The Politics of Fear or, Cry Wolf

Several articles have featured the title “Politics of Fear” recently and fear, it seems, as in Orwell’s 1984, has always played a deciding role in conflicts in American society and politics but, more so beginning in the last century.

During the Depression President Franklin Roosevelt warned the American public that there was “nothing to fear but fear itself”. And, indeed, the Americans should heed that sage advice because fear has become a political tool to manipulate public opinion. It was employed to justify American intervention in Vietnam, citing a “domino effect” if the communists were to prevail; it was used again and again to vindicate American intervention and numerous coup d’etat to unseat governments considered unfriendly to US interests.

More recently, after 9/11, it was brought into play to support the invasion of Iraq with Condolezza Rice referring to the alleged WMD in Iraq saying “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”. That got the attention of the media and people and, together with bad intelligence, convinced the American public to go to war again. Following that bogus threat we have been told that North Korea, Iran, Russia and ISIL all posed an imminent danger to the United States.

In addition, the citizens have taken it upon themselves to inject irrational fear into their lives with the Ebola scare.Americans are accustomed to meeting threats to their “national interests” with sanctions or military force and, of course, Ebola cannot be overcome using either of those tools. Perhaps it is this inability to use the customary weapons that accounts for the irrational response  by both the government and the public.





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