Victims of Our Fear
Terrorism in the 21st century, has become a powerful word. We all have an image of terrorism, as an act with the intention to kill people or otherwise cause damage in a violent manner for a given ideology. We are more than cognizant of the effects of this violence on people. There is constant coverage of terrorist actions and it has become, since the bombing of the twin towers in 2001, an obsession of the media to fawn over every detail of terrorist attacks. The number of casualties, the motivation of attackers, the dramatic manhunt, the personalities of the attackers and the victims. Following an attack these details are quickly enough revealed. This constant bombardment of information and of even the tiniest details relating to an attack has come to be expected in daily media coverage. Soon after the initial drama has ended, often before the bodies are even cold, there are a horde of experts, pundits and politicians who arrive on screens around the world to speak in panicked tones about the effect of the attacks, and moreover about how deathly afraid we should all be of the dreaded terrorists. The question is does all this coverage and stipulation amount to a real threat, or only to the appearance of one? Let's examine some statistics. According to the national center for health statistics, the chances of an American dying in an attack by a foreign terrorist are approximately 1 in 45,000. Statistics are fairly similar elsewhere in the West. In other words, the chances of dying in that situation are extremely slim. The chances of being killed in a household accident are significantly higher than those of dying at the hand of terrorists. So, at least in theory, you should be more afraid of the chair you are sitting on falling apart then you should be of a terrorist attack. Fear of terror is not solely illogical, it is also dangerous.
If we take actions on the basis of yet smaller events, such as the London attack of this weekend, would this not be further detrimental to yet more people? Even assuming that the results of counter terrorism result in a net reduction of terrorist action in the future, which is arguable, would taking action be worth it? If the actions to reduce terrorism cost more lives than the terrorism ever would, is that worth the loss?
Some would argue that for ideological reasons it would be, that not to react would make us look weak in the face of our enemies. I would argue the inverse of this is true. When we are prompted to action by forces so much inferior to our own, is this not in effect a recognition of the power of our enemies? Should we not instead of leaping at every annoyance show strength in the face of terror, and stand unflinching taking instead of a reactionary course of action one that is informed by pragmatism? This is not to say we must ignore terrorism, taking some steps to prevent it is necessary, but we must treat terrorist attacks as what they are, minor incidents causing some damage. They are by no means ,however an existential threat, and to pretend so is irresponsible.