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Fear of Violence Is Warranted

February 18, 1996

While there is probably some merit to the idea that the American public is overly worried about death by violence due to excessive media focus, it is also true that the majority of us have known someone who has fallen victim to violence or have ourselves witnessed such an event ("The Fear Factor," Jan. 31).

Within the past few years, my father has been held up at gunpoint. I have had a man shouting obscenities try to get into my car while I waited at a stop light. I have had beer cans thrown at my car. I have been followed from work to home. I have witnessed an armed robbery, a sidewalk beating and seen two men lying wounded or dead in an apartment house driveway around the corner from my home.

I cannot believe that my experiences and circle of acquaintances can be unique. If they are not, then is it little wonder that the American public has become a bit paranoid?




I'm not sure whether retirement is giving me too much time, or you are publishing a larger percentage of poorly thought-through analyses. I suspect it's a little of both.

"The Fear Factor" compares our perceptions of risk with the actuality of risk in times past versus today and concludes that our perceptions are skewed. Bunkum! We expect to be safer and live longer today because we live today, not 95 years ago.

Life expectancy is considerably greater today than when Wyatt Moore was born. So we expect a longer life, and we fear happenings that may shorten it. There is more crime today than when I was a child. My chances of being killed by a criminal are higher today.

Three Mile Island is not the only example when discussing nuclear power plants. One must include Chernobyl, where the long-term death rate will probably be high. The potential number of deaths from a nuclear accident is very high and risk assessment must include both the probability of an event and its consequences. Analysis of the Three Mile Island accident demonstrated that containment was as much a matter of luck as of good design. So, we fear a nuclear accident.

Credibility is a problem. We distrust evidence presented to us by the government and other special interest groups because we are frequently lied to.



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