This Is How the Media Amplify Our Terrorism Fears

I'm going to run the risk of a take-down order from an AP lawyer and reprint this entire (brief) story so you can see just how Onion-ish it is:


TSA: Unruly Northwest Flight Passengers Questioned

ROMULUS, Mich. -- The Transportation Security Administration says unruly passengers on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit were interviewed by Customs and Border Protection officials after the plane landed.

But the TSA says the passengers were released and no arrests were made.

Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott says the crew of Northwest Flight 243 requested that authorities meet the plane Tuesday after it landed because four passengers didn't follow their instructions. She says nobody was injured but wouldn't describe what the passengers were doing.

Tuesday's disturbance comes less than a week after a Nigerian man pleaded not guilty to trying to blow up a Northwest flight from Amsterdam as it was preparing to land in Detroit on Christmas.

Got that? Some people were "unruly" -- didn't jump when the flight attendant told them to? -- and cops asked 'em a couple of questions. Without knowing the details, it'd be a safe bet that this was a case of drunken obnoxiousness, just like the overwhelming majority of passenger disturbances. They weren't arrested, the terminal wasn't locked down, flights weren't backed up -- that's the whole story.

This almost could have been headlined, "BREAKING TERROR NEWS: Amsterdam-Detroit Flight Arrives Without Incident!"

I'm on a deadline and don't have time for more than a quick point here. And that is: people don't evaluate risk in any rational way -- they don't base their sense of danger on the actual statistical likelihood of being harmed by a given activity.

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