Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nation of Scaredy Cats

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from "The Tale of Samuel Whiskers" by Beatrix Potter

I rarely do this, but what he said:
At the beginning of the 21st century, the typical American suburb is just about the safest place that has ever existed in the history of the world - yet it's full of terrified people.

Statistics have little power in the face of a media environment in which extraordinarily rare events, such as strangers kidnapping children, are presented as commonplace by profit-hungry "news" outlets, for whom the bottom line is that fear sells.

Politicians realize this too. The ongoing overreaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks is only the most vivid example of how our leaders cynically exploit our fears by making wildly exaggerated claims, such as that Islamic terrorism poses an "existential threat" to America.

Ain't it the truth? We're a nation of scaredy cats. No one knows how to assess risk (except for trained risk managers like me!). Selection bias (i.e., getting your "stats" from the TV news) is rampant. Chill out, America!

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