Putting Terrorism in perspective

Putting Terrorism in Perspective


Source: Institute for Economics and Peace

I usually don’t post charts that show negative developments and admittedly I had a hard time bringing myself to posting this but there is a purpose in doing this (also, there has been a recent downturn in the death toll in 2015!). When looking at data like the one above people usually start freaking out or going into a negative rant about how everything is turning south. To a certain point they could be forgiven for thinking that way, since the chart paints a rather bleak picture. 

Usually, in the media you would just here reports about single events or a bunch of single events in the past, but no trend that puts things in perspective. In this example however you can see a trend which (unfortunately) is also negative. Although in 2015, the death toll started going down again! Of course it is a tragedy that the number of deaths due to terrorism have gone up so much in the past decade and more and much work needs to be done to bring those numbers down.
However, this is still not the “complete” picture when you look at the following graph:


Source: World Economic Forum

When you look at Western Europe you can see that the situation is very different. The total number of terrorist incidents has dropped by more than 70% since around 1980 where it had it’s peak (from <900 down to >300)! At the same time the annual death toll has also declined dramatically with a few upticks during 2004, 2005, 2011 and 2013. Far fewer people died in the past 14 years, than in the preceeding 14 years!!

Why am I cherry picking Western Europe you ask? Because for some reason people in all of Europe are starting to turn to right wing political parties spreading hate and doubt which leads to the population doubting the EU and it’s values of free movement of people or solidarity and openness to other cultures in general. In my opinion, a major factor for this shift to the right is the – as you can see in the chart above, unreasonable – fear of terrorist attacks, which “of course” (sarcasm here) are all committed by refugees. Right wing parties use the sensational media reports on every terrorist attack to fuel their cause by exaggerating the issue and using data about single events to underpin their claims!

When you look at the following statistics it becomes clear why I’m talking about unreasonable fear:

Source: Oxfam via OurWorldInData

The latest data in this graphic is from 2010, the death toll from terrorist attacks was almost three times higher in 2014. That however doesn’t change the validity of my claim! If you’re scared to go outside because of a potential terrorist attack and therefore vote for racist right wing parties, than you should be absolutely petrified to leave the house because air pollution alone kills 70(!!!) times more people than terrorism!!! Alcohol kills 80 times more people. Overweight kills 90 times more people every year and no one is talking about the 8,000,000 million (much less now!) children under 5 who die every year…..that’s more than 250(!!!!!!!) times the number of people who get killed by terrorists!!!! I think that puts things in perspective VERY clearly. Strangely enough I don’t see a lot of reports about that. Why?

Because it is not sensational news that drives viewer levels or clicks. The personal drama of the people who die because of all the causes I mentioned (and many more) gets lost in the anonymity of the masses. Rationally, when looking at the data above, citizens should vote for left wing parties when it comes to issues such as air pollution, global warming and its effects like droughts, floods, storms, climate refugees, wars, increased spreading of malaria etc.. The reason people don’t immediately vote for them is that the mentioned issues are less tangible, partly long term and attributable to ceratin person, government or institution. Same goes for the other causes of death. If you want to tackle those issues, than you should probably vote socialist or again left wing (green parties etc.) parties since they have a better track record of solving or alleviating those issues. Unfortunately people are not rational, which is the reason why it is so important to always put things in perspective!

As always, the media as well as governments could and should do a much better job at communicating progress and the bigger picture so that people can really make an informed decision based on facts and not feelings!

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