What’s really more likely to getcha, Ebola or the flu? Max Fisher has an article at Vox that simply points out some facts, such as the fact that the flu kills thousands of Americans every year. In 2004, a particularly bad year, 48,000 Americans died of the flu. We’ve had one death from Ebola and the nation is freaking out, but how many of those freaking out about Ebola have bothered to get a flu shot?
I got my flu shot a few days ago, by the way. Go thou and do likewise.
In fact, at the moment you are in greater danger of being crushed to death by your own furniture than of dying of Ebola. About 30 Americans die every year when a bookcase or other heavy furniture tips over on them, Fisher says. About 40,000 people suffer serious injuries from their own furniture every year. This is not to say Ebola should be ignored, but it shouldn’t be that hard to contain here even given the, um, quality of hospital management.
What about ISIS? “Presently, the threat to Americans outside of Iraq and Syria is extremely low,” Fisher writes, “as ISIS has no demonstrated intent or capability to launch such an attack. And since 2001, the US has gotten much, much better at preventing terror plots.”
However, the Right is obsessed with the idea that ISIS terrorists are in Mexico and trying to get across the border. Huh? Even PolitiFact, generously giving these claims many benefits of doubts, labeled this one “mostly false.” PolitiFact traced claims that “we know” ISIS is in Mexico, spouted by several Republican politicians, to the right-wing organization Judicial Watch. “Without knowing anything about Judicial Watchâ€™s sources — such as rank or agency — itâ€™s hard for us to assess the articleâ€™s credibility,” PolitiFact said. Indeed. It appears that all the “reports” of ISIS in Mexico are wingnuts quoting each other. There is no source.
Not only did independent experts consulted by PolitiFact say that it’s really unlikely ISIS is planning to cross the Mexican border, if they were planning to come to the U.S. they’d probably just take a plane.
“There is big difference between a theoretical risk or a risk that is worth worrying about,” said David Schanzer, director of Duke Universityâ€™s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
The general sentiment among experts was: Itâ€™s possible that ISIS could sneak through the border — illegal immigrants do it every day. But why would they?
Schanzer noted that ISIS members who have U.S. passports or visas could enter the country legally via plane. (The 9/11 hijackers had U.S. visas.) Whereas if they crossed the border illegally, they would run the risk of getting caught.
Things a lot more likely to kill you than Ebola and ISIS include (in ascending order) a thermonuclear World War III breaking out in the Balkans (unlikely but not impossible); climate change, guns, and traffic accidents. Heart disease and cancer tied for the number one spot. And if you are a reasonably well educated and well read person, I shouldn’t need to look up the data for you.
On the Right, it is not acceptable that we should not be terrified of Ebola or ISIS. One wingnut raged,
Shockingly, he finds global climate change to be a greater â€œthreatâ€ than ISIS or Ebola. Household furniture, televisions, and driving a car he deems to be more dangerous than ISIS or Ebola. 2nd Amendment rights are more dangerous than Ebola or ISIS. It is odd how he lumps Cancer and heart disease together.
It is abundantly clear that Max does not know the difference between a list of causes of death and an actual threat analysis.
Except the wingnut in question offered no argument or data to explain why we should be more afraid of Ebola and ISIS than of the flu and being killed in traffic. And, frankly, it seemed to me Fisher’s “threat analysis” was pretty good. He was not analyzing how dangerous a thing is in the abstract but how dangerous a thing is to someone within the United States. Of course an ISIS terrorist is very, very dangerous, but only to those in the vicinity of one. If you are in Peoria you really are more likely to be killed because some Second Amendment absolutist leaves a loaded gun unattended than by an ISIS terrorist in Syria somewhere. And flu will kill many more of us this year than are likely to die from Ebola. That’s just a plain fact. For that matter, more American men have accidentally shot themselves in the genitals than have died of Ebola. Seriously.
The Right gets furious at the rest of us because we’re not perpetually afraid of things. Righties have a proclivity of working themselves up into a frenzy of fear all the time, but they are only afraid of exotic things, not the everyday things that kill most of us. It fascinates me how their fear of undocumented Latinos, Islamist terrorists and Ebola have all congealed into One Big Boogeyman in their simple little brains, and they fear Ebola-infested terrorists crossing the border from Mexico, and they are all certain they heard some official source say this, although the actual source can never be found. Social psychologists, take note.
Back in 2007 I wrote a response to one of Little Lulu’s hissy fits about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg not taking some ridiculous terror plot (to blow up JFK airport) seriously. Lulu’s position was that if one is not living in a constant state of terror, one is an ostrich. One is in denial of all the scarey things one must be afraid of. And I wrote that people can’t live their lives that way.Â Not in New York City, anyway. I wrote,
Iâ€™ve got news for you, toots: People canâ€™t live that way. And some of us, you know, live here. And if we choose to stay here, we must expose our precious flesh to the dangers of subways and tunnels and bridges and high-rise office buildings and Muslim taxi drivers every single damn day.
But just because we are not in a constant state of mind-numbing, inchoate fear, does not mean we are not mindful of what can happen. A whole lot of of watched the worst that terrorism can do with our own eyes. We were not sitting safely in our living rooms watching a little picture on a television. We were there. We lived with it. And we lived with the shrines and the smell and the sorrow for weeks after.
Believe me, you donâ€™t forget something like that.
And the fact is, fear doesn’t make you safer. Not a bit. It doesn’t wrap you in a cloak of invincibility or put out death rays to kill your attackers. It does, however, interfere with rational thinking and cause you to make rash decisions. And constant stress increases the risk of heart disease, I’m told.
There’s your threat assessment, dude.