Fear of Terror Makes People Stupid

George Washington's picture

Scientists note that fear of terrorism makes people stupid.

As I've repeatedly noted,
FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert
professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the
Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials "were
trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people
would give them more power".

Indeed, the former Secretary of Homeland Security - Tom Ridge - admits that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

In the real world, as the National Safety Council notes:

-- You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

-- You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

-- You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

-- You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

--You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

-- You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

-- You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

--You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

--You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

--You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

--You are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

-- You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

(Moreover, the chair of the 9/11 Commission said that the attack was preventable).

Indeed, much of our debt is due to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

And yet the top American military and intelligence officials say that debt is the main threat to our national security. See this and this.

So by over-reacting, we are causing real, substantial and lasting damage to our country. (It is admitted
by Bush, Cheney and others that the Iraq war was actually about oil,
and the Afghanistan war was planned before 9/11, but this essay takes at
face value the government's claims that the wars have been for

Reason noted in 2006:

security measures—pervasive ID checkpoints, metal detectors, and
phalanxes of security guards—increasingly clot the pathways of our
public lives. It's easy to overreact when an atrocity takes place—to
heed those who promise safety if only we will give the authorities the
"tools" they want by surrendering to them some of our liberty. As
President Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech said,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning,
unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat
into advance." However, with risks this low there is no reason for us
not to continue to live our lives as though terrorism doesn't
matter—because it doesn't really matter. We ultimately vanquish
terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized.

In April, Reason pointed out:

people will focus, much of the time, on the emotionally perceived
severity of the outcome, rather than on its likelihood.” They add, “With
respect to risks of injury or harm, vivid images and concrete pictures
of disaster can ‘crowd out’ the cognitive activity required to conclude
and consider the fact that the probability of disaster is really small.”
Activating the emotional centers in the amygdala shuts down the
operation of the executive functions of the pre-frontal cortex. Taking
advantage of this flaw in reasoning, the researchers observe, “In this
light, it should not be surprising that our public figures and our cause
advocates often describe tragic outcomes. Rarely do we hear them quote
probabilities.” In other words, politicians and activists deploy sob
stories to scare the public into demanding regulations on activities
they dislike.


“If we look across dozens of cases, we
can observe a pattern in which salient but extremely low probability
risks are sometimes met with excessive responses,”


H.L. Mencken memorably summarized this democratic dynamic: “The whole
aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence
clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of
hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Indeed, politicians have known for thousands of years that playing the fear card gives them more power and makes their subjects more compliant:

"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector."
- Plato

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
- U.S. President James Madison

"Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death".
- Adolph Hitler

of course the people don't want war ... But after all it is the
leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a
simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a
fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of
the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are
being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and
exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
- Hermann Goering, Nazi leader.




easiest way to gain control of a population is to carry out acts of
terror. [The public] will clamor for such laws if their personal
security is threatened".
- Josef Stalin

Unfortunately, while politicians regularly terrify people with gruesome reminders of 9/11 and exaggerated stories about future terrorism risk, they ignore the high-probability risks - like the destruction to the economy through unchecked fraud and corruption, nuclear plant and deep sea oil rig operators which cut every corner in the book, and the loss of our liberties and the rule of law.

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eddiebe's picture

As long as we can't hold the people perpetrating 'the war on terror' accountable, there is no help for moving ahead in a sane way.
When it comes to the leaders in this country it appears to be a greater offence to get caught with your pants down, than with a smoking gun.

Bubbles's picture


The fact that you happen to be acquainted to two friends who lost their lives on 9-11 is sad, but it also exactly irrelevant to the truth value of the statistics quoted in the post.  Logically, it has no place in evaluating a rational course of action to prepare, respond to, or avoid terrorist attacks.  The risk of terrorist attacks were an entirely predictable consequence of the imperial policy pursued by the Pentagon/Washington/Military-industrial complex in the Middle East, and analysts warned us of exactly that.

The point is that the federal gov has shown itself to be expert at (1) setting up the preconditions that will maximize fury among Middle-East populations (2) funding and supporting dangerous radical factions (Al Queda & Mujahadeen, for instance) that later turn on us (3) ignoring impending attacks (Wilson's communique to Rice in 2001) or even setting up future attacks (remember the Underwear Bomber?).  Then, when the attack occurs, public fear is whipped up and the most extreme anti-liberty, unconstitutional countermeasures are forced through congress riding on a shock wave of flag-waving lunacy.

dexter_morgan's picture

ah fer f$%ks sakes.......

stant's picture

neutron debt bomb , gets rid of the people leaves empty streets and buildings

stant's picture

neutron debt bomb , gets rid of the people leaves empty streets and buildings

goldnguns's picture

Dear George

Get a grip.  Bull Run could have been prevented, Pearl Harbor could have been prevented, the Chinese invasion into Korea could have been prevented, Viet Nam could have been prevented, Grenada, Beirut, Desert Storm, etc, etc.  All preventable.  Along with Obama-care, the failure to design/build fuel efficent vehicles, a safe nuclear power industry, $5 billion a year ethanol subsidies.  So tell us something we don't know.  Stupid people still lead stupid people to stupid decisions.


And as far as your statistics on death by terrorism, well I'm just a little on the opposite side having lost two friends in the Pentagon attack.  You, OTOH, are probably well insulated from the effects by at least 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. 

George Washington's picture

Dear goldnguns,

Initially, I am sincerely sorry for your loss.  There are a lot of good folks who work at the Pentagon, and some good people at the accounting offices in the Pentagon were horribly murdered on 9/11.


I sure wish Cheney hadn't mucked things up ...

Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta testified to the 9/11 Commission:

"During the time that the airplane was coming into the Pentagon, there was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President … the plane is 50 miles out…the plane is 30 miles out….and when it got down to the plane is 10 miles out, the young man also said to the vice president “do the orders still stand?” And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said “Of course the orders still stand, have you heard anything to the contrary!?"

(this testimony is confirmed here and here).

So even if 9/11 wasn't foreseeable before 9/11, it was foreseeable to Dick Cheney - the man in charge of all counter-terrorism exercises, activities and responses on 9/11 (see this Department of State announcement, this CNN article and this essay) - as the plane was still 50 miles away from the Pentagon.

dexter_morgan's picture

George, there is probably a lot of truth to what you say, but I really hope your not dumb enough to think this all started with Bush/Cheney. Sometimes it seems that way. Those 2 ass clowns are either 2 of the most brilliant men in the US to have pulled this off, or, more likely, they are puppets as have been most of our last several presidents.  It reminds me of the Reagan years - he was allegedly the dumbest president we ever had until Bush II came along, yet he was responsible for literally everything bad that happened and none of the good. C'mon, this has been planned, by the Bilderbergers or whoever, since shortly after the end of WWII. IMHO.


I'll throw this out there, probably for no other reason than to get junked, but here is a list of the 10 worst presidents IMO from worst to less worse:





Bush II





A. Johnson

Roughly in that order, though many so closely bad hard to rank.

Tricky dick Nixon is not on my list for one reason only - he got us out of Vietnam so he will never be on a 'worst' list of mine.




George Washington's picture

Of course I DON'T think it started with Bush and Cheney. And - in many ways - Obama is as bad or worse.

As to "playing dumb" ...

Are Our Leaders Really Incompetent ... Or Just Pretending?
Reptil's picture

Pretending is the #1 industry now.

Quick get your carreer on the road!

(please excuse my cynical mood?)

centurain's picture

When you start a thread with "Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said"... you will lose people because those 3 named sources are opinion based and not at all credible.  

George Washington's picture

Tom Ridge doesn't know anything ... he was just the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Shell Game's picture

The first half of this Republic's life, people had a better understanding of shouldering the burden of security.  Incrementally we began giving up on the true responsibilities of the 2nd Amendment and milita service and handed the issue of security over to an expanding government.

In so many issues of governance we've evolved from a self-reliant culture to a soft and dependent culture, making grand assumptions that .gov will show the way and come up with reasonable answers.  We now have the government we fully deserve..


dexter_morgan's picture

It all started with Lincoln. He got the ball rolling for this monolithic all encompassing government. Slavery had nothing to do with it or he'd have emancipated them day one, not 3 years in to the war so they'd have more troops. All about the power and the money.

Shell Game's picture

Agree on Lincoln. The war of northern aggression was one of our largest and saddest steps in the wrong direction as a country.  Amazing how many have bought the propaganda of slavery/emancipation as the moral motive for that war..

Fish Gone Bad's picture

The big banks were trying to make Lincoln tow the line.  They got their marching orders from the big European banks.  The banks plan was to split the United States in two with Spain getting the south and England getting the north.  Lincoln fought back with the greenback.  Anyone remember our 12th president, Andrew Jackson?  This is from Wikipedia:

The Second Bank of the United States was authorized for a twenty year period during James Madison's tenure in 1816. As President, Jackson worked to rescind the bank's federal charter. In Jackson's veto message (written by George Bancroft), the bank needed to be abolished because:

  • It concentrated the nation's financial strength in a single institution.
  • It exposed the government to control by foreign interests.
  • It served mainly to make the rich richer.
  • It exercised too much control over members of Congress.
  • It favored northeastern states over southern and western states.
  • Banks are controlled by a few select families.
  • Banks have a long history of instigating wars between nations, forcing them to borrow funding to pay for them.

Lincoln was just an obstacle on the banks road to recovery.  Our current president would do well to remember Jackson.

George Washington's picture

+1,000. Do you know that Freud said the same thing? That handing over our defense to a central government meant giving away our power?

Shell Game's picture

And as warned as far back as some of the anti-Federalist papers.   I firmly believe our culture of fear can find its oldest roots in our giving the responsibility of our security to a centralized entity.

An excellent read on the history and the demise of the American citizen soldier:

It could form the basis of a very interesting lightening rod, err, future post...


Ag1761's picture

There is no terror threat, just mind control. Wake up. A good start is Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson, essential reading to start setting the mind free. Give it a go, you can read it in two nights and save yourself a lifetime of worry and shrink fees.

Caveman93's picture

Let NATO kill a few more hundred civilians and lets see what happens. We are just asking for a false flag now.

dxj's picture

Where did you get the odds of death by terrorist act? Can't find it on the referenced chart.

Urban Redneck's picture

What were the odds of a German citizen dying of a terrorist arson attack after March 1993, versus dying at the hand of the State and its security apparatus before the end of the ensuing war?


What are the odds of an American citizen dying of a terrorist plane attack after September 2001, versus dying at the hand of the State and its security apparatus before the end of the ensuing wars?



topcallingtroll's picture

How many american civilians been killed in terrorist attacks in the last twenty years versus automobile deaths?

We should be more afraid of our cars, but politicians manipulate the stupid people who keep voting for the politicians who promise to take away more of our rights.

Hugh G Rection's picture

You're right, we need a war on cars!


We need more restrictive legislation making it nearly impossible to get a license.  All vehicles must be colored brightly pink to be more visible, and outfitted with governors, limiting top speeds at 30mph.


C'mon DC, don't you care about our safety?

falak pema's picture

"Fear makes people stupid"...

Not if they are already there! Whatever the reason. But fear is an aphrodisiac of the bigoted and introverted. It brings out their best knee jerk from a fear infested left foot!

DogSlime's picture

I really disagree with the title.

Fear of Terror doesn't make people stupid.  People are susceptible to being made disproportionately afraid of Terror because they are stupid.

People are stupid, which makes it easy for corrupt powers to control them.

Azannoth's picture

Yes, even on ZH some blame the evil bankers, the evil speculators, the evil politicians, the evil jews, however all evil is preventable as long as you have a head on your shoulders and know how to use it and most people don't

This system would have never come into existence without dumb/naive/stupid/ignorant masses allowing it, and no simply pointing out the facts to them isn't going to change a thing, if they are not smart enough to identify the problems than nothing will save them

You don't need ZH to tell and show you what's wrong with the world, just look out the window if people are soo blind than they are only so blind because they want to be

Tenma13's picture

 Excellent observation. We get the the government we deserve. 

Contura's picture

Why doesn´t Obama just hire John Rambo instead ?

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

The choice is fear vs love.

You can be afraid of your fellow man, or you can love them.  Note, however, that I do not include psychopaths among my fellow man, because they literally cannot feel empathy.  If they can't relate to me, how can I, or why should I, relate to them?  Psychologists have still never found a cure, or even a treatment, for psychopaths.  Counselling only makes them more cunning, as they study the counsellor, and what behavior is expected from them, and how the counsellor attempts to get them to exhibit the expected behavior.

Check out the latest from the Capital Research Institute "0% Interest Rates - Who Benefits?":


" If the Central Banks refuse to act (by exchanging US dollar reserves for physical gold) then eventually they will become obsolete, their fiat holdings worthless.

Now, if we see that we are on this road to currency destruction, then why is nothing done about it?  The solution is to raise interest rates, not to 1 or 2%, but to atleast 6%, the CRI’s rough estimate for inflation over the last 3 years.  Although the rationale can not be fully covered right here, right now, it is a human one.   The richest, most powerful people on the planet are also among the most highly leveraged.  Raising interest rates would significantly weaken the dollar value of their assets, as well as increase the ‘operating costs’ (interest on their debt) of their speculative activity.   To take it a step further, our analysis indicates that the crucial consideration may in fact be not the wealth of those at the very top of the pyramid, but the wealth of those immediately beneath them, the bureaucracy of the oligarchy, as it were.  The hands and feet of the ruling class, the ones who administer, supervise, and direct day-to-day operations at the world’s largest financial firms, energy companies, media firms, think tanks, military industrial complex, intelligence agencies and so on.  Their overlords promised them vast riches, and basically guaranteed them investment success by lending them money and telling them how to spend it (in a more honest time this was referred to as insider trading and was even considered a crime).  The overlords promised more than they could deliver  (that is, after all, what they are good at, and what keeps them in power) and now find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

The decision to sacrifice the US dollar was made, rather than financially ruining the ruling class’ bureaucracy.  Sorry America, and sorry savers!"

Bartanist's picture

The two population control mechanisms are Fear and Hope.

Obama came in as the savior preaching hope and as soon as he got into office he flipped the switch and it became all about fear, just like Bush.

How can Obama preach hope, when all of his actions support fear and the goal of the globalists is to destroy America so that is not strong enough to resist integrating into a global communist order run by them?

Hugh G Rection's picture

Great, now im terrified of cars, trains, weather and vomit.


Maybe I should just hand over all possessions to big brother and he can keep me safe in a camp somewhere?