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Selling the Politics of Fear: Are You Buying?

Updated on July 22, 2021
Jon Stewart selling Fear!
Jon Stewart selling Fear!

Fear Is The Real Enemy! It Is The Most Valuable Political Commodity!

It has been said that fear is the most powerful enemy of reason. The idea that a nightmare could come true? That you could lose your life? That your family could be killed in an instant? Your way of life destroyed? Your home, job, possessions may disappear?

These are all nightmares that none of us ever want to see materialize! The mere thought that any of these things could happen can cause such anxiety, that we react irrationally in an effort to end the nightmare. How far do you go to stop the nightmare? What are you willing to give up in exchange for ending the nightmare? To feel safe? Do you give up your freedom? Your rights? Your honor? Your entire basic system of beliefs and your sense of ethics?

When someone portrays themselves as the political savior; convincing you that they alone can protect you from the things you fear the most, they can motivate you to act against your best interests.

The politics of fear involve buying and selling. Fear is a valuable commodity! The politician sells the fear. You, the voter, buy the product: THE CANDIDATE THAT WILL SAVE YOU!

Your purchase, however, comes with strings attached. You may pay a high price to be saved. The purchase price can be so high that the fear becomes the smaller of your nightmares. When a politician holds your safety in his hands, or leads you to believe that they do, they are effectively holding you hostage.

Frightened By A Perceived Threat, Real Or Imagined

According to licensed clinical social worker, Nancy Bradbury, fear produces anxiety. The anxiety then leaves people open to suggestion, even if the suggestion is illogical.

In the current climate of lost jobs and an unstable economy, plus the ever present unseen terrorist, more are willing to be persuaded. According to Bradbury, it becomes "anything to reduce the anxiety". So, it is easy to see that politicians can capitalize on fear and use fear as a way to win elections and change government policies. The opportunity to use fear has existed throughout history and has played an important role in almost all major government policy.

Most recently, in the United States, fear has been widespread. Fear is instilled because people are afraid of the unknown and of the future. What MIGHT happen becomes the great motivator. Bradbury states, "Fear is always of the future, based on the prediction of future events, almost like brainwashing."

In the last ten years, fear has centered around several things and they have all produced anxiety. Some of those fears are:

  • enemies, either foreign or domestic, that terrorize and kill
  • war
  • illegal immigration and immigrants
  • the economic collapse of the country
  • foreclosures
  • unemployment
  • looming poverty, especially for seniors and retirees

And as always, the fear divides us.

Promoting The Fear And Selling Us The Ones Who Can Save!

When a candidate for public office capitalizes on the psychology of fear, he or she stokes the fires. They isolate the fear and then make the consequences of ignoring those consequences sound even more frightening, even more dangerous.

They become the experts! They make bold statements, usually beginning with the words, "I have the solution." Their sales pitch always contains one or all of the following elements. " It will take a great leader to bring this country back to glory. I am that leader; the one that you can lean on, the one and only. Come, follow me! Together we will fight the enemy and restore this great country to what it was intended to be. Believe in me!"

It almost sounds as if the candidate is a great prophet. And the greatest of prophets are always too willing to sacrifice themselves for you, for your very survival.

Slick campaign ads, designed to make the other guy look like part of the problem or even the cause of the problem, become an integral part of the brainwashing process. Brainwashing is an important factor in the sale. Predicting dire consequences are also a factor. Those two things combined with just the right words will motivate and inspire the weak-minded to believe and follow, often without question.

While Bradbury hesitated to speak of poorly educated constituents because she did not want to offend anyone, she said, "The less-educated are more willing to believe lies and are easier to brainwash." That is precisely what fear mongers hope! They are not necessarily looking for an educated constituency; they are looking to make a sale.

There are several times in recent history that fear has prompted the American people to do something irrational.

  • The threat of terrorism, coupled with the fear of a nuclear weapons attack prompted our government to attack another country. That country was Iraq.

Presented with false evidence, very few Americans were against the invasion of Iraq. Very few were against the toppling of the leaders of that country. Fear was the motivator. Anyone who spoke up against this war was called traitor, unAmerican and worse. The dissenters knew that the reasoning behind the invasion was flawed and by speaking out, they became pariahs.Yet, very few today would call those who dissented those same names. The fear was unfounded. The war was without just cause.

  • The fear of terrorism has also had the American people standing in line, willing to give up their freedoms, promoting the Patriot Act as a way of defending themselves against the fear. Save us at any price, is the mantra. Take our rights, just save us from the enemy.

In the last century, America has not fared well when we examine the politics of fear. In almost every instance, we find a scapegoat; someone to blame. Then we seek to remove the threat, incarcerate the threat, legislate against the threat, do anything necessary to rid ourselves of the threat.

  • During World War II, the United States succumbed to the politics of fear when they created internment camps for American citizens of Japanese descent. Almost 120,000 were removed from their homes and sent to 10 camps that were referred to by President Franklin Roosevelt as "concentration camps". Half of those held in the internment camps were children, American children.

According to Michi Weglyn, author of "Children of the Camps, "...Executive Order 9066 was justified as a "military necessity" to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However it was later documented that our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage."

One of the most remembered and profound quotes in all of history was that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he said in his first inaugural address, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" Yet, it was Roosevelt himself, who signed Executive Order 9066.

  • In the 1950's, the enemy was Communism. The fear of government infiltration and possible government takeover was what prompted the McCarthy hearings. Innocent people were sent to prison; some people were never able to find work again. Even the entertainment industry was targeted. Once labeled a Communist, the victim's life was ruined.

These incidents demonstrate politics of fear at its worst. The incidents also demonstrate just how submissive we become, how weak-minded, completely blind to actual reality.

The Politics Of Fear In The Next Presidential Election!

While fear is exploited by political parties and candidates, irrational fear is often pursued and sold more vociferously by one side of the political aisle. In the 2012 elections, fears will be exploited. There will be no boundaries.

We saw it yesterday, we see it today and we will see it tomorrow. The only question:

Will you be buying?


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