The Culture of Fear and the Fear of One


In the last week I have read that the following things are dangerous and may kill all of us; Genetically modified food-starvation, cigarettes-alcohol ( strangely alcohol other than wine), diet pop-plastic water battles, overeating-starvation, ,fast cars, slow cars, energy independence-fracking, traveling-charging (basketball), global warming-nuclear winter, asteroids from outer space-super volcanoes on Earth, drought-flooding, black-white, Republican-Democrat, conservative-liberal, too many guns-too few guns, too many bullets-too few bullets, global warming- ice age, teachers-teachers , and today I read in the paper that Iowa depends on, in a front page story that Emergency Medical Technicians will kill us instead of saving us. It appears that the Register only needs to change their paper size and how it opens to reach the apparently desired full-tabloid status.
Never mind that this front page attack on good people based on a few bad apples, is asinine, but it reflects the fact that the media tends to paint gloomy pictures on huge canvases with broad brushes and good news on pin heads with a micro stylus . When I consider this media behavior, it is the culture of fear that bothers me the most. It seems to me that all the media moguls watched the Lion King but only remembered the phrase, “Be afraid, be very afraid.” The current atmosphere of fear first gained traction with weathermen and women on TV. Weather fear has become so pervasive that now people who should know better. Instead of looking out the window at the sky. depend on someone 200 or several thousand miles away to tell them what is happening in their own neighborhood. Yes Tornado warnings can save lives but creating an unreasoning fear of tornadoes coupled to a veritable plethora of red herrings has generated a knee jerk reaction in a lot of people that in many cases is not warranted. Every time I hear the weatherman say, “Listen to us we’ll keep you safe,” I feel nauseous. Fearing tornadoes instead of lightning for example does us no service and the main reason why we fear tornadoes more is that lightning does not often provide a striking visual image  that can be used on TV, even when it indeed kills as many or more annually on average than tornadoes.

I don’t remember a single kid in my neighborhood being afraid of thunderstorms or tornadoes when I was young, I do remember us gathering in open garages or sheds, hoping it would hail and watching the weather instead of listening someone tell us about it. Now many kids can no longer function, even within a school building, if dark clouds are in the sky. Where did they learn this? The idea of whole states cowering in their basements when a tornado appears on the eastern edge of that state moving east drives me mentally and scientifically nuts.
Now it seems that it is accepted that virtually everything in our society should generate fear rather than understanding. Weathermen, other media and politicians cherry pick, and twist statistics and incidents into a picture that allows them to either control or attempt to control the thoughts and actions of the general population. In fact if you think about it the weathermen probably have more short-term power than the government. Picture the governor telling the populace to go to their basements and stay there for 3 hours and the resistance it would almost certainly create. FDR perhaps said it best when in his first inaugural speech he said, “first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
With fear firmly in place and the fear mongering media benefiting monetarily from every new fear they can generate the power of one .becomes extremely strong. Too often now. one incident engenders a new law or more typically a new fear, One bad incident, sometimes significant but often insignificant incident can become national news in an instant. Generally this happens if it produces a strong visual picture or if it matches the media outlet’s bias. Media outlets like politicians have a base constituency that they attempt to satisfy for a simple reason, the media like politicians need to be selected to keep their jobs. The most typical bias lies in the story selection and placement. Story and visual graphic selection is perhaps the easiest least obvious type of bias for a media outlet to use next to loaded word selection within the story. I read both CNN and Fox several times a day, many times it is difficult to determine if indeed they are reporting on the same country or issue.
Are more bad things actually happening now or are our fears based on the fact that we now hear of every bad thing that occurs. When we hear the same bad news story over and over again for months at a time we have to begin to wonder to ourselves how and why do advertisers show the same ad over and over again on television sometimes even back to back. How does repetitive advertising work? Would repetitive news casts work in the same way? Does unceasing repetition work on our conscious perceptions or our sub-conscious perceptions? It is an old truth of totalitarian regimes and at times politicians everywhere ( North Korea comes to mind presently) that if you say if long enough, and often enough and with enough force and skill, in the absence of conflicting views, it will become perceived as fact by a great number of people. If you only read FOX or only read CNN you may be falling prey to this type of bias.

I for one choose to not be afraid to use my mind to make decisions. I will not look to a talking head on TV for my beliefs. I will look out the window at the world around me and observe my neighborhood, my neighbors, my politicians my state, and my country and I will decide who or what is going on, I will not listen without thinking, I will not think without listening and perhaps if I wait until I have done both listening and thinking when I speak I may make some sense to those around me.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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