The Irrational Fear of Terrorism

According to a new Gallup poll, about one in six (16%) Americans name terrorism as the “most important” problem in the United States. Just last month, only 3% of Americans thought terrorism was the most important problem in the United States. This is obviously a significant change, likely due to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California.


According to the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, 43 Americans were killed from 2011 to 2013 as a result of incidents of terrorism. During that same time, 430 Americans were killed by their furniture, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What qualifies as “terrorism” is an arbitrary choice, not withstanding the claims of a rigorous definition. There is no sensible reason why the routine, extrajudicial murders of black people in this country should not count as terrorism, if one is to stand by the term. Even still, right-wing terrorism in this country is responsible for more deaths than militant Islamist terrorism, according to data compiled by New America Foundation.

When such irrational fears of “terrorism” are cultivated by government agencies and state-friendly media outlets, a sane person might opt to question what purpose this serves. Terrorism, in its current incarnation, has served as a useful and lasting pretext for all manners of geopolitical adventurism. As long as this remains the case, the harrowing tragedies resulting from falling furniture will continue to be overlooked.

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