(To read the rest of our coverage on the 2016 Presidential primaries, please click here.
Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here.)
At the sixth Republican debate, Ben Carson warned the world of a looming threat:
“And we have enemies who are obtaining nuclear weapons that they can explode in our exo-atmosphere and destroy our electric grid. I mean, just think about a scenario like that. They explode the bomb, we have an electromagnetic pulse. They hit us with a cyber attack simultaneously and dirty bombs. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue at that point...those kinds of things are in fact an existential threat to us.”
That does sound terrifying. And Carson isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee all fear an EMP attack, even though experts universally agree, this isn’t a remotely real or credible threat.
You may wonder why we keep writing about how the world getting safer or why we started the year sharing good news stories. Or why we keep debunking the anti-pollyanna pundits that dominate the media. Or why we’ll keep writing about this.
Frankly, because we’re losing the battle.
Since we’ve started writing about how the world getting safer, inspired by Steven Pinker, John Horgan, Joshua Goldstein, Bruno Tertais and other’s research, the world has only got more pessimistic. (And yet safer.) We keep a collection of pessimistic or statements about our “dangerous” world, and it just keeps growing. Heck, I just listened to a Nobel Peace Prize winner who stopped a war in Liberia, complain about the amount of war today, as an argument against war being inevitable. Huh?
Most of all, this year's election proves it. In America, you can blame Republicans, especially if they’re running for president. Michael C has this thing while we’re writing up posts, where he warns me (Eric C) not to go “Daily Kos” on the writing. In other words, don’t go crazy liberal/partisan. And I try. So, instinctively, for balance, I don’t want to blame Republicans for fear-mongering. But then I heard this on NPR:
“And the Republican theme of how scary the world has become under president Obama’s watch is only getting more intense...The theme is pretty clear: the world is on fire and it’s all President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s fault...”
Not only do people think the world is a dangerous place, one side of the political spectrum has made it their main talking point for foreign policy! From Rand Paul:
“After all the sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, why do we find ourselves in a more dangerous world?”
That’s from an isolationist! Or Chris Christie in the NPR article above:
“These are among the most perilous times in our nation’s recent history.”
Or Marco Rubio:
“America is in far greater danger today than it was eight years ago"
Or Jeb Bush at the seventh Republican debate:
“Well first of all, I think it's important that when we're running for the highest office in the land that we recognize that we're living in dangerous times and we have to be serious about it, that our words have consequences.”
Politicians exploit violence to their advantage, selectively over-hyping “crises”. And frankly, Republicans have perfected it, because they and Americans tend to think Democrats are “weak” militarily and on foreign policy, just like the NPR reporter explained later in that report in the link above. In 2014, that meant framing the rise of ISIS and the Ebola crisis as world-ending catastrophes. This year, during the Republican debates, it means again over-hyping ISIS, the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shootings. (But like I said, selectively. Terrorism gets top billing, but mass shootings get ignored.)
It has an effect. In other words, these politicians successfully convince their followers that the world is a mess. Reveal, the podcast by the Center for Investigative Reporting, just did an hour on Donald Trump. One of his supporters described the world this way (Min 18:00):
“My neighbor is afraid to fly. I’m not afraid to fly...Hopefully it won’t be my flight that gets blown up, but no one feels safe anymore...we live in a dangerous world. We want to know who’s coming in. They’re coming into this country, the bad people, for one reason: to kill us.”
Almost nothing in that quote is true, but it represents what a lot of average Americans mistakenly believe.
So, who’s to blame? First, obviously Republicans, for needless fear-mongering and misleading their followers. Honestly, if the economy were in the toilet, Republicans would want to talk about that instead of ISIS.
Next would be Democrats, who either believe the world is a dangerous place, as dangerous place or more dangerous place than it has ever been. (Especially your regular, civilian Democrats.) Worse would be Democrats who know we’re safe, but don’t say or do anything about it. This does not include President Obama, who stated that ISIS is NOT an existential threat at his last State of the Union. This does include the Democrats who didn’t clap.
But most of all, I blame the media. Republicans complain about a hostile, anti-Republican “mainstream media”. But that very same mainstream media over-hypes pet issues that help Republicans, like terrorism and wars in the Middle East that then benefit Republicans. As we wrote about a few years ago and last year, the media, before is incredibly pro-war/pro-intervention. (It’s not until the war turns out badly that they complain about it.)
They also rarely correct the record about how the world is getting safer. They almost never but terrorism in context of how statistically rare it truly is. (Which, ironically, is why it is so news worthy.)
We’re in a similar situation to global warming denialism of ten years ago. The world is getting safer, except today, politicians of both parties argue the opposite. It’s time the media, when reporting about terrorism, mass shootings or other acts of violence, call them what they are: anomalies. Exceptions. Otherwise, politicians will keep using it to their political advantage, arguing for killing civilians, denying immigration to one class of people based on religion, starting new wars, and loosening ROE.
Which, ironically, may actually make the world less safe.