Speaking outside Downing Street on 4th June 2017, just after the terrorist attacks on London Bridge, Prime Minister Theresa May foreshadowed tougher action. “We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change. It is time to say enough is enough.” She called the threat from Islam “one of the great challenges of our time,” and warned there was “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.” Terrorism is the scourge of the 21st century, we are told and Western civilisation faces this existential crisis that threatens the way of life of all freedom loving people.
The recent release of the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend report 2017, by the EU’s security agency, Europol, makes for interesting reading for many of its insights. It concluded in 2016:
- There were reported 142 foiled or completed attacks with 142 deaths.
- The majority of these attacks (99) were carried out by ethno-nationalists or separatists.
- The number of attacks that could be linked to Muslims was a mere 13 in 2016 whilst the number of attacks carried out by left-wing violent extremists reached 27 in 2016.
- There has been a significant increase in right-wing attacks on asylum seekers over the past two years but these did not feature in the report as they are not classed as terrorist attacks.
The figures above demonstrate a very different picture to what is expounded by governments and the media. It firstly shows terrorism, at most is a relatively minor threat when compared to other causes of death. Over 1 million people die from high blood pressure, 250,000 people die from cancer, 19,017 die in road accidents and 353 people drowned to death every year in Europe.
While there have been several large attacks in Western Europe in recent years, the number of people killed by terrorism in this region is relatively low compared to other parts of the world. The Global Terrorism Index found that 38,422 people were killed in terrorist attacks across the world in 2015. The majority of these were in the Middle East and North Africa, where 17,752 died in terror attacks. Sub-Saharan Africa was the next worst-hit, followed by South Asia. Since 1970, the Index has found a mere 1.4% of deaths related to terrorism that took place in Western Europe.
In the UK over the last 10 years there have been 1.4 deaths per year due to terrorism -which, means you’re more likely to be killed by dogs (18 deaths per year), hot water (100 deaths per year) or using your phone while driving (2,920 deaths per year) or even lightning strikes (3 deaths per year).
The US terror situation is also the same. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) in its report: ‘9/11, ten years later,’ noted, excluding the 9/11 atrocities, fewer than 500 people died in the US from terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2010. Since 9/11, a total of 238 American citizens died from terrorist attacks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the average American is as likely to be crushed to death by televisions or furniture as they are to be killed by a terrorist.
The EU report like many other reports highlights overwhelmingly that more attacks are conducted by left-wing separatists/anarchists than those motivated by Islam. But the perception presented by the media is that most attacks are undertaken by Muslims. A US academic study recently found terror attacks carried out by Muslims receive more than five times as much media coverage as those carried out by non-Muslims in the US. Analysis of coverage of all terrorist attacks in the US between 2011 and 2015 found there was a 449% increase in media attention when the perpetrator was Muslim. Muslims committed just 12.4% of attacks during the period studied but received 41.4% of news coverage, the survey found. The proliferation of 24-hour news networks and Internet news sites has magnified this relatively minor threat. The need to fill the airwaves and compete with a plethora of channels has also led to bad reporting and misunderstanding that has hyped terror. The outlandish and startling terrorism stories have led to the audience to become impacted by the propaganda leading to the deed becoming far larger than it really is.
Terrorist attacks continue to generate hysteria that far outweighs their real impact. Scott Stewart who was a special agent with the US State Department for 10 years and was involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations, highlighted: “Five dead at multiple crime scenes involving street gangs is a bad night in Chicago or Detroit, but it hardly gets noticed in the national and international media. But five dead at multiple crime scenes in which a Muslim gunman is involved becomes immediate fodder for round-the-clock cable news.”
The reality is, terrorism, the use of terror or violence is a tactic utilised by a wide array of individuals, groups and states and something that has existed throughout history. Terrorism did not come into existence on 11th September 2001. Terror or violence transcends across various fault lines and there is no single creed, ethnicity, political persuasion or nationality with a monopoly on terrorism. Individuals and groups of individuals from almost every conceivable background from late Victorian-era anarchists to tribal clansmen to North Korean intelligence officers – have conducted terrorist attacks.
The Europol report alongside all the research into terrorism all point to one fact, on the whole terrorism is a low level threat, with most deaths around the world, Europe and the US due to reasons other than terrorism.