John Kelly Says The USA Is Under Attack Every Day. Reality Says Something Different.
“We are under attack every single day. The threats are relentless.” This statement was made yesterday by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
Under attack every single day?
There has not been one single terrorist attack in the United States this year. There has not been a single military attack within U.S. borders either.
Yesterday, for a little while, people thought that there might have been a terrorist attack. It turns out that the violence wasn’t terrorism, though. Kori Ali Muhammad murdered three people in Fresno, California yesterday, and some people suspected that the attacks might be part of a terrorist plot. Police currently believe that not to be the case. Jerry Dyer, the Fresno Police Chief, explained last night, “We do not believe based on the information we have today that this is a terrorist-related crime. Based on the information that we have been provided and our investigation has shown, is that this is solely based on race. It has nothing to do with terrorism, in spite of the statements he made.”
So, what was John Kelly talking about?
Kelly’s definition of what counts as an attack was telling. He declared, “The risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago.” When Secretary Kelly says things like this this, what he’s suggesting is that there is a risk of terrorist attack every day, and that he feels threatened by that. Because of John Kelly’s oversized fear, every abstract threat, every theoretical risk, has the emotional reality of an actual terrorist attack for him.
Of course, there is always a risk of terrorist attack, but there is also always a risk of the outbreak of plague. There is always a risk of invasion from Canada. There is always a risk of the explosion of the super volcano under Yellowstone National Park. There is always a risk of all life on the planet being destroyed by a collision with a large meteor.
The risk of terrorism, like these other possible catastrophes, is extremely low. The discrepancy between this low level of danger and John Kelly’s fear provokes an experience of cognitive distortion in his mind. To adjust his fears to match reality would threaten his ideology of hypervigilance, and his job as Secretary of Homeland Security. He might have to address the fact that terrorism isn’t really a big problem, and that there is no Homeland under seige that merits a separate Cabinet department.
So, instead, John Kelly lashes out in anger at the mere suggestion that he might be overreacting. Yesterday, Kelly bellowed the command, “Make no mistake! We are a nation under attack!”.
The United States is not a nation under attack, of course. The real source of damage to our nation comes from zealots like John Kelly who insist that we remain afraid, all the time, spending our nation’s wealth on the maintenance of elaborate security measures that we just don’t need.