The falsehood that everyone believes

Have you ever heard about the notion that, if we hear a lie often enough, we start to belive it? Well, it’s true, and it has happened with something pretty important.

Here’s the falsehood:

The western/civilized world [or substitute your country] is under attack from/at war with muslim terrorists

No. It is not. You might even believe this yourself but it’s still wrong.

Unless you live in the middle- or far east, in Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen, or in a country like Nigeria or Kenya, your country is not — repeat, not — at war with, or under attack from, any significant force of terrorists.


I know how you feel —the local civil intelligence agencies have pegged the danger of a major terrorist attack at “substantial” several times where I live, too. Whether you live in Europe or the US, you’ve heard enough times about these Arafat-scarf-wearing motherfuckers with AK-47’s and bombs strapped to their chests — names like Boston, Nice and Paris are burned into your memory alongside images of death and destruction.

The persistence of this onslaught of images and stories has made us believe that these horrific events are somehow on a different scale of magnitude than anything else, including things like climate change and global inequality.

They. Are. Not.

It’s not subject to discussion. Even counting such large — and, let’s be clear, heartbreakingly tragic, cowardly and monstrous — assaults as Nice and Utøya, the level of terrorism as a threat to the livelihood of citizens in the west is at an all-time low. That’s right, even the 2015 spike, which includes such horrors as San Bernadino and Paris, only matches up to around the average level of the 70’s and 80’s.

“Analysts who monitor terror attacks around the world note that risk perception doesn’t always correspond to actual risk” — link
“Western Europe is perhaps more peaceful now than at any point in modern human history” — Dr. Adrian Gallagher, Leeds University — link

And yet we have been exposed to the narrative of “Terrorists are everywhere and they’re coming for YOU next!” so much, most people now believe it. Even a guy like Dan Rather, who is both a treasure in journalism and a patron saint of levelheadedness, feels that before criticizing Donald Drumpf’s abhorrent muslims-from-countries-he-isn’t-making-money-on ban, he should make it clear that reform is needed :

I’m not saying Mr. Rather is spreading the lie — I’m saying he’s as affected by it as the rest of us, and cannot speak out against even absolutely draconian anti-immigrant initiatives based on the idea that the nation’s defending itself against the terrorist enemy, without first acknowledging that there is a threat to be addressed. Despite the fact that, for all practical and reasonable intents and purposes, there’s not. It’s like if you couldn’t go to a restaurant without every waiter halting your meal at each course to sternly warn you against choking to death on a piece of food, or if you had to listen to a lecture on the dangers of falling in the bath before you could get in the shower every morning.

Now, we can disagree and have a discussion about how we want the world to be — I believe that we should look at how we made terrorism drop coming out of the 90’s, and do that even better; you can have different ideas.

But such a discussion has to be based on facts. And what we shouldn’t be having a debate about is whether or not we are at war with terrorists, because we are not, and that’s a very simple, stone-cold fact.

Since you’ve apparently read this far, I besiege you to take away one thing: The next time — and every time — you hear anyone say anything about how “something must be done” or “we have to face this threat”, anything about how we need X because the terrorists are coming, don’t believe it. It simply isn’t true.

What you do from there is up to you.