December 28, 2009

Chicken Littleism

How Hysteria = a Win for Terrorists

About two years ago the Cato Institute’s Ben Friedman wrote an article in the Washington Times regarding what he called the Politics of Chicken Littleism, and how media hysteria and the use of the Precautionary Principle is giving the Terrorists just what they want. The goal of terrorism is to instill terror, and because of hysterical reporting and commentary surrounding even amateurish, failed terroristic efforts, the terrorists are winning.

Friedman identified some recent examples of the Principle’s application, such as the U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The excuse for the war was that Saddam had WMDs, and the reactionary assault on Iraqi sovereignty was "necessary" as a "preventive measure." The reactionary definition of the Precautionary Principle as applied to the "War on Terror" could be summarized:

“…any threat to national security should be met with preventive action, regardless of cost or the remoteness of the risk.”

Keep in mind that bit about cost, then consider the unnecessary clamor over the “Underwear Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

That the pre-boarding security systems failed is undeniable, but media hysteria and wingnut reactionism is playing right into the hands of terrorists. The delusional boy failed in his attempt at martyrdom (thanks to quick reacting fellow passengers) and is now talking his head off providing some (hopefully) good intelligence.

So this must mean that, in the end, the premptive transportation security system worked and terrorism failed, right?


A single, amateur terrorist failed, not because of the premptive systems we have instituted, but because of individual passengers who did not want to become victims. Terrorism came out a big winner.

As evidence, witness the reactionaries marching to the pulpit...

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, (R-Michigan) is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and on FOX News Sunday, Rep. Hoekstra suggested that President Obama was responsible for the security failures, and that Mr. Abdulmutallab's ability to board the flight was evidence that the administration doesn’t take preparedness seriously. "The threat to the United States is real. I think this administration has downplayed it," said Hoekstra.

Rep. Peter King (R-New York) got into the act as well, speaking on CBS's Face the Nation. “We do need the full-body scan, especially when you have countries like Nigeria, which have inadequate security to begin with; then you have passengers transiting in Amsterdam and coming here.”

Not to worry, fellas, awareness is heightened and additional security measures were being instituted before you could rush in front of the nearest camera, and even the innocent will pay the price for something that could have happened... but didn't.

The goal of terrorists is being realized thanks to a shrill media, pompous politicians and over-reacting bureaucrats. The terrorist act attempted by Mr. Abdulmutallab achieved its purpose without the taking of a single life, and now we'll be lucky if the TSA doesn’t require us to strip to our shorts and submit to a full-body, hands-on pat down and cavity search.

It may indeed be prudent to institute precautions in our efforts to protect people from terrorists, and that pre-boarding security screening is necessary, but to what extent do we allow the invasion? How much liberty are we willing to sacrifice? In every instance we must, in spite of the desperate warnings, consider the cost. One of America’s greatest wordsmiths, Benjamin Franklin, in a February 17, 1775 address to the Pennsylvania Assembly, observed that “…they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

You can put me on Ben's side when it comes to matters like these. Considering the rarity of success the terrorists have enjoyed, I am of the opinion that we have sacrificed quite enough of our freedom.