Oh My God, We Are All Going To Die!

Tue, Dec 12, 2017

What really amazes me is that with every “terrorist attack”, even when essentially not much happened in terms of casualties (no deaths, 4 lightly injured plus a moderately injured “terrorist”), people and media (german) are sent into a doomsday frenzy of “The terrorists! They are going to kill us all!”. The usual suspects chime in about how immigration is the root of the problem and that we need more laws, more surveillance and then there is this pesky internet:

Anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur-level explosive device – Andrew Cuomo, Gov. of NY

Since I like logic, reasoning, and most of all facts, let’s have a look at how threatened we are by terrorism in the western world, in comparison to other dangers around us. According to the National Vital Statistics Report of the CDC, in 2014 (latest data with this level of detail) we can look up the mortality rates for that year in a lot of different categories. Let us not count suicides and natural causes and then just pick a few not too exotic ones.

cause of death count
cancer 591,700
diabetes 76,488
influenza/pneumonia 55,227
drugs 49,714
traffic 37,267
falling 32,024
alcohol 30,722
firearms 12,208
suffocation 7,239
malnutrition 3,933
peptic ulcer 3,037
drowning 3,034
cutting/piercing 1,860
pregnancy/childbirth 1,123
Number of deaths by cause in 2014 in the United States

Looking at this data, if I were an american citizen, I would most of all be concerned with death by cancer, food or sugar, getting a cold, drugs, or drinking. Now if you excercise regularly, eat a good diet and have a healthy immune system, don’t do drugs and don’t drink, you should at the very least be affraid of driving, walking or otherwise taking part in traffic. Not to mention falling on your face and of course being shot by your fellow countrymen, …‘MERICA! (sorry, couldn’t resist ^^). More than 3000 deaths by malnutrition is also something that I think is crazy in todays time in a western country but back to the topic at hand.

How many people would you guess died due to terrorism in the United States in 2014? Look at the table for a second and try to guess where the terrorism row is supposed to go. According to a report by Miller and Jensen from the START consortium in 2014 the number of deaths due to terrorism amounted to 19. Yes, that’s right, nineteen! If you count the last 10 years in the report we end up at 186. By the way, this includes all deaths attributed to terrorism in the United States in general. That means this not just includes the islamic terror but also deaths due to other terror “organisations” like white supremacist groups, etc.

“But Alex!”, I hear you say, “What about 9/11?” And of course you are correct. If we count all deaths due to terrorism from 1995 to 2016, which is the whole range of the START report and which naturally includes 9/11, we end up at a gross total of 3393 deaths, 3003 of which due to 9/11, within 21 years. On a yearly basis that would be 162 deaths per year putting it at the very bottom of the cause of death table. You are 11 times more likely to die by cutting yourself than to die in a terror attack. If you are female, you are almost 7 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth.

Out of the 2.6 million people dying each year in the United States about 200,000 people die due to accidents and violence, that is non-natural causes excluding illnesses like cancer. Out of these, 162 a year are killed due to terrorism, which makes for a terrorism death ratio of 0.081 %.

How do things look in my own country of Germany? Our media is babbling on about the danger of terror attacks and our politicians are calling for more surveilance and mandatory backdoors in encryption software. Surely the number-crazy Germans have their statistics right and don’t just give in to the spread of hysteria? Well, according to the GENESIS database and the Cause of Death ICD-10 statistics of the Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt) Germany we can get the data for the same categories as for the US. In addition, since both data are categorized according to the international ICD-10 standard released by the World Health Organization (WHO) they are absolutely comparable.

cause of death count
cancer 226,337
diabetes 24,401
influenza/pneumonia 20,874
alcohol 13,889
falling 12,867
traffic 3,688
peptic ulcer 2,436
drugs 1,558
suffocation 1,400
drowning 444
cutting/piercing 193
firearms 112
malnutrition 86
pregnancy/childbirth 24
Number of deaths by cause in 2015 in Germany

And how many deaths related to terrorism in the same 21 year period? Exactly 51 according to the same source (START) as above. Granted, more than half of that (27) happened in 2016 but in this year, which is almost over, we had 1 (one!) death due to a terrorist attack. Same as in 2015 by the way. Still, lets count everything since 1995 as we did above and we end up at almost 2 deaths per year!

In Germany, around 900,000 people die each year of which about 36,000 do so due to accidents, injuries, and violence. The same non-natural causes as I mentioned above. Out of these 2 people die due to terrorist attacks. This results in a terrorism death ratio of 0.006 %!

To put both countries into perspective, while the risk of dying due to a terror attack is 15 times higher if you live in the United States instead of Germany, you are also 20 times more likely to be shot by your neighbour. ;-) Germans however are 2.5 times more likely to suffer death by alcohol but then again, drinking beer is basically required by law over here!

Now, things are for sure a lot different if you do not live in the western world but instead in a country where the numbers in the tables are a bit different. If I were to live in Afghanistan I would definately be concerned about terrorism but the only cure that really helps against pretty much everything is education! Educated people are the antidote to extremism, regardless of which kind, and power hungry politicians alike. And while they are at it, they can also fix all of the things above that are way more likely to harm you.

As a closing thought, since, according to the data above, you are a lot more at risk of dying due to a stomach ulcer than being blown to smitherenes by some guy with a half-assed pipebomb down his pants, there is one thing I can recommend which is known to help: less stress, more chill, take it easy, and don’t get too excited about imaginary dangers! If you want to be concerned, be concerned about what your politicians do under the guise of the threat of terror.

And don’t go about fixing my beer… I like it just the way it is.