Irrational fear of terrorism

I just read this piece in the Atlantic and the premise is about how the press has the ability to create an illusion of the world which is contradictory with reality. One thing caught my eye in this piece though

Since September 11, 2001, fewer than 100 people have died in jihadist attacks in the United States, according to the New America Foundation, a think tank. That’s about the same number of deaths from motor-vehicle accidents every day. But terrorism feels menacing and personal in a way that even a six-car-pileup does not, and so it receives disproportionate coverage. In December 2015, Americans named terrorism the country’s most important problem.

This post alludes to the media’s role in conflating people’s fear by their increasing emphasis for violent news leading to clickbait journalism.

I have read this kind of rhetoric so many times over the years on a variety of publications and they all end with the same question why do people rate this(any calamity) sinister/terrifying while the death from that is high compared to this?. I have another hypothesis and it is based on people’s expectation of danger.

For me, it always comes down to choice. Living in Bangalore, I know and accept the fact that while driving here, even if I follow the traffic rules I can get into an accident. Every day I come across more than 3 situations where I escaped just by pure luck from a fatal accident(It is difficult to not count these situations).

Here is an example. There is this 90° intersection near my home. Today I was waiting for the traffic to clear and a car driver stopped to let me pass through. As I was passing through, I knew there is a chance where another driver may try to overtake the car without noticing me so when I came near the end of the front side of the car, I applied brake to make sure no one was overtaking the car and viola, there was this guy speeding and If I had not been looking out for this person, there would have been an accident now(small accident though). Now these kind of things happen regularly that It has become second nature for me to be wary and expect that an accident may happen.

The point here is that it’s my choice to drive even though the risks are greater. I have come to accept the odds favoring the immediate pleasure. This human behavior cannot be changed.

We always choose immediate pleasure over long term content even if its detrimental to us in the end.

This is the reason people oppose nuclear power while favoring coal power. Statistically coal power is worse in terms of human health, environment health, economically more costly than nuclear power. But we favor it because when we die(no question about it), it is by our choosing and not because some engineer slept and forgot to cool off the nuclear rods. We know coal causes cancer but that happens when we are 50 and right now at 20, coal work gives stability financially and peace of mind. So we are okay with Coal power. We have our will ready so that our belongings can reach the people we intend for if some tragedy stuck us. Even though we know our choices are dangerous and odds of risk are greater, we accept them and choose them and our sense of dread from this risk is mitigated by our understanding/acceptance of the same.

The same cannot be said of terrorism. We are not prepared for it. We do not accept it. We cannot understand it. This is the reason whenever we hear terror attack, we lose our ability of reasoning and let us be guided by our irrational thoughts and fears. We are in a state of constant dread even though the odds of one being killed by terrorism is very low compared to deaths by cigarettes, road accidents.

I live in a relatively peaceful place where we have not been touched by the horrors of terrorism but thinking about it gives me a fright and unease that driving in Bangalore doesn’t.

It always comes down to illusion of choice and nothing more, when everything is said and done.

Nobody panics when things go “according to plan”. Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

The Joker