Jan 092013
 

I’ve no intention to talk about communism or marxism today. It’s not that I feel defeated (you won’t win that easily Paul Lester!), it’s just that I have nothing new that I could say. Give me some time though 😀

No, today is about fear mongers and why they always win. I don’t know why I got the idea to think about it, but I did and then I realized something interesting.

Did you ever feel that fear mongers always win? It’s true and the reason is this:

It is easy to claim a danger and it is most of the time impossible to prove that it does not exist.

The fear monger simply argues the possibility of the danger, no certainty. Normally this is enough to cause the intended reaction. Normally they also combine this with an actual proposal: “Someone could harm your kids. We’d better install more surveillance cameras!”

It’s true. Someone could really harm your kids. It’s not only sometimes true, it’s always true. It’s not likely, but to the extent of an unspecified probability it can’t be denied. You can’t prove that it won’t happen, and as soon as you argue probabilities you have lost.

The problem here is, that anybody arguing against the danger has to prove its impossibility, and that is a much stronger claim than the one it opposes. It requires much more effort, resources and likely time. Thus, even if someone takes on the challenge, the goal has either already been reached or public attention has shifted to other matters.

Note that this also works with libel, any kind of false accusations and with lies in general. The only necessary condition is, that the claim is presented dramatically and that it appeals to strong emotions.

Today’s politics mostly revolve about fear mongering. Here in Austria I think it really began with the populism of the late Jörg Haider. From then on the case for responsible and reasonable politics was lost in Austria. Populism was just too successful, fear mongering too tempting.

In some way this disparity between the easiness of causing fears and the almost impossibility to control them (at least without further manipulation) may account for the state of the world. Pretty sad, and again I have no answer. Nobody seems to have one.

The Song of the Day is “Fear Is My Business” from the 2010 DePhazz album “Lala 2.0”. Hear it on YouTube.

  8 Responses to “2275 – Fear Is My Business”

  1. George Orwell’s “1984” showed us only too well the power that implied danger has over people who are by nature fearful. It makes it so easy for the few to control the many. The so called “war on terror” is perfect for this kind of activity; how to erode basic liberties and rights without anyone complaining. Even religion with its threat of hell (or its equivalent in what ever religion we pick) has a lot to answer for.

  2. As Frank Herbert said in the immortal “Dune”, “Fear is the mindkiller”. More often than not I completely forget what I’ve read, but that quote has been forever burned into my brain. And it’s especially true today. With today’s social media, fear can be spread almost instantaneously. Just read social sites like “The Drudge” or “The Blaze”. Talk about paranoia. Buy your guns and trust no one!

    As Cedric points out, this makes it very easy for the few (dare I say the “1%” without risking Paul’s wrath?) to keep the many on the straight and narrow. The irony is overwhelming. People are made to believe that they’re protecting their own interests when, in fact, they’re doing everything but that.

  3. Hmmm. Had I known that it was a contest or a battle, I would have tried harder. 😉

    Regarding fear, it’s a great motivator, for sure. It’s the basis of all salesmanship. If you don’t have this widget, your life will be less. You won’t get the girl. Something might happen to your possessions, better get an alarm system. Something might happen to your car, better get an extended warranty. You might get sick and no one is there to help you, better get ________ism. Those Republicans are going to take away your right to _____, better get a Democrat. Those Democrats are going to make everyone gay and give away all of your money, better get a Republican … and on and on it goes, ad nauseum.

    The worst, in my opinion, is what Cedric talked about: The War on Terror. The perfect way to erode civil liberties and skirt the constitution – P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act! Grrrrr! Hey. I never said that my country was perfect. It ain’t!

  4. Fear as a motivator? For what, Paul? The basis of all salesmanship? Only a statement ironically meant?

    • Of course fear is a motivator. If you did down to the root of salesmanship, that’s all it is. No irony. Simple fact.

      • Paul, I’m afraid I don’t really understand this. I see why you call fear a motivator for spending money, but don’t you feel that this is a strange and perverted state to be in? I mean, you seem to embrace it in a way, and I really can’t see how a system based on fear could ever be positive. I would always feel a need to change that. Maybe can’t be changed, maybe it’s just human nature, but then I would call it one of humanities tragic faults. Did I get you wrong?

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