General Question

wundayatta's avatar

Do you think the level of fear of terrorism in the United States is justified?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) October 27th, 2010

Today there was a story on NPR about a British Airline executive petitioning the government to relax passenger screening methods. He proposed eliminating the practice of having passengers take off shoes and belts. He said that there’s no need for this because the other screens can see into shoes and belts. He said the only reason the Brits do this is because the Americans want them to.

To answer this question you will need to make some guesses about what the level of fear is and what fear means in this case. Please tell us a little about what you think the average level of fear is, and what you think the fear should be, and why you believe these things.

More specifically, is American screening technology less sophisticated than European screening? If not, should the requirement to remove shoes and belts be dropped in the US, as well?

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47 Answers

Winters's avatar

Less sophisticated? have you seen the new body scanners? The person at the computer monitoring this gets to see you…pretty much naked.

janbb's avatar

I don’t have the time to answer the question in the depth and detail you are requesting but yes, I do think the level of fear of terrorists is unreasonably high and that there are many worse things happening in the world that we are devoting far too few resources to.

Coloma's avatar

I don’t fear terrorist attacks at all.

Maybe this is because I live in a rural area, although only an hour out of my state capital and near several large dams that could, potentially be targets.

One cannot be controlled by fear and terrorist attacks are about as predictable as the weather, maybe some accuracy but, all in all, a crap shoot.

As far as international or even national flight protocol I think the cautions in place are sufficient.

I had a baggy of laundry deterengent explode while transferring some items in my luggage to balance out the weight discrepancies at Taipei airport last March.

The customs official was unphased with what looked like a bag of heroin all over the conveyor belt. lol

Darn…maybe I should have smuggled home some opium poppies to plant my hill with. hahaha

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma the current standards may be sufficient, but are they necessary?

Coloma's avatar


I don’t know. Short of flying naked in a straight jacket how much more can really be done? lol

CMaz's avatar

As long as there are terrorists and terrorist activity. Hell yes!
That is plenty of reason.

If I slapped you in the face once. Don’t you think I can’t do it again.

janbb's avatar

I would like to see the shoes off and the belt business discontinued.

JustmeAman's avatar

Well ever since 911 they stop every car going on base at the Air Force Bases and they check ID’s. Before 911 one could drive through with a car sticker. There are days that every individual in the car has to show an ID. I think this is actually a good idea because protecting our military is a good idea plus the stock of weapons on the bases. I think the checks at airports are a little over the top but if it saves lives sometime then I guess it was worth it all. One just has to realize that it will take just a little longer and get there a little early.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think there is an unreasoning fear of terrorism in this country. I think there was right after 9/11, but it has died down.

Recent “saves” by law enforcement of potential terrorists have continued to calm fears.

As to whether it is necessary to remove shoes and belts, I cannot see any confirming data that it is not necessary. In fact, TSA screeners are asking that shoes be put directly on the conveyor belt now and not in bins.

JustmeAman's avatar

Frankly though I think the terrorist thing is way overboard and that many others were invovled in 911 besides the terrorists. It was a much deeper involvement than just a few terrorists on that day.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is realistic to think there wil be future terrorist attacks, simply because there seems to always be hateful people around willing to cause death and destruction. I am not only referring to plane travel, but in general, your just never know, it has been proven throughout history, high school shootings, churches being blown up, what happened in Oklahoma, all of these examples are terrorist attacks to me.

Regarding plan travel, I don’t think it is necessary to remove shoes at the airport, and I think the liquids restrictions should be relaxed a little. I want to be able to bring my liquid foundation, hairspray, and hair mousse on the plane again. I do think the most important time to be cautious is immediately before stepping on the plane, when I flew out of Bogota we had to go through a metal detector one more time before stepping onto the gangway (is that the right term?) to go to the plane. I would prefer to be able to bring a coke or water into the gate area, just not onto the plane. On the plane there are beverages, waiting around for the plane is where I am required to fork over $3 for a coke. But, I guess that is unrealistic.

Thoughts of terrorism for me are fleeting. If it occurs to me, then the worry quickly goes away. The thoughts happen to me when I enter a synagogue, travel by train (no one checks anything on a train) take the subway. But, not every time I do these things. Terrorism is rarely at the front of my mind.

TexasDude's avatar

Terrorists are failing hard at their job. The only time I ever think about them is when someone else mentions them first. I’m more afraid of the dentist than terrorists.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
janbb's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I’m not sure they’re failing. Look at the billions we are spending on our revamped security systems.

I agree with @JLeslie that terrorist attacks will recurr. I just think that while the possibility is scary, there are other issues that are not being addressed that should be.

mammal's avatar

interesting video regarding terrorism, but the problem with terrorism is that it is immediately exploited by the causers of terrorism to justify a program that inevitably leads to more terrorism, until yet another group of people are justifiably eradicated or assimilated into the format of globalisation.

gorillapaws's avatar

The amount of time, money and energy devoted to airport security is sadly misplaced. The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack is 50 times less than being struck by lightning. Should we invest Billions into anti-lightning technology, station guards at open fields with lightning rods and doppler radars? Or perhaps we should realize that you take risks everyday by either going outside your house or staying in it. We’re never perfectly safe, and borrowing billions to pay for ineffective programs on the very off chance that it might one day have the potential to save a few lives is a profoundly stupid way to spend money we don’t have.

The biggest thing that 9/11 ever did for security on an airplane that cost $0 dollars was it made every passenger on any hijacked flight from now on believe they were already dead and that their only chance of survival was to resist the terrorists. This fact is what has turned every other passenger on every flight since into their own air marshall and has thwarted more than one terrorist attempt.

Terrorists need to be caught by spies and other black-ops people. Relying on airport security is like having no defense, and relying on a slow-overweight goalie to stop any attacks, even if you nimble him up a bit, it’s still a loosing strategy. Basically terrorists will think of the 1 thing they’re not checking at the moment, and use that to exploit the checkpoint. It’s a loosing battle.

JLeslie's avatar

I have more to say. I think our government, federal, state, and local should give concern to terrorism. But, it should not be used as a tool to scare the average citizen. Basic cautions on what to be aware of are fine.

Take 9/11, as I watched the first tower with hole on the side of it with smoke coming out, I had just turned on the morning news, I tried to wrap my brain around what was happening. Then moments later i watched as the second plane hit. It took me less then a moment to hang up with my sister who had called me in a panic from NYC, to try and reach my parents, afraid my mom was working in a government building in the DC area. At the time of the second plane I instantly knew we were under attack, without hearing anything. My TV volume was not on, I found out later, even on the news reports they were holding off on guessing what was happening. This was before we learned of the pentagon and the other plane that crash landed. None of it is surprising to me, but it is of course scary. I don’t feel I am less or more safe today, then I was 15 years ago.

What I am leading up to is I find it inexcusable that officials did not clear out both towers once the the first building was hit. The people in charge of these things should be a little paranoid that these type of things happen, especially since we have learned there was chatter about a possible attack before it happened, and the towers had been targets previously. It seems the person in charge of the subways that day immediately, afterr the first plane hit, ordered all platforms to be cleared of pedestrians, and all trains to leave the area. No one died underground on the subway system near the area. That is the type of action I expect.

JustmeAman's avatar

I think we have more to fear from within that we will ever have to fear from terrorists. Though an enemy that will strap a bomb on himself to kill others is a very dangerous enemy.

Coloma's avatar

Personally I am more at risk of a rattlesnake bite, cougar attack or getting my head stoved in by a horse than I am of being caught in a terrorist attack.

I don’t spend any time at all worrying about anything beyond my control.

mattbrowne's avatar

About 30% too high. But better than being 30% too low. The danger is real.

mammal's avatar

My argument has always been, be tough on terrorism and the causes of terrorism.

GladysMensch's avatar

Thanks to terrorism (or rather our overreaction to it) our government can now listen to our phone conversations, track our internet usage, arrest us, and detain us indefinitely without legal representation… and all without as much as a judges approval. Frankly, that scares me a hell of a lot more than someone’s shoe exploding.

Coloma's avatar


I agree, THIS is the real terrorism.

Guilty until proven innocent.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

great response. the one thing we never hear about, is WHY they hate us.

if china occupied our country, would you fight back?

YARNLADY's avatar

The level of fear is justified, but some of the measures to combat terrorism go way beyond useless and are simply bizarre.

flutherother's avatar

Looking at it logically the fear level is way too high. There is more chance of being injured by lightning than by terrorism and the disaster of the World Trade Centre happens every month on America’s roads, year in and year out. I am not frightened when travelling by plane but I am glad of the airport security. Some of it may be unnecessary but which bit?

Marodr13's avatar

Actually i would say the fear levels here in the states are high… Another thing is that terrorism is something that is always going to be around and so I feel the measures which have been placed should have been acted upon years ago… 9/11 is something that no one wants to see happen again.. It was something that was sad, and affected everyone.
like many mentioned previously these fears are justified based on the what is going on in this world, but also Americans are very hated individuals in many parts of the world and so regardless we always have to be a little extra careful.
Another thing is that humans make mistakes and even though there is machines that can check people I feel that the extra things have to be in place because things do happen…
Recently in Europe and other parts of the world all you see in terrorism, why slack up with our actions to prevent those things to happen here… What do you call the guy that tried bombing NY recently??? Terror!!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t believe the level of fear is justified, people aren’t being logical. And I think our screening is for show, it doesn’t make anyone safer, whatsoever.

Marodr13's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : Its not going to make it safer but then in reality do we really want some major things to happen?? I am not sure but I would not like to hear or experience some tragic situation with terrorism..
For sure i think even if just for show its better than having everything easy to accomplish, sometimes you have to let others know that we can bite if we want or need to, lol…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Marodr13 I think that if it’s for show, we don’t need to waste the money on this ‘technology’ because I don’t think it’ll pan out – of course they’ll come up with some numbers proving otherwise but how else would they justify this kind of thing…whether it’ll prevent terrorist attacks any better than we could have 10 years ago is highly debatable.

Marodr13's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I agree some of the stuff that is being used should have been long time ago.. it may be a waste of time and money, but also i just think about airplanes and I would hate to die that way…

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Marodr13 Well whatever helps you sleep at night.

Marodr13's avatar

This is nothing that bothers my sleep.. My bills are another story, lol…

essieness's avatar

Yeah, I think it’s reasonable to say that there could be another terrorist attack in the future. Do I think it’s healthy or useful to sit around and worry about it all day? Hell no. I have bigger fish to fry. I certainly don’t think it’s healthy for the media to ramp it up like they do. cough cough Fox News.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

The war on terror should be renamed the war on freedom

Marodr13's avatar

@essieness: I agree its not something to worry yourself crazy over, life is too short, and in reality we all have major things in life to worry about… great response!!

woodcutter's avatar

yeah its pretty much ado about nothing….till the next plane pops.

missingbite's avatar

The terror attacks have far more implications than just sudden death. Lets face it, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being involved in an attack. What they are great at are stifling our economy. Do some research and see how many places went out of business because of September 11th. They are very far reaching.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite True, which is only because the level of fear is exaggerated beyond the damage they actually cause. By hyping it up, the media actually helps make the attacks more successful. I think they should downplay terrorism, get rid of air marshals and security theatre, and use that money to hire more spies, bribe more people and generally fight terrorism on the ground CIA/assassination/sneaky-style.

missingbite's avatar

@gorillapaws FAM’s are very few and far between. The biggest money waste is in the TSA. The system is set up to fail and only give the appearance of safety. There are so many good people in the TSA that it is a shame to have to say that but it is true.

I agree whole heartedly about having more spies and CIA style fighting. The problem is we now have a situation where they are horribly burdened by political correctness and red tape from an over expanded Federal Government.

gorillapaws's avatar

@missingbite I suspect our CIA operatives and the like find ways around red tape :) but we’re both in agreement that you need dirty tactics to combat enemies who are willing to use any means possible to do you harm.

Coloma's avatar


And therein lies the problem, two wrongs never make a right and this is why the world remains stuck in it’s conflicts, fighting fire with fire just leaves everyone burned.

And thats the way it is…

gorillapaws's avatar

@Coloma put it this way, it may cost more innocent people their lives and undue suffering to fight terrorism “by the book” than to use subversive tactics and end things faster. Depending on which school of morality you sign up for, it’s possible that fighting fire with fire may be the morally obligatory strategy to take.

missingbite's avatar

@Coloma I agree some will try to get around the rules. IMHO the problem is that so many won’t that they are really crippled to do their job. Not to mention a government that is hell bent on prosecuting the ones that even bend the rules.

@Coloma Many people died when we dropped a bomb in Hiroshima. More would have died if we didn’t. Sometimes you have to show true power to stop the madness. Political correctness has almost put an end to that. We are now not even in a war on terror but an overseas contingency operation. Terror is to harsh of a word for this President.

He does now think it is ok to tell Latinos they have an “enemy” in republicans so they need to vote. What a joke he is.

Coloma's avatar


I hear ya…there are no perfect answers to imperfect situations.
I’ll just bask in my little Walden pond scene and ready the attack geese in case of invasion.

Ya know..the wrong end of a goose is powerful chemical warfare and look out, being tied between two mules and pulled apart is no picnic either. heh. ;-)

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