Fear of Terrorism Inverse to Actual Threat

As you may have heard, there’s this self-contradicting and rather paranoid dude out there, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who’s holding a Congressional hearing tomorrow on the dangers of homegrown terrorists. Not the Timothy McVeigh, Jared Loughner, or Unabomber kinds of terrorists: the real ones. The Muslim ones. (Cue ominous music here) But King’s hearing isn’t the only one on terrorists in the US: Far from it. From 2004 to 2011 there have been approximately 933 Congressional hearings on terrorism, despite the fact that terrorism only kills around 30 US citizens a year, and that includes Americans killed overseas. Instead, heart disease remains the #1 killer of Americans, killing around 600,000 of us every year. Terrorism, on the other hand, is a negligible death threat. You’re about 45 times more likely to accidentally poison yourself than you are to be the victim of a deliberate terrorist. As a 66-year-old white male, King is much more likely to die from heart disease or cancer than he is from terrorism. But good to know he’s keeping an eye out, just in case.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have concerns about terrorism. Of course we should. 9/11 was a horrible tragedy and we should do what we can to prevent something similar from happening again. But the fact remains that the #1 killer of Americans is at least partially preventable, and we don’t seem to be that concerned about it. At least, not that much compared to terrorism. Charts below.



















Stat note: Numbers for death chart are as of 2007, most recent year for which US Census mortality data was available. Numbers for Congressional hearing chart are results of Congressional LexisNexis searches.