Trump Jr. – The Magic Skittle We Might Be Missing

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Trump Jr. – The Magic Skittle We Might Be Missing

Donald Trump Jr. is set to dominate this week’s news cycle (or at least dominate a good part of the internet) with his recent tweet comparing Syrian refugees with poisoned Skittles .

Trump Jr. didn’t originate this meme. It’s been floating around Twitter for at least a year. The analogy, that one poisoned candy or mushroom can destroy a nation, goes back to at least the 1930s and Nazi Germany .

But the Trump name has given the meme much more exposure than it had before this tweet. That exposure has created a predictable backlash. Twitter has exploded with re-tweets and ridicule. The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, makers of Skittles, responded simply, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.”

Trump Jr.

The Odds of Being Poisoned

Many people responding to the meme have concentrated on the odds of eating one of the poisoned candies. For example, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, calculated that, based on the number of refugees and foreign born terrorists in the US, that the odds are one in 3.64 billion per years. The point being that the odds of being killed by a foreign born terrorist are so small it should be at the top of our priority list.

This argument helps put terrorism in perspective, especially compared to day to day hazards like dying in your bath tub ( 1 in 800,000 per year ) or being killed by an accidental fireworks discharge (1 in 55,000 per year). But it will not convince many people who are legitimately concerned with terrorism. There is something about intentional acts of violence that separates them from accidental or natural deaths. We care more about preventing murders than we do to reducing the risks of daily life. That’s why we react so strongly to terrorism while ignoring auto deaths which kill roughly 30,000 Americans per year.

Pointing out that the odds of eating that one poisoned candy is also ineffective because it concentrates only on the costs involved. Someone could easily argue that odds of 1 in 3.64 billion per year is still too high a price to pay for allowing refugees into the country. This would lead to impasse with neither side being able to rebut the other.

But we could argue that there’s more than just poisoned candy in that bowl. There are also rare Magic Skittles which grant anyone who eats it incredible powers, like gaining wealth and fame from creating a world changing product. That’s exactly what happened to Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian refugee (except for the Magic Skittles part).

Magic Benefit

Looking at the potential benefits of those candies changes the argument considerably. Instead of focusing on the risk of death, the debate shifts to how big a risk are you willing to take to get the next iPhone? How many poisoned candies are worth the chance of getting one of those Magic Skittles.

The argument is even stronger, though. There are more than just those incredibly rare Magic Skittles in the bowl. Almost every candy that isn’t poisoned offers some small benefit to whomever eats it. That candy might not make you as rich as Steve Jobs but the cumulative effects of eating millions of those candies will improve your like immeasurably.

As Nowrasteh and others have pointed out, the Poisoned Skittle argument is numerical nonsense. It also ignores the Magic Skittles both large and small that are in that bowl. Unlike a normal bowl of candy, the more you eat from this bowl, the healthier you will become.

Steve Fritzinger

Steve Fritzinger

Steve Fritzinger is a business consultant in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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