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Politicians STILL Don’t Believe the World is Getting Safer (And the Media Doesn’t Call Them On It)

(Though many don’t want to believe it, the world is getting safer. There will be an end to war, someday, if the world works towards it. To read the rest of our posts on “The World is Getting Safer”, click here.)

Two months ago, we gave seven answers to an unasked criticism: why are we writing so much about how the world is getting better and safer?

Our first point was “the vast majority of people still don’t know this fact” and today’s post explains why: way too many people, pundits and politicians say the world is a “dangerous place” or “as dangerous as it has been since World War II”. Politicians running for president make this claim and, outside of a handful of liberal bloggers, few media members refute it. In other words, the people who don’t believe the world is getting better and safer have a microphone to amplify their incorrect beliefs.

Marco Rubio inspired us to write this post. Go to his website and find his taglines. “The world has never been more dangerous than it is today” and “Nothing matters if we aren’t safe”. (H/T Jonathan Chait, who correctly debunks Rubio by citing Pinker and pointing out that this is “insanely wrong”.) Frankly, every reporter covering Rubio needs to point this out. Claiming that the world isn’t safer is global-warming-denialist level wrong.

One of the most difficult tasks with writing this post is that people keep making this claim, so we have had to keep updating the article. (Expect future On V updates.) Cue Marco Rubio releasing an op-ed for Time, a slight variation on his original theme, “Sen. Marco Rubio: Under Obama the World Has Become a More Dangerous Place” Except that, overall, the world is so much less dangerous than ever before. And it’s hard to argue that Obama’s foreign policy has made America less safe than the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

For another great example, Michael Fallon, UK Senior Secretary for Defence, believes that ISIS and Russia make the world as dangerous as any time since WWII. That’s flat wrong. But we’re just scratching the surface of fear-mongering. Stephen Walt summarizes some other fear-mongers:

“Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations thinks “the question is not whether the world will continue to unravel but how fast and how far.” The outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, told Congress last year that “[the world is] more dangerous than it has ever been.” (Someone really ought to tell the general about the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, and a little episode known as World War II.) Not to be outdone, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger believes the United States “has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.”

In a few weeks, Michael C and I are going to write about the policies we believe will make the world safer, answering the “How?” question. Oddly, if you made a Venn diagram, very few of those policies intersect with Republican/Rubio’s policies. But Republicans don’t have a monopoly on fear-mongering. Glenn Greenwald cites both Republican Lindsey Graham (“We have never seen more threats against our nation and its citizens than we do today.”) and Democrat Dianne Feinstein (“I have never seen a time of greater potential danger than right now.”) both making the case that we live in a dangerous world. Zach Beauchamp details not just the fear, but the often odd--and unrealistic--statements of GOP candidates for President.

This isn’t limited to politicians, though. Two of the arguably most culturally-influential people of the last decade have made this incorrect assertion. The first comes from Jon Stewart, universally beloved culture and comedy icon, who said after the Charlie Hebdo attack, “2014 was not a great year for people.” (Actually, it was.) George R. R. Martin--creator of the most famous fantasy series on TV--told an interviewer, “I think people no longer believe the world is going to be a good place.”

But just because people don’t believe the world is getting safer, doesn’t make it true.