YOUR CHANCES OF BEING KILLED BY A TERRORIST ARE EXTREMELY SLIM” IS NOT AN ARGUMENT


Ralph Benko explained to me the best way to consider the threat of terrorism. He was referring to concerns about the refugees and President Trump’s executive order halting immigration from known locations of Salafist jihadism, whose refugees we could not possibly vet.

He pointed out that the concern over terror is not limited, as some suppose, to the fact that your chances of being killed or injured by a violent refugee terrorist who might slip through the cracks are not the real issue.

The real issue is that acts of terror TERRORIZE and that by ensuring proper vetting of refugees, thus allaying that concern, our normal generous natures will kick in and refugees will in fact be welcome refugees.  The issue has never been xenophobia, I would add, it has always only been the effects of ONE act of terror on thousands, even millions of people.

But I have heard this argument before, and in a more general sense, as an argument that terrorism from Salafist Jihadism is not likely to affect you, even if millions of refugees come, or even if we have millions of Muslim citizens. There is always an assumption in some circles that if you throw down a red flag over Salafist jihadism that you are labeling all Muslims this way or that. As I could not possibly change someone’s mind who embraces such illogical thoughts, I won’t even try at this point.

I am not singling out refugees, American citizens who are Muslim, people who are Muslim who hold visas or green cards, or tourists who are Muslims, I am not even singling out plain old ordinary modern Muslims. What I want to address is this idea that terrorism is not such a big threat because your personal chance of being hurt is slim. People who conduct terrorism, regardless of their motivation, aren’t aiming at the people they kill or hurt. They aim to TERRORIZE society.

Your chances of being the victim of an act of terror are slim. In fact, even if a hypothetical 100 acts of terror a year killed 5 people each in the US, your chances of being one of the dead would be 600 million to 1. Those are some long odds. That is true regardless of the root cause of that terror. The recent killing spree by a terrorist in Quebec against a mosque may have been by an anti-immigrant zealot, though there are conflicting reports. If he was an anti-immigrant radical, his aim was not those particular Muslims, but all Muslims, and society in general.

So, we must consider the effect of terrorism.

For instance, on 911, a few handful of terrorists backed with less than $200,000 in funding not only killed around 3000 people but they effected every American alive at the time, some in very negative ways. If these 3000 people had 10 loved ones each, that’s 30,000 people immediately effected.


911 almost bankrupted me and certainly hurt me financially in a very big way. I was doing massive marketing research projects and just getting some big clients. In fact, I was seeing a potential client for a big deal I was sure would happen and had over $100,000 in new contracts ready to begin. But on that day, everyone cancelled. 100%. You can’t do marketing research in such an environment. I had to find other ways to make money, but I ended up defaulting on bills and nearly lost everything. It was very tough.

When the acts of terror hit, any city or even whole countries are effected negatively. There is emotional trauma and fear. There are erosions of your rights caused by the necessity of security. There are real inconveniences. Indeed, terrorism has made air travel an unpleasant experience. There are economic disruptions and dislocations.

And so, while you may not ever be killed or injured by a terrorist, even one single act of terrorism could have real and negative impact on your life. And your chances of a loved one being financially hurt, emotionally hurt, injured, or killed are also much higher than your own direct risks of injury or death.

Everyone other than small children who were not aware was negatively impacted by terrorism. Everyone who flies is negatively impacted by terrorism. Everyone who is concerned about the surveillance state is negatively impacted by terrorism.

Yes, it’s true, your own risks of being hurt or killed by a terrorist are pretty low. But your risk of being impacted negatively by terrorism over the next 10 years are nearly 100%.

It is true that if the US has a strong vetting program in place, which the Europeans have not, that people will be very alleviated about a threat of terrorism. To dismiss their fears with some nonsense about your PERSONAL chances of being killed or injured, when in fact terrorism has a negative ripple effect that impacts far more people than are killed or injured, is not appropriate, and doesn’t help your cause if your cause is to help genuine refugees who want to come here, be free, and become part of our society in positive ways.

I remember years ago, I had a college professor who was opining about how, near Harrisburg, in Steelton PA, there are lots of people who came as refugees from the Bosnian War. They fought against each other there, but over here they hold joint festivals and get along just fine. And it’s true, I have been there and I have been to some of their events. But they were vetted to ensure that we didn’t have war criminals mixed in and people pursuing blood feuds and, while it is likely some got through, most of us were confident that most all the people coming were people wanting to flee that mess, not bring it with them.

We can’t do anything about terrorism that might come from within, unless someone telegraphs their intentions. It is argued by some that it is wrong to single out concern for Salafist Jihadists slipping in among refugees when terrorism can come from any part of the native population and for numerous reasons. This is like arguing that if you have a problem with a family member doing you wrong then you should not be careful to prevent a stranger from doing you harm.

Probably most refugees, including Christians and Muslims, from the unrest caused by Salafist Jihad emanating from Al Qaeda, Iran, the Wahhabis, and Deash (ISIL/ISIS), to name a few, don’t want to bring that mess over here if they can get here. Just as most every single person who you might consider to be against immigration are not actually violent or dangerous to anyone. We vet Americans who want to own firearms, why then not vet people coming to our country who live among a population that is, statistically speaking, more likely to support Salafist Jihad than, say, the Jews who were fleeing Nazi Germany?

When terrorism strikes, it has huge effects on everyone. To wish to mitigate that risk with aggressive screening is sensible and necessary. If that happens efficiently and quickly, within 85 days or so, then most Americans will feel more compassion, having had their legitimate fears addressed. But calling them names and using the nonsensical “logic” that their chances of being personally injured or killed are low and therefore their concerns are illegitimate is not useful.

Terrorism is aimed at terrorizing the general populace, not just killing or injuring a few individuals. President Trump is addressing the real and legitimate need to mitigate that risk and, by doing so, making the potential for compassion and generosity to kick in to help ACTUAL refugees in actual need much more sustainable in the long run.