AM EST
    report that one of the pilots is alive and well having been found and evacuated to a Russian air base.

    FWIW... (none / 0) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 08:01:41 AM EST
    ...the navigator was the one to be rescued.

    That, (none / 0) (#7)
    by lentinel on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 08:04:04 AM EST
    at least, is a glimmer of good news.

    But it does not relate to the thrust of my post, which was to express that our government is putting us in danger - and has been doing so through successive administrations - republican and democrat.

    Indeed, some of the faces have moved from one administration to the next. ie: Gates. Patraeus. These are faces I would have preferred been retired to the heap of history.

    I agree with Jeralyn when she expresses that our interventions and bombings accomplish nothing, and puts a target on our backs.

    I only disagree when the blame for what I consider to be blunders at best and jockeying for power and money and oil at worst is laid exclusively at the door of rabid republicans.

    We have lots of rabies in the democratic party.


    Not surprising (none / 0) (#8)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Nov 25, 2015 at 08:18:03 AM EST

    We have lots of rabies in the democratic party.

    The Jewish vote has always been important to progressives