Link and Comment: Terrorism and Republican Fear-Mongering

Jerry Coyne points to an essay by Lawrence Krauss, in The New Yorker: Thinking Rationally About Terror.

Krauss’ essay addresses the fairly obvious fact that incidents of ‘terrorism’, despite the publicity they get and panic they trigger, are very rare compared to ordinary dangers like car crashes and (especially in the US) gun violence.

It is sobering to recognize that this month’s attack in California, as horrific as it was, does not skew the statistics at all; sadly, December 2nd in San Bernardino was just another average day in the United States. In fact, with over a hundred and eighty people shot each day in this country, even a mass killing like that which occurred in Paris would not significantly affect the death toll from guns in the U.S.

Needless to say, it is terrifying to know that there are individuals living among us with the express intent of killing randomly, for effect. But we must recognize that that’s the point of terrorism: it aims to scare us, thereby disrupting normal life.

And the fact that the terrorists have, in fact, driven much of the US population into an unreasonable panic means that…in a way… they have won. And the Republican presidential candidates are doing their best, by playing off that fear, to help them win. As another Salon essay captures, just today: David Brooks is so very afraid: Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the New York Times sadistically exploit anxiety over Islamic terrorism to grab votes.

Krauss again:

A cynical individual might wonder who benefits more from the terror induced by terrorism: the terrorists themselves or the politicians and governments who use the public reaction to acts of terror for political gain?

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