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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    these statistical comparisons (none / 0) (#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.