March 7, 2007


Fear of Terrorism Overblown? (John Stossel, 3/07/07, Real Clear Politics)

Politicians and security analysts constantly remind us that a terrorist attack is just a matter of time. Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security and author of "Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack," says we must have tougher security at stadiums, shopping malls, and even schools. "We can have deterrence measures like police patrols ... greater use of bomb-detecting dogs, and bomb sensors, other such technologies ... random bag searches," he told me. "If terrorists see that such measures are in place, they're less likely to strike."

This seemed illogical to me, and so I was delighted to discover the book "Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them." Its author, Ohio State political science professor John Mueller, points out the folly of arming shopping-mall guards: "A terrorist would say, well, if that mall has guards around it, I'll go to the one that doesn't. ... If you protect one thing and you simply displace the terrorist to a different threat ... it's an exercise in futility." [...]

He says there's a terrorism industry -- I call it the "Fear Industrial Complex" -- made up of the media, the bureaucracy, business, and politicians. "Politicians notice that when they hype the terrorist threat, people respond favorably," Mueller says.

Then the bureaucracy hypes terrorism to justify its pork.

"Terror porn" is what economist Veronique de Rugy calls it. Why "porn"? "Because porn sells, [and] terrorism sells even better," she says. "It's great for politicians. They can campaign on the fact that they are protecting us. They also can campaign on the fact that they're bringing more money to their states."

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2007 12:00 AM

So then, if I understand this theory correctly, we shouldn't bother to lock our doors because if we do, thieves will just find a neighbor's door that isn't locked and steal their stuff instead. Meanwhile our stuff isn't stolen. If anyone understands this theory, please explain. Use one or two syllable words if possible. Thank you.

Posted by: erp at March 7, 2007 9:45 AM

It's amazing just how supine liberals are willing to be -- it's like bending over to get it good is compulsive behavior for them.

Posted by: Twn at March 7, 2007 12:11 PM

No, you shouldn't lock your doors. It won't stop the folks who really want to get in without your permission.

Posted by: oj at March 7, 2007 12:38 PM

oj: So why have walls? They don't stop "folks who really want to get in without your permission" either, nor even weather that really wants to...

Posted by: b at March 7, 2007 1:53 PM

OJ: I've often heard stories of thieves who simply walk along a line of cars and try the front door. If it opens, they take whatever's handy; if it doesn't, they just move on. In such cases, locking your door, while not preventing out-and-out car thieves with a toolkit or a big rock, might prevent the lazier thieves from taking your stuff. Sorta like how a spam filter works even though it might not stop a professional hacker.

Posted by: Just John at March 7, 2007 2:59 PM

In a group or society of people who can behave themselves, locks aren't necessary. Unforutnately, those are rare, and we aren't in one in society at large.

You lock the doors to help those who may be tempted to resist that temptation. The same way people will behave themselves when they think someone may be watching, either on camera or in person.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 7, 2007 4:36 PM

Statistically, the fears of terrorism are probably overblown. But, with the desire of the most committed to kill thousands and tens of thousands on a single day, the doors have to be locked at night.

The worst possibility is not so much the next attack (it is unlikely that 'terrorists' will get a working bomb or a virulent bio-weapon), but that the next attack will drive many in the West to embrace an insane response.

In other words, I have no problem with the CIA and the military slitting hundreds of the right throats (night after night, if necessary), but I do have a problem with lashing out indiscriminately at any and all parts of the Islamic world.

I doubt if those who endorse the 'overblown' theory feel the same way. "Supine" doesn't begin to describe it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 7, 2007 4:54 PM


If there's anything in your car worth taking the thieves will. Rocks are free and effective tools.

Posted by: oj at March 7, 2007 6:37 PM



Posted by: oj at March 7, 2007 6:40 PM