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We need to develop a vaccine against media scare tactics | David Mitchell

Last week the terrorism threat level was downgraded, but purveyors of news have myriad ways to keep us fretting about the future

Is it a sign of the devaluation of the currency of dread that hardly anyone seemed to notice last week’s announcement that a terrorist attack is likely? I mean, come on! That’s still frightening, isn’t it? Or have we maxed out on stressing about things we can’t control?

No we haven’t. Don’t worry: we’re still worriers. The reason the announcement from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre passed with little comment is that it was downgrading its prediction about a terrorist attack from “highly likely” to merely “likely”. That’s how the chances of an atrocity are expressed, by way of explanation of the five “threat levels”. On Monday, the threat level went down from “severe” (“an attack is highly likely”) to “substantial” (“an attack is likely”), which is fairly good news and therefore no way to get anyone’s attention.

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