June 10, 2012
Fear, an emotion often only tenuously tethered to reality, arises from the belief that danger is near, whether it really is or not, and can be created and manipulated by those in power. Fear of terrorism is a case in point. Since the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has stoked fears of terrorism, even as government statistics released last week demonstrate these fears are overblown.
Since 9/11, a total of 238 American citizens have died from terrorist attacks, or an average of 24 per year, although only 15 Americans died in 2010 and 17 in 2011—none of them in the United States and almost all of them in Afghanistan or Iraq, where the U.S. has been waging wars for a decade. Thus out of 25,719 terrorism-related deaths worldwide in 2010-2011, Americans accounted for only 0.124%. This is consistent with the fact that the total number of attacks worldwide in 2011 dropped by nearly 12 percent from 2010 and nearly 29 percent from 2007.
To put these numbers in perspective, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the average American is as likely to be crushed to death by televisions or furniture as they are to be killed by a terrorist. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, 293 Americans died because a television, furniture piece or appliance fell on them, 55 more than died of terrorism between 2001 and 2011. Likewise, an average of more than 40 Americans are killed each year because of allergic reactions to stings by bees, wasps and hornets.
Instead, by far the biggest threat to Americans is themselves. According to a recent World Health Organization report, noncommunicable diseases like cancer, lung disorders, diabetes and heart disease cause 87 percent of all American deaths, compared with 64 percent in the rest of the world. Such diseases are primarily caused by smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and alcohol abuse, which means that Americans are killing themselves at a far greater rate than any terrorist organization could ever desire.
To Learn More:
How Many Americans Are Killed by Terrorism? (by Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations)
2011 Report on Terrorism (National Counterterrorism Center) (pdf)
Instability of Televisions, Furniture, and Appliances: Estimated Injuries and Reported Fatalities, 2011 (by Kevin Gipson and Adarn Suchy, (U.S. Proidcut Safety Commission) (pdf)
Consumer Product-Related Statistics (Consumer Product Safety Commission)
Murder Drops out of Top 15 Causes of Death in U.S. for First Time Since 1965 (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)