Zakaria: Cable News Exaggerates Terrorism

fareed-2-img_0566For a guy who makes some of his dough as a host on CNN, author and editor Fareed Zakaria had an interesting take on cable news in a talk to the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth today. The subject came up when Zakaria (pictured) addressed the “amount of damage terrorism can do”–which he contends is relatively minimal. “The chance the average American has of dying in a terrorist attack is lower than dying in the bathroom,” he said. But the media thrives on bad news, he went on, so terror acts are exaggerated to grab your attention. “They’ve got to fill 24 hours of news,” Zakaria said, “and there ain’t 24 hours of news.”

His media criticism aside, Zakaria, the Indian-born editor of Newsweek International and the author of a new book called The Post-American World, had a surprisingly upbeat view of current affairs in his luncheon talk to about 1,000 people at the Fairmont Hotel.

Three decades of international progress, he said, can be credited to two things: the fall of the Soviet empire after its ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan, and Ronald Reagan’s aggressive move to tame inflation in the early ’80s. Those events, he said, set the stage for a period of global stability and growth that was shattered by last year’s “great crash.”

But even the downturn, Zakaria said, came about because of growth and prosperity: countries like China buying up U.S. treasuries, keeping credit cheap, fueling our consumer binge, leading to bubbles in stocks, technology and, finally, housing.

Now that the “free lunch” is over, he said, government spending is likely to turn things around. “Don’t ever bet against governments,” he said. “They are more powerful than markets. They can do whatever they want, and they will win.”

Indeed, Zakaria said, he sees some “light at the end of the tunnel” already.

“We’re seeing some stability in the financial industry, and some improvement in the credit markets,” he said. “I think we’re going through the worst recession since the Great Depression, but I don’t think it will be as bad as the Depression. Unemployment hit 25 percent then, and we’re not even in double digits yet.”

Down the road, the U.S. economy and the nation’s foreign policy are likely to operate with more checks and constraints, Zakaria said–which he sees as good things. “The world is changing very rapidly, but it will have enormous benefits for us,” he said. “If we don’t fight [the change], but embrace it, the U.S. will do fine.”

As for terrorism? I think Zakaria–like the current administration–is saying we really don’t have to worry about it much anymore.


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22 responses to “Zakaria: Cable News Exaggerates Terrorism”

  1. NeitherParty says:

    His statements (as absurd as they are) make him a downright moderate compared to his contemporaries on the national media stage. He didn’t blame Bush (I think you missed it), America and our policies.
    Like Rhyner would say, What has he ever done?
    S hows on CNN
    P undit
    A Host on CNN
    R eal good friend of Anderson Cooper
    E ven was considered for a cabinet position

  2. JB says:

    Yeah. Once we elected Obama, the world fell back in love with us. I wish CNN could have shown Osama in his cave weeping on election night. And that Kim Jong-il proabaly gave Hans Bwix and Arec Bawdwin a call and told them he’s now going to convert his nuclear technology to power the newest world finest steam spa. I heard Chavez is encouraging Americans to come down and invest in Venezuela again, apparently he wants to make his coast look like Malibu. Well Darn. Who the hell will Jack Bauer fight now?

  3. Bill says:

    The chance the average American has of dying in a tornado is lower than dying in the bathroom. Maybe we should just ignore them too! Or floods, or earthquakes, or chainsaw accidents. Name it.

    If you want a local spin, getting rid of The Holy Land Foundation made the metroplex a much safer place. For sure.

  4. Candy Evans says:

    It was a wonderful presentation, as everything from this man is. But I take exception to one thing: he said that we don’t have to worry about terrorist nations who are industrially inept — if they cannot get their technology and factories together, they cannot perfect a nuclear bomb. The problem is, they may screw up the nuclear development but could still kill a lot of people in the process.

  5. the cynic says:

    @JB, Jack Bauer can save Texas from seceding from the Union by fighting Rick Perry now

  6. F.U. says:


  7. mediawonk says:

    He was on KERA’s Think last night talking about many of the same issues. Video here:

  8. The Bush Law says:

    Exaggerates like GWB did about WMD’s.

    Like the DMN did bout Bush’s war?

    No, it is called a lie. A lie that caused the death of thousands.

  9. Gwyon says:

    Way to tack that strawman on at the end there, Glenn. Can’t go fishing without any bait.

  10. Jackson says:

    Glenn writes “I think Zakaria—like the current administration—is saying we really don’t have to worry about it {terrorism} much anymore.”

    Zakaria didn’t say that or even hint it. And the NEW administration (in office less than 90 days) has not said it or hinted it, either.

    Glenn proves the old adage that you can explain something to people, but you darn sure can’t understand it for them.

    We were driven into a ditch for eight years, and we wisely fired the chauffeurs. Things ARE going to get better.

  11. OhPlease says:

    The only mistake Zakaria made was try to cmmunicate intelligent ideas in a city like Dallas or Ft. Worth. What a waste of time!

  12. Curtis Remington says:

    Zakaria is right and wrong. His point that the media focuses way too much on what might kill you is true. We get a lot of silly reports about shark attacks and there’s a terrible overemphasis on some deadly diseases that relatively few people get.

    The flaw in his argument is that it ignores the societal impact of say a nuclear attack killing 70,000 Americans in the blink of an eye. Yes, you would still have a better chance of dying in a wreck on the way in to work. But the impact of such an attack would be profound, long-lasting and devastating. We just wouldn’t get over it very quickly and the possibility of such a thing is worth the coverage it gets – and more.

  13. Buck says:

    As long as the Holy Land Foundation was here, we *were* safer. No terrorist is going to nuke the home office.

  14. NeitherParty says:

    Glad to see the “Bush is the devil, and responsible for all my ills” crowd made it. Nothing like standing up for an empty suit like this cat.

  15. Dallasite says:

    “As long as the Holy Land Foundation was here, we *were* safer. No terrorist is going to nuke the home office.”

    You really haven’t paid much attention to the typical terrorist’s preferred method of attack, have you?

  16. Mike says:

    Thanks for that passive-aggressive last paragraph, Glenn, because we really wanted to know what you think on the matter. Such sniping is hardly an earnest entrant into the marketplace of ideas. That you try and peddle your nonsense on a fun but frivolous city magazine makes you all the more silly. Could they rehire McGill to do your job, please.

  17. Neither party says:

    Yeah, we never see opinion slipped in on these issues, you are just not familiar with that opinion being one that acknowledges that perhaps there should be a war on terrorism.
    It is now un-American to not have your Obama pom pons out.

  18. Jennifer Warren says:

    First, one other missed cause in Zakaria’s analysis of crisis is that the excess liquidity that found its way into US markets was matched by excess risk-taking. Investors, financial intermediaries, and others found new ways to make money through complex financial instruments, etc. and they were not overseen (regulators, politicians), simply call it excess greed and laxity while the punch bowl was full and filling up. There were no incentives to the complicit to stop the party. The over-optimism in markets for housing, tech, stocks, was classic market psychology with its manic depressive tendencies.

    As for Reagan taming inflation, he really did two things. One was attempting to rein in government spending and putting in place policies which were more pro-business. It was actually Paul Volcker of the Fed that raised interest rates in a draconian fashion to tame inflation, which was needed. But Reagan and the Fed were on the same page, ie., policies reinforcing each other.

    As for China buying Treasuries. Their excess supply of profits in their economy were parked in the US because we have been the safehaven in the past. They being a creditor to our debtor status helped keep our interest rates low. These purchases didn’t make anyone buy more. People chose to consume, leverage themselves with debt, trade up their homes, and make poor choices. Not everyone did. But we will be paying for years to come with higher taxes. The admin’s bets (via stimulus) in green energy and other areas will be interesting to see how they play out.

    As for terrorism and news. From what I have read and understood, the terrorists have a much longer time horizon than our news cycles or administration’s changes. They are patient. And while they are being patient, we should keep vigilant and identify their pipelines of new recruits as possible, and new practices which are everchanging.

    I hope for some balance of market forces with clear and authoritative government oversight that punishes wrongdoing. I worry about finding easy regulatory scapegoats like over-restricting short selling. They are the bears that keep the optimists/bulls in check, I’ve been told.

  19. One more thing: Zakaria said that when things don’t go well, government has the power to step in, police, make changes. Article in yesterday’s WSJ — despite the bailout, the banks are still not lending across the price spectrum, which is really hampering our real estate recovery.

  20. WV says:

    Jennifer Warren – best commentary in far too long, and well-written to reflect, modestly, “…from what I have read and understood…” Where have you been hiding?

    Although I was going to put Zakaria’s new book at the top of the list, I now ask Jennifer, what did you last read?

  21. Jennifer Warren says:

    My commentary is based on years of listening to foreign policy experts’ presentations. Last books read were Lawrence Wright’s Looming Tower, Three Cups of Tea, and A Golden Age (East Pakistan/Bangladesh).The first two give a very good view inside.

    Read World is Flat, and intend Hot, Flat, Crowded but…But I also read (and have followed) Greenspan, Bernanke, and R. Fisher’s Fed speeches. Other sources of interest are Far Eastern Economic Review…

    I write about these subjects some. I have an ecletic array of sources too long to list and less book time than I’d like.

  22. Jennifer Warren says:

    oops, eclectic, so much for my spelling.