David Gregory, discussing the issue of Keeping America Safe on Sunday's episode of Meet the Press:
"This Sunday, the president under pressure as he faces a growing debate about how safe we are at home from terror....."Gregory's short "Post-show thoughts" web video is titled "Keeping America Safe." Another clip from the show, featuring the gruesome Rudy Guiliani, is titled "Privacy may become cost of safety."
"This morning, a debate about the state of our homeland security in a new age of terror."
"I think there's the broader topic we're broaching here about national security, about our own personal freedoms in America, coming out of the Boston bombing, is in part ongoing concern about terrorism."
"Is there something here that somehow gets to why we're more vulnerable now.....?"
"Are there questions that have to be answered that reflect how vulnerable we are and what we're doing about it?"
".....What does this tell us about what we're up against here.....? And this question of 'Are we any safer?'"
".....We're dealing with radicalization inside the homeland. How do we deal with it?"
"It's a security question. Two years after Osama bin Laden has been killed, are we safer as a country or not?"
"Do we need to sacrifice privacy in order to be safer? Is that going to be the immediate lesson from the Boston bombing?"
"Boston was an exclamation point about the ongoing terror threat and this new age of terror....."
You get the point. We Are Not Safe. Terror. Must Keep Safe. Terror. Are We Less Safe? More Safe? Equally Safe? Terror.
It's worth pausing to consider how amazingly irrational all of this is and how the quixotic project of Keeping America Safe only seems to interest the political and media classes when it revolves around combating the virtually nonexistent specter of terrorism.
First, a simple look at the facts about this alleged New Age of Terror that exists only in David Gregory's imagination. In 2011, the most recent year for which we have data, 17 Americans were killed by terrorism, a number that's basically consistent with previous years. Significantly more Americans (26) were killed by lighting. "Death by furniture" constitutes a comparable threat.
But even these figures fail to fully convey the irrationality at play here. Gregory is evidently obsessed with domestic terrorism in particular. Of those 17 Americans killed by terrorism in 2011, none were killed in the United States. In 2010, too, not a single American was killed by domestic terrorism. More Americans were killed by syphilis in 2011 than by terrorism in the entire decade after 9/11. Death by domestic terrorism is so rare as to render it absurd to even discuss. David Gregory devoted nearly an entire show to it.
Note that more than 122,000 died from accidental injury and 53,000 died from the flu and pneumonia in 2011. One could cite any number of statistics to illuminate the silliness of this obsession. Most instructive, though, is to compare terrorism to gun violence, which at least falls under a similar category. Gun violence is killing tens of thousands of Americans annually. Yes, the media have paid a reasonable amount of attention to gun violence over the past few months, but never in the context of Keeping America Safe, which clearly conveys a unique sense of urgency. The focus on the Terror Threat is just fanatically out of proportion relative to the coverage of virtually any other "threat" one can think of. Devoting an entire Meet the Press to syphilis and the current state of medical research on syphilis would make more sense than this.
The obsession with domestic terrorism serves important objectives of the political class. It provides a rationale for further eroding privacy and civil liberties - more in sorrow than anger, of course (Gregory: "Do we need to sacrifice privacy in order to be safer?"). To the extent that domestic terrorism is a threat, it makes no distinction based on class (as in the case of 9/11), as opposed to gun violence, which, by and large, targets America's underclass. It keeps Americans scared, obedient, and supportive of their leaders (a New Age of Terror is hardly an appropriate time for dissent).
We should never accept this stupid obsession with Terrorism just because it's become so ubiquitous since 9/11. It's the responsibility of thinking citizens to relentlessly point out how truly irrational it is and how it so transparently involves ulterior motives.
(Originally posted at www.justindoolittle.net)