Terrorism Denial

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

It’s become increasingly apparent that some proportion of the left is engaged in a kind of terrorism denial:

They cite the relatively modest fatalities in the US and other western countries from terrorist attacks since September 11 — and it’s always ‘since’ — as evidence of this apparent lack of threat.

These numbers are misleading for a number of reasons. Simply adding up the body count from various causes of death doesn’t reflect why terrorism should concern us — how and why these deaths occurred is also important. Accidental deaths should be less concerning to us than deaths caused on purpose. Lawnmowers and armed toddlers may indeed do us harm, but they don’t intend to do it. More importantly, they don’t seek to do more harm than they actually do. In contrast, the ambition of a terrorist is rarely modest. In almost all cases, the goal is to create as many casualties as possible in any given attack. As a matter of public interest and public policy, those who have no upper limit in the amount of harm they want to cause are more of an existential threat than those who do. As Sam Harris argues, jihadist inspired terrorism ‘takes the guard rails off of civilisation’ in a way that these more mundane causes of death don’t.

But what is most spurious about these numbers is that they ignore the deaths prevented from security and counter-terrorism measures that managed to thwart attacks before they occur. Every day the US and other Western countries are fighting the war on terrorism. They are saving lives before it becomes apparent to the rest of us that they ever needed saving. This may sound dramatic, but it needs to be understood if people believe that the war on terror is a fantasy, or less of a threat than bathtubs. The relatively low death tolls from terrorism in the West are, in part, due to the success in thwarting attacks, not because there is no threat in the first place.

In this respect, terrorism denial commits the same faulty reasoning that the anti-vaxx movement uses to deny the reality of the threat posed by infectious diseases and pandemics. Anti-vaxxers argue that the small number of deaths caused by infectious diseases in recent times is evidence of them posing no threat. However, those who understand the underlying science recognise the nature and scale of the threat, and the critical role that vaccination and pandemic prevention play in neutralising it. Were we to stop vaccinations — or counter-terrorism — it’s clear that the death toll from both these threats would rise significantly.


  1. I go with “jihad deniers”.

    The association with the holocaust is intentional.

    The association of the holocaust allows me to bring up Antisemitism.

    I then claim that Muslims have a problem with Antisemitism. (Then, i give some key, big ticket example.)

    Then, I say that ISIS show a remarkable similarity to the Nazis (and not just that they both end in IS).

    Hopefully the interlocutor mentions that the Nazis will say that the Nazis were right-wing fascists.

    Then, I spring the trap and say that the Nazis were basically left-wing fascists.

    Then I point out all the similarities.

    Then, I mention that the left has deep problems with antisemitism. (Give some examples.)

    Then, I close by saving I think the left should be ashamed with its alliance with holocaust denial (Oh sorry, did I say holocaust? I mean’t Jihad denial) and its alliance with fascism.

    That is how I take on folks rhetorically.

    The article you mention has an academic saying it is a “fictions” war.

    One idea I had (just a thought) is that these useless mouths have to say this because if it was a war, then we have no need of sociologists.

    So, maybe their behaviour is to be explained adaptively, rather than a product of pure delusion.

  2. One more thing.

    Nicholas Kristof was mentioned in the article and in his latest article in the NYT he argues against Trump on grounds of morality.

    Ok. Here is the logic.

    Imagine – not John Lennon’s imagine – The imagination of the Dark Reformation.

    No Muslims. No Muslims were ever allowed into America.

    Consequence: No 9/11.

    Consequence: No Afghanistan War.

    Consequence: No Iraq War.

    Consequence: No Arab Spring (likely).

    Consequence: No ISIS.

    Consequence: No Pulse, No San Bern, No Boston.

    Consequence: No Drones on Weddings, funerals or families.

    In short, approx 1 million Muslims would still be alive. And, yes, maybe a few million more would still be alive by the time this ends – if it ever does.

    So, if we were to plot it on a graph.

    With rising numbers of Muslims in your country, the violence (domestic and foreign) also rises.

    So, if Mr Kristof and his ilk is really concerned with saving Muslims lives, then he should argue for Muslims to not be able to antagonise the 800 pound gorilla that can sit and shit where it wants.

    Do people like Kristof, a Harvard man, and a Pulitzer prise winning man ever think about this?

  3. Adar says:

    “The relatively low death tolls from terrorism in the West are, in part, due to the success in thwarting attacks, not because there is no threat in the first place”

    It will be interesting for decades to come if the historians are ever allowed access to the records of counter-terrorist operations. My guess is that the relative lack of terrorism in the U.S. after 911 is due to a lot of the bad guys just disappearing and never being seen again. What exactly happened to them probably will never be known. Luca Brazzi swims with the fishes?

  4. Lucklucky says:

    Adar, I would say it is because most Islamic terrorist resources are being spent fighting in their lands. Terror in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, etc. means no terror in other places.

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