Remember the Killer Bees - Why are Americans so Paranoid?
On April 22, 2012, a bombing occurred at the Boston marathon. Shocked and devastated, Americans frantically called friends and relatives in Boston to make sure they were safe and then sat down in front of the TV to watch the horror unfold. When the suspects were taken down and taken into custody, America cheered.
It’s was not even a week when someone saw the man on a roof. Then Glenn Beck started kicking up a fuss saying the government was covering something up in regard to a Saudi national.
You know it – America loves a good conspiracy especially it if involves the government.
Complex Conspiracies are Hard to Pull Off!
"It's easier to be suspicious, says Michael Shermer quoting political science professor Geoffrey Vaughan in a Scientific American article, "There is something attractive in thinking that you know something, that you haven't bought into the mass public opinion."
Shermer goes on to say, “But as former Nixon aide G. Gordon Liddy once told me (and he should know!), the problem with government conspiracies is that bureaucrats are incompetent and people can’t keep their mouths shut. Complex conspiracies are difficult to pull off, and so many people want their quarter hour of fame that even the Men in Black couldn't squelch the squealers from spilling the beans.”
In short, do we really think the government is that good at keeping secrets?
Government Takeovers and Killer Bees!
In his book, The Believing Brain, Shermer goes on to say, "We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations."
It can take a lifetime to stop forming beliefs based on others and start thinking with our own brain. As children, what our family and peers say and believe is truth, and what the media feeds us can have a great impact on what we ourselves believe. That's not always a bad thing, but who wasn't waiting to be destroyed by killer bees in the 1970s and who wasn't waiting for the government to come crashing in their door and take away all guns.
It’s funny – 35 years or more have gone by and there are more guns in America than ever and I have yet to meet someone who knew someone who died of a killer bee sting.
Whenever I want to reassure my own children, I say, "remember the killer bees," and they know exactly what I mean. But, while so many things haven't come true in our lifetime, why are so many Americans still frightened?
Do we Trust the Government?
Todd Leopold, CNN, shares some startling statistics in his article, Still 'paranoid' after all these years.
"Just a third of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a decline of 31% since 2002, according to the Pew Center for People and the Press. Gallup has Congress' approval rating in the low 20s, after nearing single digits last summer."
"Paranoia," said Leopold, "isn't on the fringe anymore, .. . It's now closer to the beating heart of the mainstream."
He quotes, Boston University Communications Professor John Carrol who says, "It's almost as if everybody's creating his or her own reality at this point. They can essentially construct an information environment that's so self-reinforcing, and so exclusionary, that they don't really have to consider any evidence that contradicts what they already believe."
This kind of thinking makes me wish that it was only the killer bees we were dealing with in America today and not some "wingnuts" hell bent on starting the next revolution.
We've had our fill of "wingnuts" in previous years. Think Tim McVeigh and David Koresh just to name a few.
Divided we Fall!
A "wingnut", says, author John Avlon, "is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum - the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They're the people who always try to divide rather than unite us."
And we know full well, "United we stand, divided we fall." Take me back to those Norman Rockwell days when children respected authority, adults respected and prayed for their President even if they didn't agree with his politics and we, as a country, raised our right hands to our hearts when an American flag was flown. Unfortunately, those days may be gone right along with the threat of the killer bees and conspiracy and paranoia are here to stay.
- Leopold, Todd. "Still 'paranoid' after all these years." www.cnn.com. N.p., 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <www.cnn.com/2012/11/04/politics/paranoid-style-politics-hofstadter>.
- Shermer, Michael. "The Believing Brain." The Work of Michael Shermer. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <www.michaelshermer.com/the-believing-brain/>.
- Shermer, Michael. "Why People Believe in Conspiracies: Scientific American." Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. N.p., 10 Sept. 2009. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-people-believe-in-conspiracies.
- "The Economist Interview: Six questions for John Avlon | John Avlon." John Avlon | Author and Columnist. N.p., 16 May 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. http://johnavlon.com/published_work/the-economist-interview-six-questions-for-john-avlon-983.