September 02, 2007

Dopey WNJ Letter of the Week

John Flynn of Wilmington serves up an oldie-but-a-goodie today. He says that the 3000 dead due to the terrorist attack of 9/11/01 doesn't warrant all the money spent on the War on Terror (remember -- that's just a "bumper sticker"!) because there's no way we'd spent all the cash we have if 3000 were killed by, say, disease or traffic accidents on that fateful September morning:

What if terrorism were a disease? What if that disease killed 3,000 people six years ago in the United States? Would we spend $500 billion plus $12 billion a month to control it? Would we tolerate 100 young American lives a month lost, thousands injured or traumatized in experiments?

If terrorism were a disease, 9/11 would be a dim memory in a country where 1,200 die a day from smoking, 100 from murder/suicides, 6,000 teens die every year in vehicle accidents and there are 100,000 hospital mistakes a year.

The odds of dying by terrorism are tiny by comparison.

Certainly the money John cites in his figures includes that delegated to the Iraq War. It is well-known that I've been against that war from the start, though obviously not for the same reasons as John. But I digress. I recalled reading a while back other such comparisons similar to those made by John here -- y'know, that disease, smoking, alcohol, car accidents etc. all kill more folks per year than the 9/11 terror attack did. With the exception of some diseases, these comparisons are just laughable -- the principal reason being that they are voluntary actions and/or accidents. You can prevent your death by smoking by -- get this -- NOT SMOKING. And car accidents? Sure -- let's compare the number of people killed by a purposeful terrorist act to that of people commuting to work or vacation via the main method of transportation in the world today. Y'know, we can change those car deaths right now -- all it would take is drastically altering the economies and cultures of just about every society on the planet! Ye gad, the inanity. How can people not make the distinction between the planned, purposeful deaths of people, and voluntary actions/accidents/mistakes?

Back in April, James Taranto blasted a sentiment similar to Flynn's expressed by the LA Times' Rosa Brooks. He noted (my emphasis),

According to this table, 4,742 people were lynched in America between 1882 and 1964. That's an average of but 57 people a year, and the number of annual lynchings peaked in 1892, at 230. By the standards Brooks applies to 9/11, lynching was not a big problem. It killed far fewer people than war, disease, accidents, etc.

Yet if someone were lynched tomorrow, would we shrug it off because the number of deaths is only 1/43,000th of the annual car-crash toll? Of course not. It takes a stunning degree of moral obtuseness to treat a murder in the furtherance of a hateful ideology--be it white supremacy or Islamic fundamentalism--as the equivalent of an accidental death.

Indeed. See my thoughts in the preceding paragraph. And can you imagine a major newspaper ever making the comparison of the number of blacks lynched ("not that bad" in the overall scheme of things) to those killed in car accidents? Or smoking? Absolutely not. It would execrably insulting.

So why do it with 9/11?

Posted by Hube at September 2, 2007 08:44 AM | TrackBack

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