Sun, 05 Dec 2010

About Terrorism

The best thing we can do about terrorism is: nothing. It's not that terrorists don't create harm. It's that terrorism is not about the harm; it's about the fear. We kill, each month, more people in automobiles than were killed by terrorists on 9/11. But that's not the correct comparison to make, because the tactics employed by the terrorists cannot be reproduced. Nobody will sit still for a hijacking ever again. Thus, the real comparison is against the number of airplane passengers killed. We kill, each month, TEN TIMES more people in automobiles than the number of airplane passengers killed by terrorists on 9/11.

The terrorists are hacking our brains. Being a hacker myself, this is intolerable to me. Being a security professional, this is intolerable to me. They are trying to set up a situation where there is a very very very low risk of very bad harm. They do not have the ability to create actual harm. They can only create a harm that is terrifying (and I cheerfully admit that I cannot sleep when I imagine myself on Flight 93, knowing that I have to defeat the terrorists on the airplane or die).

The terrible aspect, when multiplied by the tiny risk, cannot be comprehended by the human brain. Such a small number, when multiplied by a large number, becomes unity. Thus, people overreact, even though the risk of death by being killed by a violent airplane passenger is equal to the risk of dying on the road in the next 9 days. As I write this, between now and Christmas, three weeks away, fully twiceas many people will be killed by automobiles as have everbeen killed by violent airplane passengers.

The solution to this problem is to not be scared. Not all of us arescared. We need those of us who are not scared to struggle against those who are. We need our political leaders to be strong enough to ignore terrorism. There is nothing they can do to stop it, so what they should do is nothing.

Terrorism is an evil hack, nothing more. It's a trick. We need to ignore it.

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