“Be Afraid. Be Very, Very, Afraid.” Or Not: The Futility of Unfounded Fears
Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear, Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, and So Much More, tells us that three out of four Americans report feeling more afraid than they did two decades ago.
Glassner answers the question: Are we being attacked, and by whom? Fear is useful when it is based on something rational and motivates an appropriate reaction. “Fear is valuable when you are actually in danger and you need to respond quickly.” But how is it that there are so many fears, and that so many of them are unfounded, creating panic and irrational reactions? These false fears put us in a constant state of anxiety and actually more danger.
Where is this fear mongering coming from and who benefits? What power and money is gained from tapping into Americans’ fears? Fear mongering by politicians, news outlets, corporations and advocacy groups for every kind of issue – raising money and selling memberships – benefit the organizations promoting these fears and scares.
Are we being attacked and by whom? Misinformation, intentional and accidental, without corrections of errors of reporting. Casting isolated incidents as trends and manipulating statistics, we lose all sense of proportion. Glassner explores the proliferation of these false fears – Who benefits, Who loses? Who are the villains, the heroes and who are the victims? What are the causes and how can we respond?
Americans are afraid of the wrong things and that has big and far reaching consequences. Glassner explains what they are and why it matters so very much – emotionally, economically and in regard to equality and justice. The consequences to society of these false fears are real. Just ask yourself why so many of today’s schools look and feel like high security prisons. The real issues are complicated, messy and much harder to sell to the public; but to make a difference, that’s just where we need to focus.