And he is, somewhat, correct. Newspapers do not howl about bathtub deaths. Politicians do not insist that we end them; some of them even advocate such things for the government. The TSA cannot use them to justify the indignities they inflict on us. But terrorists, real or imagined, provide fodder for those refrains.
So it could be argued that terrorists are good for the economy, stimulating so many areas of activity. Whoops, no, sorry, let me get back to Goldberg's contentions and try to be serious about such a serious subject.
Deaths caused by terrorism, on the other hand, can have a profound effect on society and the economy. The deaths of ten people in bathtub accidents won't cause people to fear leaving their homes; but imagine the impact of 10 deaths in a terrorist bombing of a shopping mall, or a movie theater. And imagine if it happens more than once. The economic impact could be devastating; the impact on the emotional health of parents and children would be profound. Bathtub deaths are preventable through individual action and self-awareness. The average citizen, on the other hand, is relatively helpless in the face of a car-bombing, mass shooting, or hijacking (yes, the passengers rose up on one of the four airplanes hijacked on September 11th, and they prevented mass death below, but they still died themselves).But all the heavy breathing here is Goldberg's. He neglects to consider that we have a choice in how we react to acts of terror.
And consider the impact of terrorism on the Constitution, and on our collective self-conception as an open and free society. Just look at the stress placed on our constitutional freedoms by 9/11. A sustained terror campaign, even one with much lower death tolls than 9/11, would inevitably lead to the curtailment of our rights. Bathtub deaths have no such ramifications. Terrorism places terrible stress on intergroup relations; bathtub deaths do no such thing. And an effective terrorist, in this age of easy access to chemical and biological agents, could cause death on a scale much larger than 9/11. We will never see a dramatic spike in the number of bathtub drownings, but we could very well see such a spike in terror-caused deaths. Most people intuitively understand the difference between a bathtub's ability to cause mass mayhem, and a terrorist's ability to destablize society.
The incompetent SUV bomb placed near Times Square has not kept people from that destination. In fact, how many of us barely recall it? We recall the underwear bomber because of the lascivious or painful thoughts he evokes, but we continue to fly on airplanes. It's the TSA that feels it needs to peek into our panties. And maybe Goldberg.
It's that peeking that is damaging "our collective self-conception as an open and free society." So let us "imagine the impact of 10 deaths in a terrorist bombing of a shopping mall, or a movie theater."
There are, in fact, several ways the response can go. The press and politicians can get hysterical and call for panty-screeners at every movie theater and shopping mall, and the TSA, like any growing bureaucracy, will be glad to oblige. The rest of us will avoid shopping malls and movie theaters.
Or we could respond as the Norwegians did to the terrorist deaths of several score of their citizens this summer: with calls to avoid fear and to continue to respect the country's support of human rights. If a politican cared to make himself look small in contrast, citizens could urge him to grow up.
Goldberg is in fact quite wrong about this, and his wrongness contributes to fear:
Bathtub deaths are preventable through individual action and self-awareness. The average citizen, on the other hand, is relatively helpless in the face of a car-bombing, mass shooting, or hijackingIt was average citizens who reported the smoking SUV near Times Square and average citizens who subdued the underpants bomber. Perhaps Goldberg feels powerless in such things, but I can assure him that others of us don't.
It's possible that Goldberg sees the response of uncontrolled fear as being likely from the great unwashed outside of the enlightened capital where he and his peers live (is that what he means by "average citizens"?). But I would suggest that he spend some time among us unwashed. We're looking forward to the day when we don't have to hear heavy breathing like that in his post any more.