Terrorism is bad for your health

This title may seem a bit obvious – of course terrorism is bad for your health. It kills, maims and scars people for life. A more relevant title may have been “The fear of terrorism is bad for your health“. This again doesn’t seem too far fetched as living in constant fear means an uncharacteristic body chemistry with hormones (like adrenalin) being in an abnormal state for long periods of time. Hebrew University of Jerusalem has attempted to quantify this affect on the health of humans with  study covering 17,000 Israelis where they used both medical check data and questionnaires to study a population that lives under a very high security environment. They concluded that the fear of terrorism increases resting heart rate and the risk of death. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Fear and C-reactive protein co-synergize annual pulse increases in healthy adults.”

The stress associated with long term exposure to terror is bad for your health

The stress associated with long term exposure to terror is bad for your health

By combining the medical exam data with the questionnaire responses, the researchers found that basal heart rate was affected by physiological characteristics, such as level of physical fitness and inflammation index reflecting the activity of the immune system.

In contrast, an ongoing increase in heart rate was also influenced by psychological characteristics such as fear of terrorism. Through a statistical analysis of 325 different parameters, the researchers found that fear of terror was a major contributor to annual increases in resting heart rate, with 4.1% of study participants suffering from an elevated fear of terror that predicted an increase in their resting heart rates.  (Eureka Alert!)

While a heartbeat of 60 beat per minute is normal, an increase of up to 70-80 beats per minute was observed in subjects who exhibited an increased fear of terrorism. In other words, for people with an elevated fear of terror, the heart beats faster and the associated risk of heart disease is higher. (NewKerala.com)

Living in fear will kill you prematurely.


Have we been duped by terrorists?

Journalist and commentator Gwynne Dyer puts forth a view that we have been duped into a “War on Terrorism” that will lead to bad outcomes for the world. His thesis revolves around the belief that the fundamentalist Islamists really want to take over the Muslim countries and to create a groundswell of local support, they needed a whipping horse. The West has provided this by invading and bombing Muslim countries, thus creating more and more freedom fighters/martyrs/terrorists. Some may consider this an overly simplistic view but it if for nothing else, it does tie in the complex subject of fundamentalist terrorism into an easy to digest morsel. Geo-politics, religion, access to natural resources, etc. would round out the analysis.

The Columbus Dispatch publishes Gwynne Dyer's commentary on terrorism

The Columbus Dispatch publishes Gwynne Dyer’s commentary on terrorism

The purpose of major terrorist activities directed at the West, from the 9/11 attacks to Islamic State videos, is not to “cow” or “intimidate” Western countries. It is to get those countries to bomb Muslim countries or, better yet, invade them. The terrorists want to come to power in Muslim countries, not in Canada or Britain or the U.S. And the best way to establish your revolutionary credentials and recruit local supporters is to get the West to attack you….

…The invasions, the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa, the whole lumbering apparatus of the “global war on terrorism” have not killed the terrorist beast. They have fed it, and the beast has grown very large: 3,361 people were killed by terrorism in 2000; 17,958 were killed by it last year.

At least 80 percent of these people were Muslims, and the vast majority of those who killed them were also Muslims: the terrorists of Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al-Qaida and its offspring in other parts of the world (such as al-Shebab in northeast Africa)… (The Columbus Dispatch)


China: “Censor Internet to fight terrorism”

China is a very large and complex country but it really does not take much to see the hypocrisy and self serving attitude they laid out at the World Internet Conference hosted in Wuzhen, China. In brief, the Chinese slid draft copies of a declaration under the hotel doors of the attendees at 11pm with a 8am deadline for any feedback. The declaration asks that the world community join together to police and censor the Internet to prevent it from being used for terrorist purposes. This of course is to also protect the personal information of users, prevent cyber attacks and maintain sovereignty of each country over its portion of the Internet (sic).

Terrorism as we try to show on this site is a very complex subject and to see a country – one that by all reasonable standards, censors information including the Internet for its citizens and is accused of being complicit in cyber attacks – is extremely discouraging for any sort of global governance of the Internet. Its best to keep this medium independent of the interests of countries or else we will end up with a fractured system that reflects the values of those who are the most restrictive.

China censorship

World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, China.

But when a key Chinese proponent of tougher laws to combat cyber-terrorism pushed that view on Thursday while showing video from the crime scenes at a forum called the World Internet Conference, he faced pushback from two American researchers.

“Cyber-terrorism is a sort of cancer on the Internet,” declared Gu Jianguo, who is China’s top policeman on cyber-crime as director of network protection at the Ministry of Public Security. “We are trying hard to elicit support of the international community.”

While condemning such attacks, not everyone agreed with Mr. Gu’s way of thinking about them. “There is very little cyber-war or cyber-terrorism,” said Bruce McConnell, a senior vice president at the EastWest Institute who formerly worked on such issues at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Exaggerating the threat does not help defeat it. (Wall Street Journal Blog)


More global terrorism stats for 2014

Steve Killelea’s Vision for Humanity has released its 2014 report on Global Terrorism. Their PR campaign around this release is certainly in full force as there are tens if not hundreds of articles, blog entries and multiples more tweets and shares pushing some of their main points:

  • Number of terrorist attacks is through the roof
  • Terrorism is now global and killed almost 18,000 people last year
  • Top terrorist groups are all fundamentalist Islamic – Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL/ISIS, and Al Qa’ida
  • Most victims of terrorism were from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria (so they are likely also Muslim)

Similar to a post we had last week, not much media attention to how rare terrorism related deaths still are. There are 40 times more more deaths by homicide than terrorism and 75 countries in the world had no incidents of terrorism.

Vision of Humanity released its 2014 Global Terrorism Index report

The Global Terrorism Index, produced by Institute for Economics & Peace, ranks countries according the impact of terrorist activities as well as analysing the economic and social dimensions associated with terrorism.

The index scores 162 countries, covering 99.6% of the world’s population, and examines trends from 2000 to 2013. The indicators used include the number of terrorist incidents, fatalities, injuries and property damage.



Empirical analysis: The risk of terrorism

Our main site has as section dedicated to the fact that terrorism was a phenomenon long before the 9/11 attacks, but media climate, politics and the psyche of the people have brought terrorism to the forefront. So it is healthy to step back and see whether the risks of terrorism, which most people in the post 9/11 world probably perceive as having grown, actually warrant the state of fear we live under. As per Max Roser’s analysis on Our World in Data, the answer is NO. That is, if you do not live in Iraq – whose population has suffered greatly from the increase of terrorism on their home turf thanks to the war on terrorism.

Max Roser examines some real world risks of terrorism and the odds of being affected by it

Max Roser examines some real world risks of terrorism and the odds of being affected by it

Some takeaways:

  • Terrorism incidents in Latin America have decreased significantly between 2001 – 2008 (vs 1970 – 2001)
  • Iraq has shot up to the top of the list as having suffered the most terrorist attacks
  • India has seen an increase in terrorist attacks post 9/11, moving to the second spot
  • Global deaths from suicide are 59x those from terrorism; 179x for diarrhea related diseases
  • Airline hijackings peaked in the late 1960s to early 1970s