Damn Statistics

Posted on Aug 27, 2015 | 0 comments


statsState obligations under international human rights treaties can be “derogated” if there are  “exceptional circumstances of war or other public emergency”. This is often used as the justification for the introduction (including in Australia) of tough anti-terrorism laws. In a chapter written for the 2012 book “Post 9/11 and the State of Permanent Legal Emergency“, UNSW academic Christopher Michaelsen queries whether there is a public emergency (references omitted):

In the United States, for example, terrorism poses a far lesser statistical threat to life than most other activities. While 1440 US citizens died in terrorist attacks in 2001, three times as many died of malnutrition, and almost 40 times as many people died in car accidents during the same year. Even with the 9/11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by severe allergic reaction to peanuts, lightning, or accident-causing deer. Similarly, the number of annual deaths from Sports Utility Vehicles is reported to be greater than the total number of deaths caused by all terrorist acts combined. Furthermore, it is still to be more likely to get killed by bee stings or DIY accidents than being killed in a terrorist attack…..

On a global scale: “The total number of people killed in the five years after 9/11 [by Islamic terrorists outside of war zones] comes to some 200- 300 per year. By comparison, over the same period far more people have perished in the United States alone in bathtub drownings.” Statistics can be very inconvenient in politics.

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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