If the aim of terrorists is to terrify, then why do Republicans help them do it?

September 4, 2006 | By | 1 Reply More

I think we all know the answer to this question already, so I won’t belabor the point, other then to refer you folks to this Cato report, which gives an excellent discussion about the risks of terrorism, and how they have been grossly inflated — by politicians to garner our votes and by the mainstream media to garner our attention (and, thus, advertising revenues).  Here is a pertinent quote:

“…’the aim of terrorism is to terrify.’  If that is so, terrorism can be defeated simply by not becoming terrified — that is, anything that enhances fear effectively gives in to them.
     “The shock and tragedy of September 11 does demand a focused and dedicated program to confront international terrorism and attempt to prevent a repeat.  But it seems sensible to suggest that part of this reaction should include an effort by politicians, officials, and the media to inform the public reasonably and realistically about the terrorist context instead of playing into the hands of terrorists by frightening the public….”


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Category: American Culture, Politics, Psychology Cognition, War

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (1)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    According to John Paulos, we are plagued by "innumeracy," an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance. Tell those points out that Americans actually flaunt their mathematical illiteracy. They proudly announce "I can't even balance my checkbook" or "I'm a people person, not a numbers person."

    This is a shame, as Paulos points out in his 1988 a seller, "Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences," because this illiteracy leads to misconceptions of risks, "a gap that threatens eventually to lead either to unfounded and crippling anxieties were too impossible and economically paralyzing demands for risk free guarantees. As Paulos points out, politicians are on the forefront of this constant display of proud ignorance, "since they deal with public opinion and are therefore loath to clarify the likely hazards and trade-offs associated with almost any policy."

    Our mathematical illiteracy leads to all kinds of silliness. For instance, Paulos points out (page 16) the fundamentalist claim that the great flood of Genesis covered "all the high hills" with water. Is that claim possible?

    Taken literally, this seems to indicate that there were 10,000 to 20,000 feet of water on the surface of the earth, equivalent to more than half 1,000,000,000 mi.³ of liquid! Since, according to Biblical accounts, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, or for only 960 hours, the rain must have fallen at a rate of at least 15 feet per hour, certainly enough to sink any aircraft carrier, much less an arc with thousands of animals on board.

    If people were better with numbers, and if people would work to remedy their mathematical illiteracy rather than wearing it proudly, "many obvious inferences would be drawn (or not), and fewer ridiculous you notions would be entertained. Innumeracy is filled with terrific examples that illustrate the consequences of the American failure to strive for mathematical excellence.

    Paulos ends with this:

    I'm distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems so indifferent to the innumeracy and the scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens; with a military that spends more than one quarter of $1 trillion each year on average smarter weapons for ever more poorly educated soldiers; and with the media, which invariably become obsessed with this hostage on an airliner or that baby who has fallen into a well, and seeing insufficiently passionate when it comes to addressing problems such as urban crime, environmental deterioration, or poverty. I'm pained. . . at the believe that mathematics is an esoteric discipline with a little relation or connection with the quote real" world.

    The CATO report cited in your post does a good job of putting terrorism in mathematical perspective. For those who, like me, are captured with its important findings, I would also recommend the work of Paulos. His home page is another good source of his writings. 

    At this site, we've also periodically dealt with "innumeracy."  See, for example, here.  

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