A glimpse of that insanity was already available in the autumn of 2004, in what was billed as one of America's most important presidential races. Every election is to some extent an advance auction of stolen goods. In 2004, never before had so much been up for auction. But there was more than just money at stake. Both candidates—reading the temper of the times—made the center of their campaigns a promise to protect Americans from terrorism.
So enlivened by the campaigns of 2004—and so fearful of the terrorist threat—were American voters that they stood in line for up to five hours to cast their ballots.
Americans were afraid of terrorism, said the pollsters. Why wouldn't they be? The fear was incessantly jacked up by the media, politicians, and generals, to the point where the average man could practically see his house being fire‐bombed, his children abducted, and his wife raped before his very eyes. “Terrorists threaten our way of life,” said the president. “Terrorists put the U.S. Constitution at risk,” added the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.3
But the actual risk of being a victim of terrorism is as remote as, say, the risk of being drowned in your bathtub. Even in Israel, a person is four times as likely to die in a traffic accident as in a terrorist attack. Indeed, since the State Department began counting terrorist deaths in the late 1960s, even including the deaths from the attack on the World Trade Center towers on September ...