Oh how I cackled! Reason TV's Jim Epstein and I posted a video of me in a witch hat explaining "The Three Ways Parents are Ruining Halloween." One way was with over-hyped fears of poisoned candy.
But recently, a reader informed me that this year, two children found needles in their candy up in Canada. What did I have to say about that?
A lot, as it turned out. Mostly about keeping risk in perspective, which can make a gal sound truly witch-like. See, if you fan the flames of hysteria—"No child is safe!"—you are seen as a caring individual. Or at least a caring TV correspondent, with a special report at 11. Stay tuned! But if you fan the flames of rationality, you risk sounding heartless. As I wrote on my blog, Free-Range Kids:
We can dutifully tell kids not to eat a single bite of candy till they bring it home and we "vigilantly" comb through it, as an article about the pins-in-candy suggests. But I believe we are actually allowed to say, "The chance is so infinitesimal, let's not worry about it."
Those words are almost blasphemous in a world that warns about every horror that happens anywhere, no matter how rare or remote. But the alternative—actively fretting about each incredibly slight chance of disaster—is a warped way to live.
Warped, yes. But popular. Now all of Canada is worrying about two needles, despite the fact that more than $2 billion worth of Halloween candy is sold throughout North America. Assuming each dollar buys just five pieces of candy (and way more of the cheap stuff I buy), the odds of finding a projectile in any one of them is 1 in 10,000,000,000.
Those are good odds. So good, you'll never hear them on TV. That is what's so scary.