This in response to Jim Wright's excellent essay on fear in politics. It ends with an exhortation to courage, and I found myself wondering why it is that, when there are many brave Americans, fear is so powerful. The answer seems to be that it is widely promulgated in mass media, while little effort is made to promote courage, except to children.
I am reminded of a blog post of mine from 4½ years ago. The post was written in the context of the 2008 Presidential campaign and is more positive about Obama than I now am, but the remarks about the broader issues of fear, social cohesion, and the need for dramatic social transformation still seem relevant to me. I suppose it is because we stand on the threshold of such transformation that our fears have only intensified since I wrote this.
“A lot of effort has been spent on making people so concerned and scared about particular single issues that they forget the whole, like someone who lets their panic fear of falling lead them to die in a fire rather than making a safe jump from a window.
“The how of this is, I regret to say, very well understood—if you have mass media it is depressingly easy to create mass panic. If only we knew as well how to allay fears and give people courage!
“Focusing on panicking people and electing poor leaders is the nuclear option of civil society—it can take generations to pick up the pieces. The basis of this, apart from greed and power-lust, is intellectual rigidity. It is difficult for me to draw any conclusion other than that we are in need of vast transformations in our institutions and philosophies.”
And, at this late date, I'd add that if we wanted to use the mass media “to allay fears and give people courage” we probably could. But it would need the kind of resources that have been put into the vast right-wing mass media networks, and those are not easily come by.
(If you want to read the whole post, it is here.)