terrorism and the numbers

Something I posted on Slashdot, regarding the perceived and actual threat from terrorism:


The biggest single problem in the US today is there are indeed terrorists

No, it's not. Not even close. The threat perceived is way out of proportion to the actual threat.

About 16,000 people are murdered in the U.S. per year; that makes the number of people killed in the U.S. by terrorist attacks over the past decade on the order of one fiftieth the number of people murdered in conventional assaults.

The annual number of deaths from AIDS are roughly comparable to those from murder. AIDS is about 50 times the threat to your life as terrorists.

Both murder and AIDS are of course tiny compared to deaths from cancer or heart disease, which together have killed somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million people in the past ten years. Bacon double cheeseburgers and lack of exercise are far more deadly to Americans than Al Qaeda.

Over a million people died in accidents in the past decade; about 400,000 of those were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

Heck, about as many people drown every year as died in the 9/11 attacks. 3,372 fatal drownings in 2001, versus 2,974 killed in the 9/11 attacks. And yet nobody gets all bent out of shape about how we have to suspend habeus corpus to protect ourselves from the dangers of swimming pools and lakes.

Fear terrorists? Feh. If you want to save lives, put resources into health promotion and medical care, safer roads, and crime prevention.

That doesn't mean "do nothing about terrorists"; but it does mean "do sane things, not crazy-ass useless things".

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