10 Things More Likely to Kill You Than Terrorism
The US government has spent over two trillion dollars fighting terrorism since 2001, and the UK, EU and many other countries have spent tens of billions more. On this evidence, you would think that terrorism poses a serious threat to human life and each one of us runs a real risk of dying in a terrorist attack on a daily basis. You would be completely wrong. The chances of you dying in a terrorist attack are in the range of 1 in 80,000, or about the same chance of being killed by a meteor. If you take into account the few thousand people killed every year in terrorist incidents, the location of those attacks in a few countries, the world’s population, and other causes of death, you will find that the following list of things are statistically much more dangerous to your continued existence than terrorism:
- Bathtubs and toilets – more than 300 people drown in their bathtubs and toilets every year in the US alone, presumably after bouts of alcohol. In the US at least, more people have died from drowning in the bath since 9/11 than in terrorist attacks.
- Vending machines – although the total number of people killed by vending machines (presumably when they are shaking it to get their money back and it falls on them) is not greater than the average number of people killed by terrorism year on year, there are many years and many places in the world where they kill more people than terrorism. In the 1980s, for example, more people died from vending machines than died from terrorism in the US and Canada.
- Animals such as deer, kangaroos, reindeer, crocodiles, hippos, snakes and other wild animals – admittedly, most of these deaths are not caused directly by the animal, but due to the road accidents they cause. In Australia, a kangaroo killed a man in 1936, which is one more person than terrorists have killed on Australian soil. The same applies to reindeer accidents in Scandinavia. In the UK, people are killed by cows on a fairly regular basis. Of course, we are not including the deaths caused by domestic pets, especially dangerous dog breeds.
- Insects such as bees, spiders, scorpions and especially mosquitoes – while dozens of people die from allergic reactions to bees or from poisonous spiders and scorpions every year, it is mosquitoes that kill around three million people per year through the transmission of malaria. Next time you’re swatting a mosquito, you can be assured that you are engaged in a war against an enemy that is far more deadly than terrorists!
- DIY – thousands are killed every year, and tens of thousands injured, in DIY accidents. If you’re ever tempted to fix up your own house, try to remember that you’ve just become a greater danger to yourself and those around you than terrorists.
- Alcohol – more than 15,000 people per year die from alcohol poisoning and disease in the UK alone, which is far more than those killed in terrorist attacks across the whole world. Think about that next time you raise a glass.
- Lightning – around 24,000 people per year are killed in lightning strikes, and many more injured. This number is a great deal higher than terrorism.
- Hospitals – around 100,000 people a year die from preventable medical errors in the US (that is more in a single month than died on 9/11), while another 100,000 die from hospital infections. In other words, if you have to go to the hospital for any reason, you are far more likely to be killed by a doctor or a nurse than by a terrorist!
- Car – around two million people per year die in automobile accidents, and dying in an accident while out driving is one of the most likely causes of death today at odds of 1 in 5,000.
- Yourself – tens of thousands of people commit suicide every year in the US alone, which means that you are more at risk of getting depressed and killing yourself than you are of getting caught up in a deadly terrorist incident. Of course, this does not include those people that kill themselves while undertaking a terrorist attack.
You will note that this list does not include the more obvious tens of millions killed every year by poverty, global warming, cancer and heart disease, smoking, HIV-AIDS, guns and small arms, domestic violence, government repression, natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados and hurricanes, pandemics, war and genocide. The point is that on the list of things which can kill you, and which are a real risk to human life and well-being, terrorism comes somewhere close to the very bottom.
Although it seems humorous to mention deaths caused by vending machines and lightning, there are serious questions to be asked. How is it that something which is statistically insignificant as a real cause of death can lead to such widespread fear and hysteria that our governments are willing to invest truly vast amounts of scarce resources, and change our entire way of life, to try and protect us from it? Why is the world willing to engage in a ‘war on terrorism’, but not a ‘war on bees’, a ‘war on lightning’ or a ‘war on suicide’? What are the forces at work which keep this costly exercise in terrorism-death prevention going? Who benefits from the billions spent on counter-terrorism? More importantly, what does it say about our society’s values and priorities that preventing a single death from terrorism commands vastly greater investment and attention than preventing thousands of deaths from domestic violence, and millions of deaths from poverty, guns, hospital infections, and the like? I guess some causes of death are more important than others – although probably not to the dead.
(Actually, I try to answer these questions in chapter six of my latest book.)