Monday, March 12, 2007

Not Your Father's Terrorists

According to the Washington Post, today's terrorist pretty much defies any sort of ethnic profiling. Take, for example, Bouchra El-Hor from Holland.

"She studied business in college, hung out at the pub with her friends and was known for her fashionable taste in clothes.

"So residents of this 900-year-old river town were thrown for a loop last year when Bouchra El-Hor, now 24, appeared in a British courtroom wearing handcuffs under an all-encompassing black veil. Prosecutors said she had covered up plans for a terrorist attack and wrote a letter offering to sacrifice herself and her infant son as martyrs.

"...terrorism suspects from atypical backgrounds are becoming increasingly common in Western Europe. With new plots surfacing every month, police across Europe are arresting significant numbers of women, teenagers, white-skinned suspects and people baptized as Christians -- groups that in the past were considered among the least likely to embrace Islamic radicalism.

"The demographics of those being arrested are so diverse that many European counterterrorism officials and analysts say they have given up trying to predict what sorts of people are most likely to become terrorists. Age, sex, ethnicity, education and economic status have become more and more irrelevant."


Anonymous said...

Hey there,

I haven't read the article, but from what is cited, I think it only serves to breed fear in people.

I get what you're trying to say - I think the theme you want to bring home for people is that we can't assume people are terrorists by the skin colour or ethnicity. That I agree with, but I think this article could scare the shit out of someone. I think it could be interpreted as "they're everywhere!".

There is too much fear being spread in the media. Read what John Stossel had to say about it last month:

Two hours of prime time! This week we start at 9 p.m. ET.

I hope I don't mess this up. It's a great opportunity. But the program still isn't finished. I'm worried.

And worry is what the show is about. It's titled "Scared Stiff: Worry in America."

"Scared Stiff" expands on the idea we raised in my very first TV special, "Are We Scaring You to Death?" (I wanted to call that show "We ARE Scaring You to Death!" but they wouldn't let me).

I think ABC was surprised, 12 years ago, by the high ratings for that first show, and I'm delighted to be able to devote more time to the subject.

There's a lot to be scared about. The media hit us with endless warnings: terrorism, bird flu, vicious crime, cancer, global warming and much more. But are all worries created equal? It turns out that what we worry about is often different from what's most likely to hurt us.

Terrorism: How big is the risk? We look at what Veronique De Rugy of the American Enterprise Institute calls "terror porn": billions of dollars wasted in the name of safety, and what I call the FIC, or the "Fear Industrial Complex": politicians, lawyers, activists and media, who have an incentive to keep you scared. They profit by spreading fear.

Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security and author of "Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack," says we must do much more to protect ourselves from terrorists. He says there should be armed guards at stadiums, shopping malls and schools. But skeptics, like John Mueller, author of "Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats," say the threat is overblown, and Americans are less likely to be killed by an international terrorist than by driving into a deer. I didn't know that 4,000 Americans crash their cars into deer every day.

Kidnapping and Molestation: CNN's "Nancy Grace" and Dateline's "Predator" programs earn high ratings by focusing on molestation and kidnapping. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children runs powerful public service announcements about abducted kids. But what damage is done by the fear they spread? The kids I interviewed are much more frightened about kidnapping than they are about the other risks that are more likely to hurt them.

Vaccines: Many activists, like Robert Kennedy Jr., have blamed some vaccines for IQ loss, mental retardation and autism. I think that activists and lawyers may be killing people by frightening the public about vaccines. My own daughter got whooping cough after our pediatrician saw a "20/20" report that scared viewers about the whooping cough vaccine and didn't give her the final vaccination. Fortunately, my daughter recovered, and she will appear on the program. I confront one of the lawyers about "scaring people for money."

Silicone Breast Implants: It was another example of the Fear Industrial Complex at work. Some women -- I interview one -- were so frightened about "poison" inside their bodies that they cut their bodies open themselves to get the implant out. But, oops, it turns out that silicone did not cause cancer and autoimmune disease. I confront a lawyer who made more than a billion dollars suing tobacco companies and implant makers. He isn't giving the implant money back.

Unintended Consequences: Politicians pass laws in the name of safety, but safety regulation can create new problems:

Bike helmet laws: Countries that require bicyclists to wear helmets find that fewer people ride, possibly making us fatter. And it's not clear that the mandatory helmets result in fewer injuries; one study found cars pass closer to bicyclists wearing helmets. And now that I wear a helmet, I take more risks -- I ride in NYC traffic. (Some research suggests that the best safety protection for bicyclists is to wear a wig, to look like a woman. I'll try it.)

Sanitizing the house: Sterile houses may be giving more children asthma. It's possible that I helped give my own daughter asthma.

Child safety caps: Medicine bottles are now so tough to open that some people leave the cap off. More poisonings result.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not surprised that Stossel blames the media for spreading fear because going that little step further - Republican demagoguery and media corporatism are the interests who are spreading and really making a killing out of this fear. The American media aren't spreading fear. They're too gutless and, besides, that job is already taken.