A Numerate Sermon on Terrorism
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve long regarded serious fear of terrorism as a sign of deep innumeracy. Deaths from terrorism remain a tiny share of the thousand-odd murders that happen on Earth on an average day. Terrorism is special primarily because people overreact to it – and occasionally kill a hundred thousand innocents along the way. Since my ability to persuasively convey these facts is minimal, however, I was pleased to discover this inspired numerate sermon by Sam Hughes. Highlights:
As an ordinary human being, you may feel that there is nothing you can do in the fight against terrorism. You couldn’t be more wrong.
You see, terrorism directly targets ordinary people. You, an ordinary person, can deny terrorists their victory simply by refusing to be a victim. Believe it or not, you have a choice in the matter. This is because the victims of terrorism are not
simply those who get blown up during the initial attack. It’s the
people who are scared to fly in airplanes or visit big cities
afterwards. It’s the people who get dragged into a war against an
abstract concept. It’s the people who get attacked in the street because
they look like they might come from a hot country…
Here is how you, an ordinary human being, can fight terrorism:
The more you think about a threat, the larger it grows in your mind.
The more you talk about it, the more worried you and people around you
become. So quit talking about terrorism. Quit seeking out horror stories
in news shows and on the internet. The media’s job is to sensationalise
things to get you to watch them. That’s how they get ratings and they
are very, very good at it. Don’t get dragged in by these ploys. Turn off
the sensationalist television. Be informed, yes, but don’t stand for
any of that alarmism, speculation, bias, uncertainty and denial.
Know the facts. There is no risk.
The odds against you being killed in a terrorist attack are millions
to one. Ditto plane crashes. Only somebody who regularly enters lottery
draws would be put off by odds like these. You have more chance of dying
in a car crash tomorrow, and do you fret about that? Hell no.
Understanding this will enable you to:
Show no fear.
Terrorism, by its very definition, sets out to provoke terror. If you
are scared afterwards, the act of terrorism was successful. If you
refuse to be intimidated, the terrorists have lost. It really is as simple as that. You are not a mindless animal. You can choose not to give in to your basic impulses. Show some backbone.
Don’t be provoked.
Don’t get irrationally angry against the entire country that the
terrorists originate from. Don’t start to take out that anger on nearby
people who look like they might be from that country. And don’t accept a similar reaction from your leaders.
The reason? Hate breeds terrorism. If you attack people, you give them
motivation to retaliate. And if you hit back harder then they’ll hit
back harder still. It’s a cycle of aggression which only you can break.
As the attacked party, you’re supposed to be the good guy here: act like it. Back down. Walk away. Be the bigger man…
Refuse to alter your lifestyle in any way.
P.S. Sermon notwithstanding, I see little sign Americans have learned a thing since September, 11, 2001. In fact, they seem more irrational and impulsive than ever. If there’s another domestic terrorist attack that kills over a thousand people, I predict the U.S. will mount another War of Negligence – easily winning the war, but bungling the peace yet again.