Axver (axver) wrote,
Axver
axver

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Argumentum ad terrorium.

I have been saying for a while now that I feel the so-called threat of terrorism is considerably over-rated and exaggerated (though I don't think I've brought this to LJ before), and an article I was watching on the news this evening really rammed home that opinion for me. It seems to me that arguments relating to terrorism are becoming increasingly over-simplistic and removed from historical context; terrorism is becoming the "monster under the bed" to justify anything. If you oppose this policy or belief that ostensibly combats terrorists, then you yourself are in bed with the terrorists and either 1. will have blood on your hands when innocent civilians are killed or 2. wish to destroy civilisation as we in the West know it. Anyone capable of rational, analytical thought knows that such simplification suffers from an extreme lack of critical thought and creates a false dilemma, but politicians of course love to play on people's fears.

The article that I saw on the news related to proposed changes in the qualification and application process for Australian citizenship; longer residency requirements, English tests, monocultural ideas of "Australian values" and so forth. I don't wish to delve too deeply into that debate as I haven't read much about it; what struck me was a comment by some government minister that these changes were necessary in this modern climate of terrorism. The word 'terrorism' leapt out at me. What on earth does terrorism have to do with these proposed changes? No terrorists have been acquiring Australian citizenship or using it as part of terrorist plots, and furthermore, even if there were some problem with terrorists entering Australia, these proposed requirements won't make a jot of difference. They do not pose any problems to the aspirations of any would-be terrorist who manages to enter Australia successfully, and the changes wouldn't pose any more of a challenge to even a mediocre terrorist than the current standards do!

It just seems to me that terrorism is the "in vogue" boogeyman to cite in any instance. Want to change citizenship application procedures? Invoke argumentum ad terrorium! Want to enlarge your official powers? Invoke argumentum ad terrorium! Don't care a whole lot about legal processes and international standards? Invoke argumentum ad terrorium!

Or maybe, instead of invoking argumentum ad terrorium, we should take a quick glance at the statistics and re-assess our priorities. Allow me to address three countries, in order of population size from smallest to largest: New Zealand, Australia, and the US. In New Zealand's entire history, exactly one person has died as a result of terrorism, and that was not due to al-Qaeda or any other Islamic terrorist organisation, but due to the state sponsored terrorism of France, when then-President François Mitterrand personally approved the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in the port of Auckland. In comparison, over 200 people die per year due to avoidable motor vehicle accidents, and yet I don't see the rules being tightened for driver's licences despite all the poor drivers out there. Now, how about Australia? It has suffered from terrorism a little more than New Zealand; although there have been no attacks in the last decade, I do know some Yugoslav businesses were targeted by Croatian extremists in the 1960s/70s, and in 1978, three died when the Sydney Hilton was bombed in connection to the CHOGRM. In comparison, over 1,000 people die per year in motor vehicle accidents here (I recall seeing figures from 1,200 to 1,700), more than fifty times as many people have died from terrorism in the country's history. I don't see motor vehicle accidents being invoked redundantly to support unrelated legislation and opinions, so why is terrorism? "Enough with your out-of-the-way countries, Axver!", I'm sure some Northern-Hemisphere-centric people are thinking. Righto then, let's move on to the USA, the location of the world's single deadliest terrorist attack. More than double the amount of people die per year in the US from gun-related incidents than have died in the USA's entire history from terrorism. And if you think the NZ and Australian road fatality statistics are bad, here's the American ones! There are more than 42,000 road-related deaths in the USA annually; terrorism just pales in comparison.

Now, I am not opposed to measures taken to oppose terrorism - some security loopholes did need to be (or still need to be) closed. However, the energy, attention, and money funnelled into combating terrorism seems to be completely out of proportion to its effects; really, the terrorists have done a great job of distracting everyone from what matters. Now, the list I'm about to present may seem a tad out of date to some, but in the mid-nineties (and, I'm sure, still today), terrorism was not one of the ten leading causes of death, either overall or solely counting accidents. Imagine if all the money the USA and other countries have pumped into invading Afghanistan and Iraq, "fighting" terrorism, and implementing all kinds of policies under the anti-terrorism banner had instead been invested into medical research, health services, and practical safety/education measures. A whole lot more lives would have been saved that way! But I guess it just wasn't politically expedient. Pathetic, really.
Tags: argumentum ad terrorium, politics, statistics, terrorism, war
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