Despite the fact that terrorism sometimes happen in America, it most likely will not happen to you, and you shouldn’t fret about it too much. This message has been judged TOO HOT for the American public to hear.
All rational people with an elementary grasp of probability know that terrorism causes such a vanishingly small percentage of deaths in America that it can safely be disregarded as a serious threat to you, the average person. The American public would be much better served improving their diet and exercising and not smoking and staying away from guns than worrying about terrorism and mass shootings, if they want to live a long and healthy life. The fact that terrorism is such a large part of our political discourse is a failure—of the media, of our political leadership, and of our citizenry.
Barack Obama, an intelligent human, knows all of this. But the New York Times assures us today that he will not be saying all of this in his State of the Union speech, because the American people are simply too obtuse to hear it. The Times writes that “By all accounts, Mr. Obama is sympathetic to this view, which is shared by a number of counterterrorism veterans who contend that anxiety has warped the American public’s perspective. But it is also a politically untenable argument at a time when polls show greater fears about terrorism than at any point since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.”
The analysis makes clear that A) The Obama administration is well aware that terrorism is a minor threat and that people are freaking out about it far too much; B) The president has tried to communicate this fact in his public statements; and C) The president paid a political price for his nuance, so the political establishment has concluded that this is not a tenable message to communicate to the public. Here is a direct quote from Juliette Kayyem, a former security advisor to President Obama: “As a society we’re irrational about it, but government has to accept that irrationality rather than fight it.”
So, the conclusion of the political establishment and those who analyze it in the media is: the public is too dumb to hear the truth about terrorism. That seems like a poor foundation to build a national communication strategy upon. But ultimately, our elected leaders will give us exactly what we demand of them (lies).