Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Crime and Terror and Panic

panic, terror, terrorism, media, keep calm, illustration

Many people think crime is going up. But it’s going down.

Similarly, many people think terrorism is “an existential threat” to our very civilization.

Could the latter folks be wrong for the same reason the former folks are?

Because news reporting concentrates on crime, covering it intensely, incessantly — if it bleeds, it leads — we get the wrong perspective on crime. The long-term trend-line shows crime going down since the early 1990s. Though we’re now seeing upticks in certain big cities, it’s simply not all getting worse.

This is not a reason to slack off. It is a reason not to panic.

How is terrorism different?

In 15 years, there has been no repeat of 9/11/01, or anything close to it. Granted, there have been horrific homegrown terror incidents. That threat remains. Though, thankfully, last weekend’s terrorist spree wasn’t more effective: One bomb fizzled, another killed no one, and the mad jihadist knifer was himself put down before anyone was killed.

Some might note that the number of deaths as a result of automobile crashes* is far, far higher than from terrorism. Why worry more about the very small number of terrorist outbreaks in a huge country like ours?

Here’s why: the terrorism is intentional, and could become worse for whatever reasons flip normal Muslim men and women into jihadist radicals. So our vigilance must not abate.

But there’s another difference. Terrorists, unlike normal criminals, want to be noticed. The more we panic, the more they are tempted to seek to cause us to panic.

Terrorism, whether going up or down, requires, along with vigilance, a certain resolute calmness.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.



* Deaths from automobile accidents have been decreasing for decades, a 35 percent drop from 1979 to 2005. However, last year the U.S. had the “highest one-year percentage increase in traffic deaths in half a century.”

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  1. You try being calm when a towel head is goming at you with a knife or a grenade

    • Paul made an excellent point. I tend to get tense when someone comes at ME “with a knife or grenade,” but why should I be upset when it happens to someone a thousand miles away whom I don’t even know?

      • Pat says:

        Because someday they might come for you.

        • By that logic, should I be terrified when hearing of someone hundreds of miles away struck by a car running a red light? After all, I frequently cross streets and “someday they might come for me.” I agree with Paul about this perspective. We should save panic for threats actually likely to happen.

  2. Rollin L. says:

    Bravo, Paul.

    One must not miss the hugely important difference between auto accident dynamics, which are nearly always accidental- no intent involved- with deliberate acts of terrorism, no matter where they occur. Radical islam has been at war with the West since the days of its “prophet,” and when America was formed as a nation our founders were already painfully aware of its nature. As colonists, we had already felt the sting of islamic piracy on English (and our) merchant ships, and we were trying the Tribute route before we even had written the Constitution. It only encouraged them, which is why the men credited with authoring the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself- Jefferson and Madison- were the first Presidents to engage us in wars across the seas. These were our original battles with the islamists, fought on their home front so as to spare our people. They had no ability to come over here in 1805-1815, but how times have changed. Now they ARE here, with the ability to radicalize American muslims from their nests in the middle east, or slip them in with refugees. So yes, we must not confuse this threat with auto stats or regular crime stats. Vigilance!!

    • The point Paul was making is the chance a particular person has of being harmed by a terrorist is far less than the chance of being harmed in an automobile accident. We should save our fear for threats actually likely to happen to us.

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