January 19, 2008

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Which is more of a threat to your health: Al Qaeda or the Department of Homeland Security?
An intriguing new study suggests the answer is not so clear-cut. Although it’s impossible to calculate the pain that terrorist attacks inflict on victims and society, when statisticians look at cold numbers, they have variously estimated the chances of the average person dying in America at the hands of international terrorists to be comparable to the risk of dying from eating peanuts, being struck by an asteroid or drowning in a toilet.
Earlier: Who's afraid of Terrorists?
How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of terrorism? Very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all. In the graph below (see post), you can see how Americans have been answering that question since the attacks of Sept. 11. Even though there hasn’t been an attack on American soil in the ensuing six years, close to half of Americans are worried about being victims. Over this same period, similarly large numbers of people have been telling pollsters they consider it somewhat or very likely that there’ll be a terrorist attack in America within several weeks or several months.
In the post, John Tierney debates this graph in the context of availability cascades ...
.... beliefs that spread because their promoters exploit a dramatic image that’s readily available in people’s minds. The technical name for these promoters is “availability entrepreneurs”; another, coined by John Mueller of Ohio State University, is “the terrorism industry.”
"Exploiting a dramatic image readily available in people's minds"... that's what all the hatred of Islam or Iran, that seems very prominent in the US, is also all about. Yes.. Ahmedajinad's rhetoric does make it easy to look at him as a illogical fool but I fear many of our politicians and their rhetoric may seem the same to many Iranians.

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