Terrorism

The International Implications of a Machete Murder

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The Guardian

Last week Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, declared that "the gruesome terrorist murder of a member of the British armed forces in London should serve as a wake-up call to Australia." Jeff Sparrow responds in The Guardian, putting the danger posed by terrorism in perspective:

Though it's impolite to say so, fatalities from terrorism remain vanishingly rare, at least in wealthy nations. You have four times the chance of being struck by lightning as you do [of] being killed by a terror attack. You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit; you are eight times more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than a terrorist. You are also something like a thousand times more likely to lose your life in a car crash than from a terror plot. Traffic accidents constitute a genuine threat; we all know someone who has died on the roads. Yet no-one would consider giving traffic officers anything like the powers accorded to security agencies, even though a far more intrusive policing of drunk driving would, without question, save hundreds of lives….

"There is a particular horror associated with low-grade or homemade violence of this kind…" explains the New Yorker. "[T]here remains something hideous about the use of weapons that are, to other people, barely weapons at all, but household or kitchen implements."

A particular horror associated with…kitchen implements? With such arguments, we move from security into theology, a realm in which whatever weapons terrorists employ become the Worst Weapons of All….

Amazingly, between 1968 and 1973, terrorist incidents involving the seizure of commercial jets took place at a rate of nearly one a week, a sequence of skyjackings now almost totally forgotten. The attacks were taken seriously, of course—but no-one suggested they posed an existential threat, nor claimed world had somehow changed forever.

Now, ask yourself this: what would be the reaction today to a similar spate of terror attacks? If two men wielding a machete on an entirely different continent spurs calls for increased surveillance of your emails, how would Greg Sheridan and his ilk react to five years of weekly skyjackings? What kind of security state would they demand in response?

Whole thing here.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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  1. “[] you are eight times more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than a terrorist.”

    Especially if you’re trying to flush some weed down the toilet, or feeding a bottle to a puppy, or mentally ill, or trying to film the cops, or…

    1. To be fair, though, the puppy-feeder just got chokeholded.

      1. I’m sure the officer in question has already been dressed down by his commander for leaving a perp in tesifiable condition.

    2. … being interrogated by the cops or responding to a burglar alarm or …

    3. “you are eight times more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than a terrorist”

      Police, 800% more deadly than terrorists. Wow!

      1. Police ARE terrorist.

  2. you are eight times more likely to die at the hands of a police officer than a terrorist.

    Are these Australian statistics?

  3. “You are 3,000 times more likely to be mauled by a drop bear”

    1. …6000 times more likely to choke to death on a musk stick

    2. Unless you’re in Australia. Then it’s virtually guaranteed.

    3. Approximately 1 out of 4 people in Australia will be kicked by kangaroos into gigantic golden orb spider nests. Then, have their inner liquids drained as box jellyfish envelope their remains.

  4. If we had the string of hijackings today they had in the early 70’s? We would either collectively and epically shit our pants or we would become desensitized to it and go about our business anyway. I’m wishing the latter but assuming the former.

    1. Yes, but during the 1970’s the worst that happened during those hijackings was an very-extended layover in a shithole Third World country like Uganda.

      Unless you were Jewish, of course, then you were murdered in cold blood.

      1. That was a little ways into the catch and release program that may have begun before the 1970s (can’t remember a good pre-70s example).

        The 1970 hijacking and demolition of multiple airliners was covered on PBS’ Frontline. The one that landed in Cairo was blown up barely ahead of the passengers escaping. The ones that landed in the Jordan desert were blown up after a film crew got there, the Jewish passengers were segregated and used as hostages longer than everybody else.

        Frontline was able to interview many of the hijackers, because they walk the streets free as a bird. Same with the Munich Olympic terrorists.

    2. Neither would happen. After 9/11, people realized that the official line “Just wait passively until we negotiate you out” was BS.

      Now, passengers will take them down, at the cost of their own lives if they have to. Flight 93 is the new paradigm.

      1. Which is why they should hand each passenger a baseball bat as they board.

      2. “If they want the airplane, give them the airplane. Otherwise someone might get hurt.”

        The other versions are also falling into disrepute.

  5. I hate these arguments. “You’re X Times more likely to die from…”
    Not to sound like a police state apologist, but I think societies are a bit more accepting of dying in a car wreck or drowning or whatever. Plus, I imagine some people are willing to becoming a statistical anomaly from a lightning strike than, say, a hijacked airplane or a shark attack.

    1. “Plus, I imagine some people are willing to becoming a statistical anomaly from a lightning strike than, say, a hijacked airplane or a shark attack.”

      Goody for them. I don’t want to suffer for their irrational bleefs.

      1. Oh, don’t worry. I think it goes both ways. Like, it’s irrational to worry about the fact that it’s silly to worry about dying from a terrorist attack.

        I guess it’s a false dilemma no matter which way you spin it, eh?

        1. Damn. That made no sense at all.

    2. Another problem could be that people feel more out of control with terrorist attacks than with those other things. “I don’t go out in lightning storms, I drive safely and I don’t talk to cops so I should be safe”. We’re just pansies when it comes to deliberate violence.

      1. ” We’re just pansies when it comes to deliberate violence.”

        Exactly. Hence, the “SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING!!” crowd.

    3. I hate these arguments, too. It is entirely rational to take terror attacks more seriously than lightning strikes or choking on vomit or whatever, regardless of statistics. Some thing that might kill me is less of a threat than someone who is trying to kill me, especially if the murderer justifies it with an ideology and and is part of a worldwide movement of millions of people seeking religious and political power.

      Let’s say you have a choice of living in one of two small towns, otherwise identical. One averages one fatal traffic accident a year, and the other never has fatal accidents, but there is a serial killer who kills once a year. I think it’s entirely rational to choose Accidentville over Serialkillerville.

      1. “I think it’s entirely rational to choose Accidentville over Serialkillerville.”

        Sorry, there is no logic involved in that choice.

        1. Humans are not computers. It’s entirely logical to take psychology into account when measuring threats. At equal odds, a deadly accident is less of a threat than a human intention to create the same result, especially when that human intention sees the deadly result as a step toward a political end.

        2. What about someone choosing to live in a town accidents happen over a town where people are trying to change how you live your life though force seems illogical to you? Also isn’t that what being a libertarian is about?

  6. “Though it’s impolite to say so, fatalities from terrorism remain vanishingly rare, at least in wealthy nations. You have four times the chance of being struck by lightning as you do [of] being killed by a terror attack.”

    You think someone in the gov’t could read this and disband the TSA?

    1. Are you kidding? It’s proof that the system works!

      1. “Lisa, I would like to buy your rock…”

  7. Yet no-one would consider giving traffic officers anything like the powers accorded to security agencies

    You mean like automated ID scans, random checkpoints, immigration status checks, and warrantless searches? Yeah, they would never consider doing that stuff.

  8. You’re a zillion times more likely to get busted for tax evasion by Google Street View:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/…..14154.html

  9. The fact is that most sub saharans either cannot assimilate or refuse to. They are single handily increasing crime and screwing up cities like Stockholm, London, Columbus-OH, etc.

    1. What does their geographical place of origin have to do with it? It seems Chechens aren’t the best of neighbors as well. Where are your comments about (actual) Caucasians?

    2. Comin’ in like a rocket from left field, we have:
      tupperware| 5.31.13 @ 4:32PM |#
      “The fact is that most sub saharans either cannot assimilate or refuse to.”

    3. If you go back far enough, we’re all Sub-Saharan-African-Americans.

      1. If you go back far enough, we’re all Sub-Saharan-African-Americans.

        Exactly. Instead of stupid racism, it was instead a subtle point. Since all of us are sub-Saharan then None of us can truly assimilate and therefore violence will always be with us.

  10. “There is a particular horror associated with low-grade or homemade violence of this kind?” explains the New Yorker. “[T]here remains something hideous about the use of weapons that are, to other people, barely weapons at all, but household or kitchen implements.”

    Pollyannas versus practical people. Some of us have learned that carrying obvious weapons around is likely to get you popped by John Law, even if you aren’t at fault. So you go to the local hardware store and pick up items that can be used in self-defense. A maglite, a foot of PVC filled with cement, a socket wrench, crescent wrench, are all useful as a club. Box cutters, jigs, machetes can all be used for cutting someone up. A center punch is a good stabbing implement. And let’s not even get into what you could do to someone with a high-powered staplegun or nailgun. You could probably kill quite a few people with some ammonia, bleach and a paint-sprayer.

    The point is, the law hasn’t been enacted that has stopped a criminal from doing a criminal act that he or she had a mind to do.

    1. Well, the solution is obvious: BAN EVERYTHING!

      1. We don’t need to ban EVERYTHING, we just need to do what our betters tell us to do. The problem comes when people refuse to listen to what the experts are saying. They are experts! Just do what they tell you to do!

      2. Doesn’t the logic hold that if everything is banned, nothing is banned?

        They can’t arrest everyone, despite what my brother’s nutty ex thinks, however many cars FEMA puts on the rails.

      3. Well, the solution is obvious: BAN EVERYTHING!

        No, the obvious solution is to ban death.

        For the children of course.

    2. The point is, the law hasn’t been enacted that has stopped a criminal from doing a criminal act that he or she had a mind to do.

      So wait, you’re telling me that criminals will ignore laws that make the things they want to do illegal? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s illegal! So how could they do it?

      /progderp

    3. Can of hairspray and a zip lighter.

    4. I’ll see your machete and raise you my concealed handgun.

  11. We should be making these arguments in countries under US attack. Though it’s impolite to say so, fatalities from drone strikes and night raids remain vanishingly rare. You have four times the chance of being struck by lightning…

    Maybe they’d say “You know, you’re right. The statistics don’t lie. Jihad is stupid.”

    1. Boom. This^

      Its only impolite to Cosmomatarians to throw their lame-ass downplaying of death due to terrorism back in their pasty white faces.

      1. Perspective is downplaying?

        1. I just replied to American, didn’t I.

          1. If it ain’t Murcan, it suffers from the same brain damage.

        2. As Juice implied, the same “oh, its a very small statistic” to the drone debate concerning civilian deaths.

  12. Not many people remember the Puerto Rican terrorist attack on Congress in the 50s either.

  13. This has to be the World’s Stupisist Argument. Just because I’m more likely to die of a heart attack then die from getting rabbies from a rat bite, should I be oblivious to having a houseful of rats? In a world with some sense, we’d recognize that every additional risk of getting killed increaces the chances of getting killed the aggregate, and eliminate the risks that can be eliminated reasonably.

    By the way, has anyone apologized to Enoch Powell yet?

    1. Old Johnnie Goggabie| 5.31.13 @ 5:20PM |#
      “This has to be the World’s Stupisist Argument.”
      Not by a long shot; you just beat it

      “Just because I’m more likely to die of a heart attack then die from getting rabbies from a rat bite, should I be oblivious to having a houseful of rats?”
      A ‘houseful of rats’? Stupid poisoning the well.

      1. I’m just trying to figure out why/how you would get a Rabbi from being bit by a rodent.

        1. Was the rodent kosher?

          1. Never saw one with cloven hooves.

  14. Reasonoids, I am extremely disappoint. 5.5 hours in, and no one has mused about the probability of choking to death on somebody else’s vomit.

  15. ter?ror?ism
    violence or the threat of violence, carried out for political purposes.

    ac?ci?dent
    the way things happen without any planning, apparent cause, or deliberate intent

    I don’t understand how any libertarian can honestly say we shouldn’t view terrorism as the worse of these two. I do understand disagreeing with the actions used to “fight” terrorism.

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