In this mind-blowing, exhaustively researched Cato institute paper by Ohio State University's John Mueller, the case against being afraid of terrorism is laid out in irrefutable logic, backed with credible, documented statistics about terrorism's risks. From the number of fatalities produced by terrorism to the trends in terrorism death to the fact that almost no one has ever died from a military biological agent to the fact that poison gas and dirty bombs in the field do only minor damage — this paper is the most reassuring and infuriating piece of analysis I've read since September 11th, 2001.
The bottom line is, terrorism doesn't kill many people. Even in Israel, you're four times more likely to die in a car wreck than as a result of a terrorist attack. In the USA, you need to be more worried about lightning strikes than terrorism. The point of terrorism is to create terror, and by cynically convincing us that our very countries are at risk from terrorism, our politicians have delivered utter victory to the terrorists: we are terrified.
Much of the current alarm is generated from the knowledge
that many of today's terrorists simply want to kill, and kill more
or less randomly, for revenge or as an act of what they take to be
The shock and tragedy of September 11 does demand a
focused and dedicated program to confront international terrorism and to attempt to prevent a repeat. But it seems sensible to suggest that part of this reaction should include an effort
by politicians, officials, and the media to inform the public reasonably and realistically about the terrorist context instead of
playing into the hands of terrorists by frightening the public.
What is needed, as one statistician suggests, is some sort of convincing, coherent, informed, and nuanced answer to a central
question: "How worried should I be?" Instead, the message the
nation has received so far is, as a Homeland Security official put
(or caricatured) it, "Be scared; be very, very scared — but go on
with your lives." Such messages have led many people to develop what Leif Wenar of the University of Sheffield has aptly
labeled "a false sense of insecurity."