Terror? What Kind to Worry About?

Just back from a three week road trip through the great Southwest where, believe it or not, internet is not ubiquitous and small town newspapers run headlines about water poaching and recent heatwaves, and so I’ve neither posted nor even kept up with the daily news.

This column by Nick Kristoff, who has also been away, struck the right note with me:

 On security issues, we Americans need a rebalancing. We appear willing to bear any burden, pay any price, to confound the kind of terrorists who shout “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and plant bombs, while unwilling to take the slightest step to curb a different kind of terrorism — mundane gun violence in classrooms, cinemas and inner cities that claims 1,200 times as many American lives.

…More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism. Twice as many Americans die of bee or wasp stings annually. And 15 times as many die by falling off ladders.

Most striking, more than 30,000 people die annually from firearms injuries, including suicides, murders and accidents…

The problem of course is that when a falling television kills someone, not many are likely to say, “The Government is to blame!”  When a bomb is set off in a public place, Congressional hearings will begin immediately, as to why the Government did not catch it.  If it is shown, or even widely suspected, that stopping the deed wold have been possible with feasible surveillance the cry of condemnation will be loud, including from those who have condemned such surveillance.

As Kristoff says, we “need for a careful balancing of risks and benefits,” as we decide how to prevent future mayhem. Such care is not in evidence in the wild opinions hurling through the air…

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