Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cellphones more deadly than ISIS jihadists

It's far more likely you'll be killed or injured in a traffic accident by a driver with a cellphone than by a jihadist terrorist — but Americans fear terrorists far more than their next-door neighbor.

Maybe it's because the method of dying at the hands of a terrorist is thought to be more horrific — such as being beheaded, or falling out of the sky from 32,000 feet, or by being systematically shot dead by a deranged individual in a movie theater, shopping mall, hotel, restaurant or concert hall.

But by the numbers, cellphones are far more deadly than Ak-47s or suicide bombs, because texting while driving has killed many more people than all the school shootings we've had in the U.S. — which are just as horrific as any jihadist terrorist attack. Those people killed and maimed at the World Trade Center, in the Oklahoma City bombing, or at the Boston Marathon were no less killed or maimed than those in traffic accidents. We just think of them as less horrific because traffic "accidents" aren't intentional — and people don't die in large numbers during one instance.

That's most likely why Americans are so afraid of ISIS, jihadists and terrorism — more so than they are of the many unnamed serial killers that currently prey upon us today (like BTK once did). The FBI estimates that there are between twenty-five and fifty serial killers operating throughout the U.S. at any given time. If there are fifty, then each one is responsible for an average of three murders per year.

But cellphones still kill and maim far many more Americans every year.

According to the National Safety Council, there were 35,400 traffic fatalities in the U.S. last year. A survey released by AT&T in May showed that roughly 70 percent of respondents use their smartphones while driving. Texting was most common, with 61 percent saying they’ve read, sent or replied to texts while driving — but respondents also indicated they use email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram while driving — and even conduct video chats, shoot videos and snap selfies behind the wheel.

The NSC estimates that texting while driving raises the likelihood of a crash by eight times, and that crashes involving texting or talking on a cellphone (hands-free or handheld) accounted for 27 percent of all accidents. Shouldn't these people also be classified as "domestic terrorists" for their wanton disregard of life by gambling on yours or someone else's life with such reckless behavior? After all, the end result can be no less deadly than a car bomb.

By contrast, the odds of being killed by a jihadist terrorist are probably a million times less likely than by someone driving and texting — like walking outside your front door and being struck on the head by a piece of falling space debris (the odds being, about 1 in a trillion). In many cases I'd be more afraid of the Tea Party than I would of ISIS (they would dismantle Social Security, shut down the government and send young men to die in Syria.)

FDR said in his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933:

"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

But Americans are afraid ... they're very afraid. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll (which finds a majority believe we're at war with radical Islam) shows 83 percent of registered voters say they believe a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in large casualties is likely in the near future, rising from 73 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month. And forty percent say a major attack in the United States is “very likely”.

The media drives fear for ratings, and politicians drive fear to garner the public's support for their policy agendas — such as bombing Syria or sending troops into Iraq again (And the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle use fear-mongering to get people to vote against their own best interests.)

But security data from New America shows that over the last 10 years there were 74 lives lost to both jihadist and non-jihadist violence (foreign and domestic terrorists) on U.S. soil. You calculate the odds. 129 people were initially killed in the Paris attack.

By contrast, if ISIS killed 129 people in the U.S., what would the odds be that it would be YOU? So should YOU be very afraid? After all, isn't that what the terrorists are hoping to accomplish — fear? Jihadists terrorists certainly can't hope to win in a war of attrition. NPR reports that last year in the U.S. there were almost 4 million births.

But Americans do fear. I would only be afraid if ISIS had a nuclear bomb (and maybe Iran might give them one, in which case, the whole world should be afraid).

According to the CDC, there is an average of 7,000 deaths in the U.S. every day — mostly health related, followed by accidents (unintentional injuries: 130,557 annually) and intentional self-harm (suicide: 41,149 annually).

By contrast, according to data from the FBI there were a total of 13,472 homicides in the U.S. last year (murder and non-negligent manslaughter). Last year 2,600,000 million Americans had died — but of those, only 5 were attributed to jihadist attacks — but 83% of registered voters fear a major terrorist attack.

Those who get their name and picture in the media (school shooters, serial killers, etc.) love it that they get so much attention. When the media reports 24/7 on terrorist attacks, they play into the hands of groups like ISIS (who also love the media attention) and uses these reports in their propaganda and recruiting videos — and the media (such as CNN's Fareed Zakaria) has even acknowledged this.

Americans should stop being so scared (be concerned, but not frozen in fear). I'd be more afraid of those a-holes that text and drive. Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (That's why I fear drinking and driving — I fear that someone texting will run into me, and then I'd get blamed for the accident.)

The NHTSA reports that texting while driving is currently responsible for approximately 1.6 million accidents every year – about 25% of all driving accidents. So the the odds are, you'll get killed by a neighbor with a cellphone, more so than you will be killed by an ISIS terrorist with a suicide bomb or an AK-47 machine gun.

So FDR was right: The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.


  1. Terrorism in the United States — the very short list below — long before we had Islamist terrorist attacks:

    On 9-11 (1857) during the Utah War, Mormon militias attack the Baker–Fancher Party wagon train, killing everyone older than 7 years old. Some 120 people were murdered in what is called the Mountain Meadows Massacre — making this attack the single deadliest act of terrorism on US soil until the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

    The Los Angeles Times bombing on October 1, 1910 was done by the McNamara brothers. The explosion started a fire which killed 21 newspaper employees and injured 100 more. It was termed the "crime of the century" by the L.A. Times.

    On November 24, 1917 a bomb exploded in a Milwaukee police station, killing nine officers and a civilian. Anarchists were suspected.

    The 1920 Wall Street bombing was done by a horse-drawn wagon filled with explosives, which was detonated in front of the J. P. Morgan bank on Wall Street, killing 38 and wounding 143. The perpetrators were never caught.

    During the Tulsa, Oklahoma race riot (May 31 and June 1, 1921) a group of whites attacked the black community of Tulsa. There were reports that whites dropped dynamite from airplanes onto a black neighborhood in Tulsa, killing 39–300 people and destroyed more than 1,100 homes.

    May 18, 1927: The Bath School bombings killed 45 people and injured 58. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades. Their deaths constitute the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history. (The perpetrator was school board member Andrew Kehoe.)

    A Boeing 247 was destroyed in mid-flight over Indiana on October 10, 1933 by a nitroglycerin bomb. All seven people aboard were killed. This incident was the first proven case of air sabotage in the history of aviation. The identity of the perpetrator and the motive for the attack are unknown.

    In 1960 the Sunday Bomber detonated a series of bombs in the New York City Subway and ferries during Sundays and Holidays, killing one woman and injuring 51 other commuters.

    Charles Whitman, the "Texas Tower Sniper", killed 16 and wounded 32 at the University of Texas on August 1, 1966 before being killed by police.

    1969-1987: The Weather Underground committed dozens of bombings and other terrorist activities over this time period.

    1995 (April 19) The Oklahoma City bombing: A truck bomb shattered the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Right-wing terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted in the bombing.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow's air strikes over Syria would go on as long as necessary to punish those guilty of blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt last month where 224 people were killed. (Unlike the Paris attack, that was not on the news 24/7)

    Terrorism in the United States

    List of Islamist terrorist attacks

    List of (non-state) terrorist incidents

  2. Vladimir Putin announced Russia will resume exporting nuclear technology to the Iranian regime. Russia has also contracted to supply Iran with S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.

    And Iran wouldn't share this with ISIS -- who blew up Putin's airliner? So it's odd that the Russian attacks have heavily targeted rebel groups seeking to bring down Assad, who is closely allied with Russia and Iran.

  3. UPDATE: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are 1.07 fatalities per 100 million miles driven.

    * Drunk driving crashes continue to represent roughly one-third of fatalities, resulting in 9,967 deaths in 2014.

    * Nearly half (49%) of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.

    * The number of motorcyclists killed was far higher in states without strong helmet laws, resulting in 1,565 lives lost in 2014.

    * In 2014, there were 726 cyclists and 4,884 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes.

    * Distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all crash fatalities, killing 3,179 people in 2014.

  4. Mark Twain wrote:

    There were two “Reigns of Terror” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

  5. We are more afraid than ever of gun violence, but the truth is, the murder rate is at a 50-year low ... Social media, the internet in general, and the 24-hour news cycle only feed these fears.

  6. I'm only guessing but, I believe the average American citizen is more at risk from a mass shooting by a young "Christian" white man with mental issues who legally purchased a semi-automatic assault rifle, more so than they are from a foreign Muslim pledging an allegiance to ISIS. Of course, if Iran gets a nuke, that could change. But for the time being, most Americans are more at risk from someone who is texting-while-driving. But the mainstream media is driving the ISIS fear (and playing in to the ISIS strategy) by their constant 24/7 micro-reporting of terrorism — because that drives advertising ratings. But it also gives ISIS a lot of free publicity, which only helps their recruiting efforts.