If you pay any attention to the news or any survey on the topic of safety, people feel less safe now than they did in the past. I believe the perception is seeded and watered by CNN and all the other all-news-all-the-time networks that sell fear, first-and-foremost. People tune in for “fear uncertainty and doubt” stories, and tuning in is what drives ad pricing power.
The truth is that the USA, and most of the countries of the world, are far safer now, than at a time only a few decades ago. But, because the networks must make money, they sell gloom and doom 24-7.
Consider these 5 facts:
1. In the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, an average of 433,000 people died each year globally from “extreme weather events.” That figure has plunged to 27,500 per year because we have better communications and better understanding of how to adapt and cope with difficult challenges like hurricanes. That’s almost 1,000,000 more people surviving every two years. The world is a safer place, even though the ABC weather man is always getting pelted by hurricane force winds.
2. No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. No political scientist from 1950 would have predicted that. Nuclear arsenals remain locked. The world is a safer place, even though Fox News keeps coverage going on Iran sanctions whenever a saber is rattled.
3. A flu pandemic in 1918 killed as many as 100 million people. Today, flu deaths are rare and pandemics don’t happen. The world is a much safer place although bird flu made for great ad sales at MSNBC. Could a pandemic happen? Perhaps. But does selling this fear, year in and year out, help us, or just contribute to the background stress?
4. America averaged about 21,000 murders per year in the 90s. That rate has dropped nearly 20% to 16,000 per year in the 2000s. Give or take, that’s about 50,000 citizens not killed, but CNN covers every grisly, spectacular event, to ensure that we don’t feel one bit more secure, while simultaneously informing us about the power of the Ecoboost V6 engine in the Ford F150.
5. In 1950, 23 Americans per 100,000 died annually in traffic accidents, according to the US Census. That traffic fatality rate fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009, even as traffic has grown more challenging in our biggest metros. Due to the declines, nearly 350,000 more Americans would have perished from 2000 – 2009. CNN missed this good news story too, covering only the unfortunate events when a school bus is rammed by a train.
We are safer in so many ways than ever before, but CNN and the others don’t let us feel that way. If you want to be an optimist, you have to look at the news and see it for what it really is. It doesn’t cover the longer-term, slower moving stories of important progress and improvement, defaulting to fear and sensationalism.
I personally think its a terrible shame that a lot of kids no longer play outside because mom’s don’t feel safe. Keeping one’s perspective and situation awareness is crucial if you choose the enlightened path of the optimistic few.
I.M. Optimism Man