Thursday, August 10, 2006

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

The right-wing think-tank The Cato Institute has a detailed, exhaustively researched research paper on the risks of terrorism. The paper's author, John Mueller of the Ohio State University, has documented statistics about the risks and trends of terrorism.

The bottom line is very simple: terrorism doesn't kill many people. The essential aim of terrorism is to create terror. As the paper points out:

Terrorists can be defeated simply by not becoming terrorized -- that is, anything that enhances fear effectively gives in to them.

What a difference between Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said we had nothing to fear but fear itself, and George W. Bush and his meaningless colour-coded fear-mongering. ("Today's Terrorism Alert is RED - high chance of nuclear explosions in New York and Washington, with occasional car bombs from the north and north-west. People in alpine areas should use snow chains and armour-plating on their cars.")

We've been lucky enough that our politicians have understood this, and (apart from the shameful treatment of refugees as if each and every one of them was virtually a convicted terrorist) have not talked the terrorism threat up. In the USA though, things are very different, with the government, aided and abetted by the right-wing media like Fox News, cynically talking up the terrorism threat, spreading fear and terror, doing everything possible to convince the population that their lives, their very country, was in imminent threat of destruction. As Cory Doctorow says:

[...] 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.

Via Bruce Scheier and Cory Doctorow.

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