Selling Fear in America
Do none of us remember when Catholics were accused of plotting to take over the government of the United States? when John F. Kennedy was accused of being a puppet of the devil Pope? when Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale told us we should be afraid of the ‘real purpose’ of the Catholic’s among us?
I became aware of the need to stand up to bully liars during those days. The injustice of these accusations about any religion was plain for even my young ears. I knew then that there was power and money behind the idea that we should be very afraid of one group among us.
Those same accusations, almost idea for idea are now being sold to us as truth by today’s professional haters. Except now, the devils in the story are Muslims. And those who want us to believe that all Muslims are a ‘Stealth Attack Team’ are again the people who want us to fear so that they themselves can take over.
These new salesmen are our present bullies – the type of bullies who convinced Oklahoma to pass a law to prohibit judges from considering shariah law in Oklahoma, as if shariah law were taking over the midlands. They are the type who want us to see all refugees that flee war and terror in Syria as frightening plotters instead of as fearful victims and future patriots.
This year, we have another bully among US. As usual, the media gives the bully plenty of air time: 1st) because he’s entertaining, and then 2nd) because he’s got momentum and is entertaining, and now, 3rd) because he’s got power and is entertaining.
And who handed him the power?
As with all bullies, he sells fear. Many buy that fear because they are afraid and want someone to tell them why they are afraid.
He has not sold fear by himself. He is merely building on the fear that many have sold during recent years – politicians and supposed leaders throughout the nation, a few governors, some senators, craven congressmen, pretend news media . . . all who find that selling fear cements their tenuous hold on audience ratings.
And what do we do, those of us who have seen the bullies at work before?
We watch to see who will confront him. The more we watch, 1) the more the media believes in his entertainment value, and 2) the more air time, the more audience he reaches – us, the watchers, right there on the couch with the fearful. And then of course, 3) the more we watch, the more power he gains.
We applaud when our senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, call bullies on their tactics. We silently cheer when our presidential contenders denounce the bully’s shot-gun spewing of hate. We love to hear President Obama give the smack-down to this dangerous sale of fear.
Do our pens rest in their inkwells? Should our phones remain in our pockets? Will our twitter accounts lie fallow and our Facebook pages fill with benign photos of cute dogs and each other at parties?
Can we help our leaders call out and face down the bully? Let’s back them up. When necessary, let’s lead them in this face-down.
For years, my writing and research have focused on the repeated use of this fear-selling tactic in our public life. My Scapegoat novels offer Young Adults and their families a view of how this method affects our cities and our neighborhoods, and they offer a way to begin combating hatred and fear.
If you would like to read more about selling fear, you can read among the following: all are available on Amazon and other online vendors.
Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: Scapegoat: The Price of Freedom, (teens fight against hate mongers during the McCarthy era), Rae Richen, Lloyd Court Press, 2014
Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: Scapegoat: The Hounded (the sellers of fear work to destroy a Muslim family and their non-Muslim friends and supporters.) Lloyd Court Press, 2016
Fiction for Adults and Young Adults: The Crucible by Arthur Miller (In this play, America’s earliest use of fear to control has become a symbol of all that has happened since).
And for another exciting historical about teens in Denmark fighting against an army of demagogues, try The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club, Girrar Strauss, Giroux Kindle Edition, by Phillip Hoose.
Non-fiction: Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror, Steven T. Wax (on prisoner treatment and injustice in Guantanamo Bay Prison by a Federal Public Defender and an Oregonian) OtherPress, 2008
Non-fiction: Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence versus Texas, How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans, by Dale Carpenter, W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2012
Non-Fiction: A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, The Trial of a White Racist, and the rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America, by Elinor Langer, Picador, Henry Holt and Company New York, 2003. (Langer’s focus is on the death of Mulugeta Seraw and the trial in Portland, Oregon)
Non-fiction: The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era Repression: One Hundred Decisions, by Robert M. Lichtman, University of Chicago Press, 2012
Non-fiction: A Catholic in the White House?: Religion, Politics, and John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Campaign, by Thomas J. Carty, Palgrave, MacMillan 2004
Read deeply, and get out your pens to help all these writers fight those who gain power using this cheap commodity, fear.