My Mazamet

Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho

Skittles, Terrorism & the Hippopotamus Factor



These excellent graphs are by the wonderful people at Datagraver.

For more interesting graphs, numbers and information on terrorism, Oxford University’s OWID is fantastic.

I thought it would be interesting for everyone to have a look at them in the light of the recent nationality based travel ban imposed by the incoming US administration.

The first thing we see is great news, deaths are in the hundreds. Not thousands or tens of thousands. In a population of 740 million with a history of endless wars (including WWII when 3% of the entire population of the world was killed), that’s pretty fantastic.

Another thing we see is also great: terrorism overall has dropped significantly. The third factor we should look at is that at the height of terrorism related deaths in modern European history, the people responsible were thoroughly European. ETA (Basque Separatists) and the IRA being the main culprits. That comprises people of French, Spanish and Irish nationalities. The reason that’s important is that citizenship is (obviously) by no measure a reasonable predictor of behaviour. An accurate assessment measures majority rather than minority behaviour. If we’re to follow Mr. Trump’s formula we could take the following statistic:


and construct the argument that European countries, Canada and Australia should ban visitors from countries where homicidal violence rates are dangerously high. The top 6 are:

  1. Honduras
  2. Mexico
  3. Venezuela
  4. Brazil
  5. Colombia
  6. USA

The problem with doing that is not only are we being unfair to the vast majority of innocent people who do not engage in homicidal violence, but we’re also not keeping anyone safer. Having any of the aforementioned nationalities may be correlated to violence, but it’s not a causal factor.

In the US you’re more likely to be shot by a toddler than to be killed in a terrorist attack. Or as the CATO institute put it in a detailed study: “… the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year.” That means the measure isn’t just abusive, it’s also a waste of time, effort and money (which should actually be focused on programs which have proven to be effective in keeping people safe.)

And just in case my previous examples didn’t give you a good enough sense of the proportionality of risk because you have a friend who was shot by a toddler… consider that on a “high terror” year like 2016, less than 200 people were killed in the EU where we have a population of 740 million. In Africa where the population is 1.2 billion there are 2900 hippopotami related deaths per year. That means terrorism deaths would have to be multiplied a good few times before the risk of death by terrorism in the EU got anywhere near the risk of death by Hippo in Africa. Fortunately no one’s trying to ban Hippos.


35 comments on “Skittles, Terrorism & the Hippopotamus Factor

  1. makagutu
    January 31, 2017

    Don’t talk bad about hippos. Everyone knows they are vegetarians.
    Your problem Pink, is you put a lot of faith in facts. The world is not run on facts. Unless you mean alternative facts. So those who believe the order will keep them safe will not care to ask how many Americans died last year on the hands of terrorists viz the number of deaths (collateral damage as they call it) around the world as a direct result of their drones

    Liked by 3 people

    • I keep hope alive that people won’t try to argue with numbers- because they’re numbers! 😀
      From what I understand drone deaths are in the thousands, and of course you have to add injuries to that.


  2. Hariod Brawn
    January 31, 2017

    There’s nothing quite so dangerous as a Honduran hippopotamus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. violetwisp
    January 31, 2017

    “In the US you’re more likely to be shot by a toddler than to be killed in a terrorist attack.”
    That is crazy on so many levels. But I’m all about seeing other points of view, so I can understand why a ban on people from countries who have been devastated by war makes sense. We have to put ourselves first. Americans need to think about Americans, it’s all about priorities – their god gave them citizenship of one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world for a reason. They should build walls, close borders and force women to have unwanted children. It’s only logical.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. foolsmusings
    January 31, 2017

    If hippos are so dangerous they should put a ban on all hippocrates entering the country. Just saying :p

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ruth
    January 31, 2017

    In case you haven’t noticed facts don’t matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Steve Ruis
    January 31, 2017

    Most people do not know that per capita violence worldwide has been declining … for centuries. Basically, we are collectively become more civilized. We do, however, tend to focus in on small pockets of bad this or bad that and wring our hands and claim that the “world is going to Hell in a hand basket” which is an extrapolation of what we see small scale. Even if one were to open one’s eyes, one could see only what is happening locally. I live in Chicago. There is a bit of a murder epidemic going on in this city, yet I have never seen one nor have I even heard a gun being fired in my vicinity. If I extrapolate my personal experience, I would claim that there are no murders taking place in my city.

    For a larger view we depend upon the news media, to some extent, and therein lies the problem. Since the news media are now expected to show a profit, they have taken on more of the trappings of the entertainment industry. So instead of the newspaper focus on violence (“if it bleeds it leads”), we now have a focus on “if it entertains, we go with it”. This is how Donald J. Trump got elected, with billions of dollars of free “news” coverage because he was entertaining. Well, he is getting comparable coverage now, but he is not so entertaining, but he is making money for the media outlets, so he is good for business, so I guess we will be keeping him.

    Liked by 4 people

    • graph
      I love that one! And yes, the media created Trump just as they’ve popularized Marine Le Pen here. Interestingly this is very much more of an issue with the anglo-saxon press. Le Pen, for example, gets much more coverage in British papers than in the French ones.


    • appletonavenue
      February 1, 2017

      I agree. You didn’t mention also that since the Gulf War we have 24 hour news. Just to beat us down a little more. It seems so logical to me. Let’s have news like it should be: clear, accurate, unbiased, and above all, True. I refuse to watch any American news programs.


  7. Tish Farrell
    January 31, 2017

    These are v. interesting stats, Mr. M. I would have thought misuse/abuse of firearms was one of the biggest causes of death by murder in the US, including such things as the horrendous school shootings. Therefore the most effective way to keep Americans safe from random death events is to ban firearms. Or am I being too simplistic? And hey, why do something practical that might yield real and beneficial results, when we can all be kept in a permanent state of the jitters, and thus continue as the passive serfs of Big Corp in all their blood-sucking guises. Oops. I clearly have been listening to too much John Berger and Noam Chomsky on You Tube.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think a ban would be great but the sheer number of weapons combined with massive opposition make it extremely difficult (and unlikely.) I think much tighter regulations would probably do wonders. In Spain they reduced knife crime dramatically by simply illegalizing the carrying of knives in public. Police confiscated the weapon and fined people on the spot.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. john zande
    January 31, 2017

    150 people every year from falling coconuts.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Arkenaten
    January 31, 2017

    Living in Africa, as does Mak, I can categorically say I have never encountered a Jihadist Hippo.
    However, on a holiday to the south coast at a place called St. Lucia, visitors are warned ( and there are official signs) that Hippos come out of the water at night and quite often wander up to the main street.
    On our second night there, I stood outside the guesthouse and saw several large shadows at the top of the street making their way sedately across the road.
    St Lucia is very small!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. agrudzinsky
    February 1, 2017

    This, apparently, excludes 9/11 since that wasn’t in Europe. Also, for some reason, MH17 downing by Russians is not considered a terrorist attack.

    What Russians do in Syria and Ukraine is terrorism in my book. I, personally, see no difference between the death of civilians in armed conflicts and death of civilians due to acts of terror. The only difference is that in armed conflicts the killing is done with more sophisticated weapons by uniformed soldiers and on a much larger scale.

    Russia has started heavy shelling of Ukrainian city of Avdiivka the next day after Putin spoke to Trump on the phone on Saturday. IMO, Russia is testing the reaction of the new administration. There is no doubt in my mind that the shelling is done by the Russian army. At the very least, it is, definitely, ordered and coordinated from Kremlin. The so-called “rebels” or “separatists” are mere puppets. The U.S. Congress is too busy battling over the Trump appointees, but, I’m sure Mr. McCain will eventually say something to this effect.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. Here’s the graph for the US from 1970 to now including 9/11


    • metan
      February 3, 2017

      I completely agree. Putin is going to slowly ramp up his actions waiting to see when trump is going to react, an oblivious trump frog in a slowly warming cooking pot.

      Trump will suddenly realise how far from friends they are when he tries (unsuccessfully) to rein Putin back in.

      Liked by 3 people

      • acflory
        February 3, 2017

        The worst is definitely yet to come. 😦


      • agrudzinsky
        February 3, 2017

        We’ll see. I don’t think Trump will decide anything on Russia by himself. So far Nikki Haley who did not shy from calling Russian actions in Syria a war crime made an unexpectedly harsh statement in the U.N. about the escalation in Ukraine and McCain, basically, seconded my thought in a letter to Trump today calling to send Javelins to Ukraine. I’m not sure what Tillerson will do as a Secretary of State. He has more leverage on Putin than anybody else in this country, but I’m curious how he’s going to use it. Unfortunately, Trump is too busy getting into trouble in other places to give any thought to Russia at this time, but he will, I’m sure deal with it somehow.


  11. metan
    February 4, 2017

    That’s the problem though, isn’t it? He’s busy with all the other trouble and Putin can do whatever he likes. As long as he isn’t the squeakiest wheel he won’t attract attention. Those with actual foreign policy experience might be telling trump there’s a problem, but he, and those who influence him, don’t have the experience to see the same.

    Does Tillerson have leverage on Putin?

    Liked by 2 people

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