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Mass Transit Hysteria

December 29, 2009

Ok, now that we’ve called upon Obama to “fire the TSA” and rattled cages by banging against everyone’s biggest yet least effective annoyance, has it become more clear that the security hysteria in general has accomplished almost nothing to begin with?  As Bruce Schneider, a very savvy expert on modern security issues (almost seems oxymoronic doesn’t it?), has aptly pointed out:

Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.

Even more poignantly and worrisome is the fact that because we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in hysteria, even the most ineffectual terrorism causes us to terrorize ourselves with much greater success:

The only real worry is that we’ll scare ourselves into making air travel so onerous that we won’t fly anymore.  We won’t be any safer — more people will die in car crashes resulting from the increase in automobile travel, and terrorists will simply switch to one of the millions of other targets — and we won’t even feel any safer.

Don’t believe Bruce?  Maybe you’re more of a Nate Silver fan.  He agrees:

[T]he odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

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