Tuesday 7 January 2014

Hope, fear and Islamic terrorism in America




A very loyal reader wonders if the apparent rise in hope and fear in the last decade is really linked to terrorism, noting that no such rise was apparent for the American Civil War, and the First and Second World Wars. Of course, History is not an experimental science. There is always, as Popper observed, a poverty surrounding historicism. Most grand histories are a collection of “just so” stories. I suppose, tentatively, that the impact of the Twin Towers as a historical event was due to the prospect of a vast global religious war, coupled with the far greater impact of modern television coverage: immediate, lurid, all-consuming. Would previous wars have continued for so long with vivid coverage? cf Vietnam.

Nonetheless, there is a sharp rise in hope and fear after 9/11, in synchrony with a sharp rise in terrorism and as part of a rise in Islamic and even a slight rise in Christianity. There is some evidence of concern and distress at a new source of hatred, from which Americans had been sheltered for most of their history. The Saudi attacks were a vivid shock, plunging the American public into horrible lessons in history and geography.

Vast historical texts have been written on such synchronies. Here, we take a more sceptical approach. Slightly different words and other phrases might paint a differnt picture.  For once I will not be asking for more measures, and for larger sample sizes. No replications please.


  1. In the world of investing, people talk of greed and fear.

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