If you squint your eyes, and look at TV news, all you’ll see — no matter which channel you choose — is fear.
Ebola. Isis. Car crashes. Plane crashes. Train crashes. Murder – and mayhem.
In essence, fear.
American TV is awash in a cold splash of fear. Indeed, virtually every channel is tuned to Fear TV.
And there’s a method to the madness. For fear reaches deep into our limbic system, of the most ancient recesses of the reptilian brain; the hippocampus, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, the thalamus, and triggers our survival instincts. It also hooks us into TV, and increases the station’s ratings (which is what it’s all about).
For, once engaged with the seduction of fear, reason flies the room.
How many people are really threatened by Ebola? Isis? Murder?
When we look through the lens of reason, we see very few.
But fear does more. It informs and feeds our politics, and transforms society. Remember the mania over crack babies? Remember the cries that led to the national Drug War? Conservative scholars and pundits warned of the rise of so-called ‘Super Predators’ – and politicians – of both parties — embarked on the fuel of fear to build more prisons, write more laws, increase drug sentences, imprison more children – all for lies spurred by fear.
I’d bet more people die from the flu than from Ebola in America. Isis was the creation of the fear-generated Iraq War, for if Saddam Hussein were still alive, he would have crushed them beneath his heel.
Crime rates – despite the fear-mongering – are the lowest today since the ‘80s.
But the average American watches 24 hours of TV per week. About a third of high school graduates never read another book in their lives after leaving high school. Some 30 million Americans are either illiterate, or can’t read a simple sentence. That’s roughly the population of Texas or California!
For them, TV news is their window onto a world that really doesn’t exist. It’s a world swimming in fear.
Those emotions feed the forces of repression in America, prisons, militarized cops, rabid politicians and maniacal judges who have imprisoned not only millions of people, but the U.S. Constitution itself.
Welcome to Fear Nation.