You’re Probably More Likely to Choke on a Skittle Than Die in a Terrorist Attack

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  • Not content to let his dear old dad dominate the headlines solo, Donald Trump Jr. released what’s sure to be one of the most talked-about tweets of this election cycle, a sentence that sounds so dumb I can’t believe it’s real. (This tweet comes after such 2016 election Twitter hits as Trump’s Star of David, Clinton’s “Delete your account,” and of course Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet.)

    Here’s the tweet that’s got everyone talking:

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  • There are already plenty of great pieces dissecting what’s so dumb about this tweet, but in brief: Syrians are people, not Skittles; even the libertarian Cato Institute has published research explaining why refugees (especially with enhanced screening measures in place) are extremely unlikely to commit acts of terror; and, according to some clever math from WaPo, if you were to calculate the size of the bowl from even the most liberal estimates of how many refugees there are vs. how many are terrorists, the bowl would be the size of one and a half Olympic swimming pools.

    Wrigley, the company that makes Skittles, weighed in on the controversy through an email to THR writer Seth Abramovitch, who tweeted it:

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  • What grabbed my attention the most, though, was this tweet from the BBC, which outlines just what’s so ridiculous about Trump Jr.’s meme:

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  • That “one in 3.64 billion” number comes from the aforementioned Cato Institute study, and refers specifically to an American’s odds of dying at the hands of a refugee/terrorist. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the study:

    “From 1975 through 2015, the annual chance that an American would be murdered in a terrorist attack carried out by a foreign-born terrorist was 1 in 3,609,709. Foreigners on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks, whereas those on other tourist visas killed 1 in 3.9 million a year. The chance that an American would be killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee was 1 in 3.64 billion a year.”

    Even if we go by the odds of an American being killed in an attack from any foreign-born terrorist — a number greatly inflated by the 9/11 attacks — we’re still at 1 in 3,609,709.

    Now let’s look at the odds of choking to death on food. The BBC’s source for this is the US National Safety Council, which places the odds at 1 in 3,408. On their page dedicated to the topic, the NSC states that choking “is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death” and claimed 4,864 lives in 2013.

    How many Americans died in terrorist incidents in 2013? According to the State Department, 19. (The source cited says 16; it does not include the three Americans who died by terrorist attack in the U.S. in 2013 — all three in the Boston Marathon bombing.)

    In other words, no matter what statistic you use, Americans are far, far more likely to choke to death than die at the hands of a terrorist — especially a refugee.

    We don’t have the numbers on how many people choke on Skittles specifically. But

    hard candies, especially of the small, round variety, are often cited as a top choking hazard. And the 1 in 3,408 figure only accounts for deaths, not all instances of choking.

    So while we can’t say categorically that a Skittle is more likely to kill you than a refugee, there’s a great deal of circumstantial evidence and statistics supporting the theory. Whether you believe your odds of dying in an attack from a foreign-born terrorist are 1 in 3.64 billion, 1 in 3,609,709, or even some number you found on Stormfront, the odds are tremendously higher that you’ll choke on food — Skittles included.

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