Culture of fear
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Culture of fear is a term used by a number of writers and commentators to describe a culture in which fear is a driving factor in social and political discourse. Most of the time, such fear has been blown out of proportion by the media, the State, or some other body with an interest in seeing people afraid.
Conspiracy theorists will claim that the "culture of fear" is used to make people believe that they need the government to protect them from these threats (whether they're existent or not). A fictional example can be found in the film V For Vendetta, in which the dictatorial Chancellor orders that the news be saturated with scare stories to remind the people "why they need us". A real-life example of such a conspiracy theory is the fears that George W. Bush would use the threat of terrorist attacks to nullify the Constitution, cancel elections, and bring in a dictatorship.
One problem directly leading to a "culture of fear", and ironically stemming from the fear, is the mainstream media's use of sensationalism to sell their stories. Snow that has fallen for 2 days is not merely a "snowfall" but a "blizzard." Then, tag-lines, hyper-art and ominous music accompany minor events as they become full-blown historical events:The Blizzard of 2008. "Firestorm of July." "Horror of Christmas Shopping hell, 2009." Each outlet competes with each other using known marketing techniques to make today's molehill into the news cycle's mountain. This leaves a scar of fear on the audience, as what might be a simple flu, or a sad, tragic but minor shooting is portrayed as a shocking threat to all of human existence.
Examples of this culture may include:
- Numerous moral panics.
- The Red Scare over communism, during the 1920s and 1950s.
- The fear of terrorism that was (mostly) exaggerated and exploited by the Bush administration after 9/11.
- The swine flu outbreak of 2009 (and SARS and BSE etc. etc.).
- The popularity of doomsday scenarios and survivalism.
- Fear of the "other" in society, e.g., xenophobia, homophobia, and fear of Young Earth Creationists.
- Fear that the Jews and/or Illuminati are trying to foist a creepy New World Order upon us.
- Fear that the capitalist elite will take away workers' rights and institute a fascist dictatorship if a socialist dictatorship is not instituted PDQ.
- Fear that the socialist elite will raise your taxes and institute a communist dictatorship with universal health care unless we take action now.
- Excessive parental protectiveness over concern "for the children", including vaccine hysteria and oversupervision on the largely baseless grounds that there is a child molester lurking in every park and a drug dealer lurking outside every school.
- Obsession with safety from the threat of drunks, hackers, dirty lyrics, comic books, guns, and children riding their bicycles without helmets.
The trouble with all of the above is that it is very difficult to judge which (if any) fear is justified. If it all comes to nothing, then was the hype and fear justified or was the hype, fear and precautions taken the reason that it came to nothing?