Fear Culture: Don't take candy from strangers
"Fear cuts deeper than swords." - Syrio Forel, A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin
"The land of the free and the home of the brave." When Francis Scott Key wrote that line, he was watching the Battle of Baltimore where the British shelled Fort McHenry for 25 hours straight. We were fighting for what we didn't have back then and we had nothing to lose. Now we fear losing what we have and that fear is what jeopardizes us being the land of the free and home of the brave because those two things are not mutually exclusive. The less brave we become, the more freedom we will give up.
We clutch so strongly to our way of life that we're beginning to strangle it. America is Lennie and freedom is its puppy. We're just too powerful to have soft, fragile things. We get bitten by a mosquito and kill it with rockets.
The media preys on this. We are the innocent young children and fear is the media's candy. We can't resist it. The assortment is vast and comes in many different flavors. Fear of salmonella, trichinosis, pesticides, GMOs, gluten, black people, brown people, beards, police, NFL players (warranted if you're a woman), Skynet, turbans, Ebola, vaccines, anything that ticks, using the wrong pronoun and Sharia Law coming to Texas. Even after we're lying there with stomach aches, wailing in pain, they shove more down our throats until we're comatose and suggestible. Then the government steps in...
PATRIOT Act? Well that sounds pretty patriotic. Sure. Invade Iraq? Well they apparently may possibly perhaps have a chance at having weapons of mass destruction. Why not? Torture? Only if you're sure it'll make us safe and only do it to brown people with unpronounceable names so we can pretend you're not talking about real people. Destabilize an entire region of the world to get revenge on one man and his evil organization? Well we've seen enough Charles Bronson movies to know that always works out well.
We’ve allowed our freedoms to be chipped away in differently sized chunks because we wanted to protect ourselves just until things got better. Well, things aren't going to get better. We will always be under siege by those who detest our power and our way of life.
America is a country that was built on balls. Revolution is a win or die proposition. In order to carry one out, there must be little concern for your own life. The concern must be strictly for the ideals that you’re fighting for—freedom and equality (at least that's what Jefferson's brilliant manifesto, which was essentially a big middle finger to the British and aimed at galvanizing the common man, said we were fighting for). We remained brave for over 150 years. Then, the two World Wars occurred. We learned from fascist Germany and communist Russia how powerful fear could be. Fear of the Germans was enough to spark everyone into actions. Propaganda posters such as this were hardly necessary:
Following WWII and the unnecessary bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to send a message to Russia that we were not to be trifled with, there was the Cold War—easily the most terrifying time to be an American in US history. From 1947-1991, Americans had to live with the constant fear that at any moment a full scale nuclear war could break out. Fear became a normal part of American life and not just any fear, but an existential fear that the human race could be wiped out and the earth left as uninhabitable as Venus.
Fear of communism led many lives to be ruined due to McCarthyism and many lives to be lost in Vietnam(although the fear of communism was just the guise used to convince the people that it was a good idea) and countless other battle zones. This fear of threats to American "values" peaked after 9/11 and grew exponentially as a result of those terror attacks. Campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan ultimately lead us to the state of our nation today.
America is a fearful nation, all you need to do is check the stats. According to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears, despite the fact that crime has dropped steadily over the past 20 years, most people believe that crime happens way more often than back in the "good ol' days." This is a direct side effect of a media that has made pedaling fear its business and business is a-boomin'.
The survey states that the three biggest factors that lead to fear are lack of education, the viewing of talk TV and true crime shows. Just turn on your TV and flip it over to Fox News or CNN. You'll see the kind of histrionic headlines that should be reserved for tabloids. "Storm of the Century" to describe six inches of snow, "outbreak" used to describe 11 American cases of Ebola and "Carmageddon" for a day that had less cars on the road than a Sunday morning in Omaha.
The media uses methods of inspiring fear for two reasons: ratings and misdirection. The one thing that everybody cares about is survival, and if they can convince you that there is a threat to you or your family's life, then you're going to stick around until you find out what's going on. Because of this, the media is incentivized to turn even the most innocuous things into something terrifying to promote mass hysteria while political issues that have huge implications are largely ignored.
In 2014, between October 7th and November 17th, major TV news networks aired over 1,000 segments on Ebola even though only two of the 11 Americans who contracted Ebola died. Why? Because Ebola is a perfect horror movie villain if presented correctly. To compare to those 1,000 Ebola segments, in 2014 major networks spent less than one minute a month talking about campaign finance reform despite the immense impact it has on our entire election system. Misdirection.
Meanwhile, coverage of terrorism seems to do nothing but benefit and inspire terrorists. The goal of terrorists is to evoke terror. Well no worries on that front, the American media has you covered. Reliably giving round-the-clock coverage to any attack that occurs and examining it from every angle, the news is the perfect promotional tool for any terrorist organization. ISIS hardly has to post any YouTube videos at all, Fox News has that covered.
Between 2002-2013, however, the total number of American deaths due to terrorism was 390. The amount of people worldwide who die from terrorism is 42 per day which may seem like a lot until you see that hunger kills 21,000 people a day and about a third of those are children. Unfortunately, talking about solving world hunger is not entertaining, is not conducive to profits and does nothing to feed the Military-Industrial Complex.
There's a reason that the top eight psychiatric drugs in 2013 were anti-anxiety meds totaling over 250 million prescriptions. People are in a perpetual state of fear about what might happen next. These drugs induce apathy, then the government cashes in. You're looking at one thing while the Federal magician makes another chunk of liberty disappear.
The world is no more violent today than it was 50, 100 or 200 years ago. It is actually much safer by a large margin. There are simply more of us and the ability to instantly disseminate information makes sure that no act of violence goes unreported. This ensures that danger is always in the forefront of our consciousness and it's turning us into a doped up, indifferent populace being led by a government that's twitchier and more dangerous than a paranoid meth-head in a bunker full of weapons.
The solution to the fear is to be more informed and more cautious about what news we decide to consume. Without being aware of what is really going on in our country, we won't have a say in how it is being run. Ignorance and gullibility are the greatest threats to our freedom, not terrorism. If we want the words of our national anthem to remain true, we have the realize that our most dangerous enemy isn't overseas, it's in our own minds.