Americans are 9,000 times more likely to die from the influenza or pneumonia than a terrorist attack - and that fact alone is a weapon in a new "War Against Irrational Fear," which is waging war across new fronts such as lighting strikes, dogs, football, bathtubs and the flu - all of which cause more American deaths annually than domestic terrorism.
The new satirical campaign was created by Incitement Design, a design firm for progressive causes. The national campaign was inspired by Edward Snowden's recent revelations regarding NSA mass surveillance of Americans.
The campaign uses statistics to show the truth behind the "war on terror," using social media, videos and graphics backed up with fact-based research to reveal that America's obsession with domestic terrorism is a costly and harmful distraction.
"The way people fight against various war-on-terror tactics, whether it be surveillance or war or these phenomenal expenditures of public money, it's kind of this game of Whack-A-Mole where terrorism is used as this justification for such a broad range of issues that it's really hard for progressives and people who are against these things to fight against them because there's so many of them popping up," said Robert Arnow, creative director at Incitement Design. "I felt like what was underlying all of these things was this meme of terrorism."
So he decided to meme the reality behind the global war on terror, like the fact that in the past five years, an average of 4.6 Americans die of domestic terrorist attacks, according to research conducted by a political scientist at Ohio State University.
Professor John Mueller authored a report widely cited in the campaign. Mueller compiled all known cases of Islamic extremism that have occurred within the United States or have targeted the US in the years since 9/11. He found that out of a total of 52 cases, three involved situations where no plot had been hatched whatsoever but authorities suspected it as a possibility; 27 were what Mueller described as "essentially created or facilitated in a major way by the authorities," otherwise known as entrapment; and, lastly, that there have been no foiled plots since 9/11 involving weapons of mass destruction.
"People in the mainstream media and politicians across the political spectrum, all the way to the left of the spectrum, people are afraid to talk about this because people are afraid of being attacked as being insensitive to the victims of terrorism. And because of that taboo, all of the related points don't get made," Arnow said.
And, according to Mueller's research, since 9/11, the federal budget for Homeland Security and intelligence has increased by $65 billion per year. But that figure doesn't include local, state, private-sector and opportunity costs, which, if included, would increase that sum to more than $132 billion per year.
A separate New York Times survey of expert estimates put the total cost of anti-terrorism initiatives at more than $3 trillion since 9/11.
Mueller's research shows the United States currently spends more than $400 million annually on domestic terrorism prevention per victim. But the US spends only $9,000 for cancer prevention research per victim.
But it's not just the spending that Arnow is particularly worried about; it's the sacrifices of many Americans' civil liberties that have been made in the name of fighting terrorism. Arnow repeatedly cited mass surveillance of innocent Americans in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations as his main motivation for launching the campaign, which the firm is funding independently.
He also cited President Obama's drone wars and the power to assassinate US citizens without due process of law as well as the military's ability to imprison US citizens indefinitely without due process.
"What we want to do is make it so that people feel comfortable and feel like the price they're going to pay politically for stating this obvious truth is not incredibly high," Arnow told Truthout. "Our federal government portrays terrorists as wily supervillians, while the research shows they are small in number [and] generally incompetent and that 9/11 was a historical anomaly."