ABC News and John Stossel call it the "Fear Industrial Complex". Basically, fear gets eyeballs. Eyeballs equal ratings, or for politicians, eyeballs equal votes. Worry and fear sell.
"Whenever somebody's trying to scare us, the question to ask is 'Are they benefiting from it, and in what way?'" said Barry Glassner - author of the book "Culture of Fear". "If they're selling us a product, if they're selling us their political campaign or their cause or whatever it is, we should ask how big is the danger, really? Is it big, is it small, or is it just that they stand to benefit by making us scared?"
"We often worry about things that … are not very dangerous, but which seem it. And the reason they seem it is because of … the media who show images and tell stories about terrible, terrible things that happen," said Stephen Dubner, author of "the excellent book Freakonomics." "People see those things and they think that they are the norm, and in fact, they are a great exception."
Dunbar goes on to explain how "child resistant packaging, flame retardent pajamas, drawstrings on clothing, children dying from the impact of airbags, side airbags in cars" to name a few "and in fact, the loss of life in each of these is very, very small. But as a marketing tactic, it's an extremely powerful effect."
And Glasner points out "We live in about the safest place, about the safest times in human history, and yet we're terrified of everything."
I think this is a wonderfully interesting article. But it makes you think twice about virtually everything you hear on the news. And of course, it makes you realize how easily the "pit bull problem" has been blown out of proportion in the United States. The reality is that less than .5% of the dogs in the US are involved in a bite that requires immediate medical attention. That's 1 in every 200 dogs. And a person is 3x as likely to die by being struck by lightning as they are to be killed by a dog. It puts it in perspective. In order, I'm most likely to be struck by lightning, then win the lottery, then be killed by an attacking dog.
While I think we should create laws that are responsible and help make people and animals safer -- I think a little perspective on this issue is important.