The Corner

National Security & Defense

Yes, We Should Be More Upset about Terrorism Than Bathtub Accidents

In response to Roberts to Scotus?

Count me in the Michael Brendan Dougherty camp. In his essay today, Michael touches on some of the same points I do in my column about the tired, rote nature of the post-terror debate. In particular he laments how it has become routine to minimize terror attacks as simply par for the course, a negligible problem that pales in comparison to the death toll of, among other things, random household accidents.

And yet, even before the victims on London Bridge had stopped bleeding, this was the reaction among society’s best, brightest and most morally self-assured members on social media. The pattern is by now familiar. Even as an Islamic terrorist killer’s proclamations about Allah’s will are still ringing in victims’ ears, these individuals are already declaring that the true danger from the attack is an Islamophobic backlash, and that you’re more likely to die by drowning in your own swimming pool than from a terrorist attack.

Do they know how callous that sounds? Do they not realize that sensible human beings react differently to a car accident than to a murder plot? Or that states and car manufacturers are constantly working to decrease the lethality of driving, while terrorists are constantly trying to improve the lethality of their enterprise?

Again, ditto. But I think there’s a way to put the ridiculousness of the terrorism-minimizers into starker relief. Barack Obama liked to point out that more Americans die from bathtub accidents than from terror attacks. (To the extent this is true, it is because very old people tend to lose balance and fall down, we have a lot of very old people, washtubs are slippery, etc.)

Now, imagine if I were to respond to complaints from, say, Black Lives Matter in the same way so many people respond to terrorism:

Yes, yes, this is regrettable. Police shouldn’t kill young black men like this. But let’s keep this in perspective. More people die in bathtubs and swimming pools than from unwarranted police homicides.”

Or imagine if I tried to explain away an abortion-clinic bombing by noting that far more people die in swimming-pool accidents.

I’m not so sure the gang at Vox would nod appreciatively. Rather, my hunch is that the outrage would be deafening — and rightly so. Now, of course, unlawful police shootings, abortion bombings, and Islamist terrorism raise different issues and have different valences, but they all overlap on the issues of justice, the rule of law, and the proper responsibilities of the state. It’s not the state’s job to prevent acts of God. It is the state’s job to prevent murder — and war — against its citizens in the name of God (or in the name of anything else).


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