Thursday, June 24, 2004

Negating the "Fear Factor"

We've all nervously chuckled at one time or another as terror alerts have been raised from 'poppycock' to 'burnt umber' to 'chartreuse'. The Bush administration has become quite adept at manipulating America's "fear factor" - especially when it comes to terrorism and your chances of becoming a victim in one way or another.

I've been doing a little statistics research (actually, about 5 minutes worth on Google, but that was enough). My inherent sense was that your chances of being personally impacted by terrorism are somewhere south of negligible, regardless of how much the ghost of Osama cranks up the threat machine noise. The bottom line is that the concept of terrorism scares the shit out of us. It's the fear of the unknown, kind of like dying, I suppose. You don't know when, where, or how it's going to happen.

The fear of, as Don Rumsfeld says, the "unknown unknowns" is what drives us to distraction in our daily lives. My message, based on in-depth research? Calm the fuck down.

The next time Tom Ridge (or even John "I couldn't beat a dead man for a Senate seat" Ashcroft) tries to stoke your terror fears, please refer to the following statistics as compiled by the San Diego Union, and share them with your scaredy cat friends and family. Here's your statistical odds:

Of getting hemorrhoids: 25 to 1
Of being born a twin in North America: 90 to 1
Of being on plane with a drunken pilot: 117 to 1
Of being audited by the IRS: 175 to 1
Of having your identity stolen: 200 to 1
Of dating a millionaire: 215 to 1
Of dating a supermodel: 88,000 to 1
Of writing a New York Times best seller: 220 to 1
Of finding out your child is a genius: 250 to 1
Of catching a ball at a major league ballgame: 563 to 1
Of becoming a pro athlete: 22,000 to 1
Of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
Of finding a four-leaf clover on first try: 10,000 to 1
Of a person in the military winning the Medal of Honor: 11,000 to 1
Of winning an Academy Award: 11,500 to 1
Of striking it rich on Antiques Roadshow: 60,000 to 1
Of getting a royal flush in poker on first five cards dealt: 649,740 to 1
Of dying in a terrorist attack: 650,000 to 1
Of spotting a UFO today: 3 million to 1
Of becoming president: 10 million to 1
Of winning the California lottery: 13 million to 1
Of becoming a saint: 20 million to 1
Of a meteor landing on your house 182,138,880,000,000 to 1

So, your chances of becoming a victim of a terrorist attack are somewhere between that of making a ton-o-money playing Vegas Stud Poker and hitching a ride on a flying saucer. I'll take those kind of odds any day of the week.

Sleep well tonight, America!