A million ways to die

An eye-opening chart. Of course we all know this to be the case, but the graphic drives the point home. Meanwhile, in the world of Malkin, Hot Air, Chuckles Johnson, Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler et. al., there are sleeper cells in your backyard and every Moslem is a potential terrorist and they are coming to get you and your children and the only way to react is to be constantly hysterical. Every story of the latest terrorist threat, although later proven inevitably to have been absurdly overstated, causes an explosion, an orgy of hysteria among our friends on the far right. Then when it’s all proven to have been vastly exaggerated if not downright false, they simply move on to the newest “threat” and start all over. There are never any corrections or apologies. But back to the chart… It begs the simply question, why aren’t we equally hysterical over guns, or hernias? No one questions the awful tragedy of 911 and the need to remain vigilant. But is perpetual fear, based on the most questionable of rumors, really the answer? Does it save any lives? And if we are so concerned over one another’s lives, why not focus on the stuff at the top of the list as opposed to the very bottom?

The Discussion: 5 Comments

“And if we are so concerned over one another’s lives, why not focus on the stuff at the top of the list as opposed to the very bottom?”

Well, I guess there’s two main reasons:

(1) People are unlikely to vote for Republicans because of their policy stand on hernias.

(2) Media corporations are unlikely to increase advertising revenue with lead stories about five-year-old beauty queens who died from accidental falls.

September 12, 2006 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

Although currently living in China, I spent some of the summer weeks back at home in the Uk, where the climate was very similar to that described above (the pervading climate in the media, not the actual weather itself, which was unusually rainy for the time of year).

Often when I check the news there are stories of plots thwarted, arrests made, potential attacks and unending commentaries about the causes of home grown and imported terrorism.

Public interest in these stories is understandable: they tell of a percieved external threat to our ideals, our morals and our way of life (the extent of this perception is also I expect the domain of the press, who have or may have their own agendas and loyalties), millions of people travel by tube in London on a daily basis, and want to know about the likelihood of another bombing. Flying arouses enough instinctual fear in most people without the idea that some loon is going to attempt to blow up the aeroplane. The list goes on (or could do).

Real killers such as road accidents are depressingly mundane, ending with footnotes in local papers and wilting flowers by the roadside.

In my opinion, the six causes of death highest on the list do not generate the kind of public interest in the media which attracts advertising revenue (as Shanghai Slim pointed out) and in turn leads to mass hysteria, because they are all things that occur within the boundaries of our societies through chance or criminality, and in most cases there is an accepted framework in place for dealing with them.

Terrorism is the great unknown; whereas we all know someone who breaks the speed limit, drink drives, works somewhere with a bad safety record, fools around next to ledges or deep water and occasionally accidentally poisons someone (don’t laugh, I almost poisoned my father once by cleaning the kettle), not many of us can claim to know a terrorist, or to properly understand their actions, inspirations and origins (which indeed may not be subject to logical understanding, and are outside the experience of most citizens).

We have always been interested in and afraid of the unknown and the incomprehensible, while the more everyday happenings pass us by.

This is my first post here (or indeed anywhere), where I’ve been what I believe to be termed as a “Lurker” for a week or two now, reading (with interest) different threads, and learning about such things as Godwin’s Law.

Aside: I haven’t said anything so far about accidental deaths due to firearms, as there’s simply too much to say in too much detail, but I will say; wherever you are, whoever you are, if they aren’t already illegal, ban handguns.

September 12, 2006 @ 11:05 pm | Comment

Tryfan is right. We get excited about what is unusual, and so does the media. As Bruce Schneier has written, it’s not what’s in the newspaper that you have to worry about. Terrorist attacks and plane crashes are in the news because they are surpassingly rare. Busting your head in the bathroom is not.

But, also, political agendas are better served by advancing things that have the capacity to scare you, such as crime and terrorism, than the things that don’t, such as, oh, eating too much saturated fat. Thus those things are far more often wielded as rhetorical tools, thus making them even more visible.

Finally, I’ve had a hernia, and I can say that I will pay attention to any politician with anything interesting to say about them. Hint for readers: never sneeze within two days of a hernia operation. That’ll terrorize you.

September 13, 2006 @ 12:11 am | Comment

I think we all know what the media seizes on; all the susual suspects: children, sexy white damsels in distress, gruesome, bloody shockers (all terrorism fits this category), etc. But this phenomenon I’m referring to above is carried out by a specific set of bloggers who take the germ presented by the media and then pump it up to make it seem like an awful, apocalyptic, imminent threat that demands we remain perpetually terrified. Just a few weeks ago we heard this from Our Lady of the Concentration Camps:

Wake up. Iranian Hezbollah’s spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli’s threat on Tuesday to dispatch 2,000 operatives “to every corner of the world to jeopardize Israel and America’s interests” is more than just idle Islamic heavy-breathing.

The Jew-hating terrorists of Hezbollah who call themselves the “party of God” are already here. In America. Plotting attacks. Raising money. Slipping through the cracks.

As if she has any idea of what she’s talking about. And yes, there may be some terrorists in America, as there are in every country, but should we all be whipped into a paranoid frenzy because over it? The media have actually gotten way better in questioning these calls for hysteria, and has been quick top rebut its own stories after a few hours or days in basking in the warm glow of a hot story, even if it’s based in bullshit. But since the media is beginning to question the need for such craziness, Charles and Michelle have to work harder, doing everything in their power to ensure the 3-minute hate becomes a Permanent Hate – that is all that their sites are about, keeping the adrenaline flowing as though every day is 911. And they do it very well. It boggles the mind that anyone could be so naive and clueless as to listen to anything they ever say, yet they command massive audiences. A sad state of affairs. Lite at the end of the tunnel: My friends in the US tell me most Americans are disgusted and sickened by Bush’s call for permanent hysteria and cannot wait to pull the lever in November for the Democrats.

September 13, 2006 @ 1:41 am | Comment

Well, they had someone who tought them how it’s done, when Bush announced the “war on terror”. Exaggerate and you will be reelected, for them it’s exaggerate and you will be read. Exaggerate and a nation will follow you, exaggerate and your readers will follow you.

It’s hard to get attention and sell books with a moderate position in times when everything is Super, Hyper, Extra, and also the most average guy will feel important when the felt danger behind the next corner is not the disdainful car accident or your local robber, but a terrorist who is threatening not only you but the basis of your whole civilization.

And on a less polemic basis, Orwell tried to understand this phenomenon of extreme partisanship where doubt is a forbidden word allready some years ago in his essay on nationalism:

September 13, 2006 @ 3:08 am | Comment

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