Friday January 23, 2015
In the rush to sensationalize the Paris terrorist attacks and minimize all other news (for example, even more horrendous terrorist attacks in Nigeria), the American media has conveniently overlooked one major ill effect of the public hysteria it is helping to foment.
In a mini-redux of what happened subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, the American public, by confusing what's on TV with reality, is demonstrating what experts call "probability neglect." This phenomenon entails people excessively worrying about a rare event -- for example, a terrorist attack -- but being much less perturbed about much more common ways of dying by eating unhealthy foods, not exercising, smoking, failing to wear a seat belt, etc.
This excessive public fear allows the US government to run wild outside the Constitution and erode the civil liberties that make the United States unique, in the name of saving the populace from "terror" -- for example, unconstitutional indefinite jailing without charge or trial, the creation of kangaroo military tribunals as a substitute for civilian courts, illegally suspending people's right to challenge their detention, torture that violated US and international law, and warrantless surveillance under the Patriot Act and even by violating existing law.