I ended up posting for most of last week about terrorism and perspective. Perspective is difficult to define in comparison to something that can be analyized and quantitated into a nice value. If I was interested in selling perspective to the fringe right which makes up the bulk of the conservative movement it would be a daunting task considering that it is a movement that has no problem on a daily basis of rejecting rational empirical thought. In this post at Kuro5hin, Terrorism? I don't care… the writer starts off with an unfortunately titled post, but does make some good points,
According to the Commission for Global Road Safety about 1.2 million people are killed and 50 million injured every year in traffic accidents (source).
Natural disasters took 241,400 human lives in 2004 alone (source).
And although the numbers are declining cancer still caused appr. 563,700 deaths in the US alone in 2004 (source).
Compare these figures to the alleged world-wide 2,929 terror-induced deaths since in the 5 years since 9/11, a number provided by the Bush-administration itself (source).
Though acts of terrorism are spectacular and get an amazing amount of media-coverage they actually have very little real impact compared to other factors. It's just not very likely to ever affected by an act of terrorism, let alone be killed in it.
I think that he may have been better off in using crime statistics since that would have been a more direct comparison of one set of human sourced threats versus another set. Nevertheless, as far as our day to day lives are concerned health, safety, and crime issues are more of a threat to your life and your families then al-Queda. That is in no way to say that al-Queda isn't dangerous and the threat from Islamic fundamentalists isn't serious, only that they are one among many threats that face America and the rest of the world. The first or second comment at Kuro5hin is supposed to be a rebuttal, but clearly fails to make the case that we should all be in an absolute panic. First the poster's alias is My Other Account Is A Heterosexual and refers us to a web site which as I click over to has an ad that reads " Could America become an Islamic Theocracy?", a rabid homophobe that links to a site that swears America is on the verge of collapse into Islamic authoritarian rule. Other Account sites 5000, rather then 2,929 terror induced deaths. Even if we take him at his word, that still means that terror from jihadists is 0.89 percent of the deaths caused by cancer and 0.42 of the deaths caused by traffic accidents. The first reaction of Bush supporters and those that are buying into the paranoia is to accuse people that are trying to point out terrorism is one serious threat among many is to accuse us of being complacent about terrorism. On the contrary terrorism is a deadly and serious challenge to civil society. The impact of terrorism doesn't just effect us in terms of lost lives, but also impacts the economy and and our attitudes toward each other. One doesn't have to visit right-wing conservative sites very often to see the extent to which they hate anyone that disagrees with their extreme world view, we are a divided society because of several issues and the way to fight terrorism and the war in Iraq have become two of the biggest reasons. To a large extent Bush and his supporters are playing right into the hands of the Mulim extremists by overreacting. By conflating Iraq with terrorism and by invading Iraq, conservatives have created a place to practice terror tactics for the next generation of terrorists; they've diverted resources away from fighting terror that is mostly non-state sponsored, and with incidents like Abu Graib and Haditha given the real jihadists grist for their propaganda mill. Over the course of the last five years many jihadists have been captured or killed, but Bush and his policies have made no headway at all in actually scaling back the number of terrorists or winning over moderate Arab Muslims. Those moderates haven't thrown in their lot with the extreme, but they are not helping us as much as they could because they feel, rightly or not that war has been declared on them too. If they're reading comments like those by Other Account or looking at web sites like he pointed to, it is little wonder the entire Arab Muslim world feels threatened. Muslims could use some liberalizing, but it is faily obvious at this point that conservatives are not the ones that can be trusted to accomplish that. Considering the history of the last two thousand years I don't know that either Muslims or Christians as a whole can make the claim that they have in all cases been rational and peaceful. Terrorism didn't start on 9-11 and is not a behavior that is exclusive to some Arab Muslims. It may take a few years, probably a generation before a combination of things will happen; one is that the Arab Muslim world will be caught up in the winds of modernity because of cultural drift, just the way that western society has ( Fundamentalist christians in America should be able to identify with fundamentalists Muslims, both have declared war against modernity). Then there is the economic incentives for Arab Muslims to be part of the world economy ( see what Iran is seeking with its talks with the west). Until then we'd be much better off as thinking of jihadists as a criminal gang, a world crime problem rather then some massive boogieman that is a threat to western civilization.
– According to Wikipedia the core of al-Queda is about 20,000 and about 100,000 militants have recieved training. Some perspective: I live near a county in the south that has about 500,000 people and in a study I saw a few years ago it was estimated that about 125,000 owned a gun. I own two. So that county alone could give any attempt by jihadists to create a theocracy a heck of a hard time. We toss the term around casually, but paranoia is increibily dangerous. It distorts people's thinking and creates hostilty. It can direct societies wealth and energy into a black hole.
There is a time in the life of every boy when he for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when he crosses the line into manhood. The boy is walking through the street of his town. He is thinking of the future and of the figure he will cut in the world. Ambitions and regrets awake within him. Suddenly something happens; he stops under a tree and waits as for a voice calling his name. Ghosts of old things creep into his consciousness; the voices outside of himself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of himself and his future he becomes not at all sure. If he be an imaginative boy a door is tom open and for the first time he looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before him, the countless figures of men who before his time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the boy. With a little gasp he sees himself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of his village. He knows that in spite of all the stout talk of his fellows he must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the winds, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.
from Sophistication a story from Winesburg,Ohio by Sherwood Anderson