We all know that – but it isn’t true.
Take the USA, for example.
From 1980 to 2005, only 6 per cent of terrorist attacks were Muslim.
That’s the FBI’s figure.
Or take Europe: between 2009 and 2013, less than 1 per cent of terrorist attacks were Muslim.
That’s Europol’s figure.
So how come we think the greatest threat is from Muslim terrorists?
Well, here’s a statistic that surprised me.
Most people killed in Muslim terrorist attacks are other Muslims.
According to the US government: "In cases where religious affiliation could be determined, Muslims suffered up to 97 per cent of terrorist-related fatalities over the last five years."
How can that be?
Simple: most Muslim terrorist attacks don’t happen over here.
They happen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
So that’s where most people die.
But we don’t hear about it because we don’t live there.
Naturally, the victims don’t get as much coverage on the news as the people who die where we live.
So we believe Muslim terrorism is a greater threat to us than it is.
In fact, we ignore real threats.
In the USA since 9/11, there have been more than 190,000 murders and just 37 deaths from terrorist attacks.
On average, 30 Americans die every day from gun violence.
On average, three women die every day from domestic abuse.
Six thousand people die each year from texting while driving.
Four hundred and fifty people die from falling out of bed.
Twenty-nine people are killed by lightning.
Thirteen people are killed by vending machines falling on them.
Five people are shot dead with their own guns by toddlers.
That’s before you get anywhere near the major killers: driving, smoking and obesity.
So the interesting question for everyone in the mass communication business is: how does it happen that one of the smallest contributors assumes the major share of mind?
It can only be down to clustering.
I recognise this in marketing.
My creative department was once given a brief for Fiesta paper towels.
It was the biggest brand in the market so, conventionally, as the biggest brand, Fiesta should grow the paper towel market.
But, although it was the biggest, it had just 17 per cent of the market.
I questioned the brief.
If we grew the market, we gave away 83 per cent of any growth.
That didn’t make sense.
So we looked at the numbers again.
There were several smaller brands, each with about 10 per cent.
Brands like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons.
Between them, they had nearly half the market.
If we clustered them, they formed a large brand called own-label.
Which changed the brief entirely.
The brief then changed to take share from that bigger brand – own-label paper towels.
Changing the targeting made our advertising 83 per cent more efficient because we weren’t selling our competitors’ product.
Spotting how the mind groups things is crucial for us.
Whether it’s paper towels or terrorists.
Dave Trott’s new book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now