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Fear plays a key role in twenty-first century consciousness. Increasingly, we seem to engage with various issues through a narrative of fear. You could see this trend emerging and taking hold in the last century, which was frequently described as an ‘Age of Anxiety’. But in recent decades, it has become more and better defined, as specific fears have been cultivated.
Fear is often examined in relation to specific issues; it is rarely considered as a sociological problem in its own right. As Elemer Hankiss argues, the role of fear is ‘much neglected in the social sciences’. He says that fear has received ‘serious attention in philosophy, theology and psychiatry, less in anthropology and social psychology, and least of all in sociology’. This under-theorization of fear can be seen in the ever-expanding literature on risk. Though sometimes used as a synonym for risk, fear is treated as an afterthought in today’s risk literature; the focus tends to remain on risk theory rather than on an interrogation of fear itself. Indeed, in sociological debate fear seems to have become the invisible companion to debates about risk.
The politics of fear relied on terrorism as a constant threat that can never be defeated; The term “terrorism” was used to encompass an idea as well as a tactic or method. Like the Mafia, it was everywhere and nowhere, all-powerful, but invisible. Crime helped shape the direction for terrorist victimization. The politics of fear joined crime with victimization through the “drug war,” interdiction and surveillance policies, and grand narratives that reflected numerous cultural myths about moral and social “disorder”. Numerous “crises” and fears involving crime, violence, and uncertainty were important for public definitions of the situation after 9/11. So perhaps it was natural that the terrorist attacks fed off this context of fear. The drug war and ongoing concerns with crime led to the expansion of fear with terrorism. News reports and advertisements joined drug use with terrorism and helped shift “drugs” from criminal activity to unpatriotic action. A $10 million ad campaign that included a Super Bowl commercial stated that buying and using drugs supports terrorism, or as President Bush put it, “If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America.”
Three rural and three urban schools where shootings occurred were examined through the content analysis. ...the three rural school shootings received a disproportionate amount of attention compared to the three urban school shootings. The urban shootings received little attention from the six newspapers along with the number of pictures devoted to those shootings. For example, in the Courier Journal, photos pertaining to the rural school shootings totaled 101, while the total number of photos for the urban school shootings was two.
Over the ages, governments refined their appeals to popular fears, fostering an ideology that emphasizes the people’s vulnerability to a variety of internal and external dangers from which the governors—of all people!—are represented to be their protectors. Government, it is claimed, protects the populace from external attackers and from internal disorder, both of which are portrayed as ever-present threats. Sometimes the government, as if seeking to nourish the mythology with grains of truth, does protect people in this fashion—even the shepherd protects his sheep, but he does so to serve his own interest, not theirs, and when the time comes, he will shear or slaughter them as his interest dictates.
Were we ever to stop being afraid of the government itself and of the bogus fears it fosters, the government would shrivel and die, and the host would disappear for the tens of millions of parasites in the United States—not to speak of the vast number of others in the rest of the world—who now sap the public’s wealth and energies directly and indirectly by means of government power.
In the blue corner we have man-caused Global Warming, and in the red corner we have Islamic Terrorism. What are the risks and absurdities of each, and what is really driving these agendas?
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.