Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past

Summary: Fearful and forgetful make us an easily ruled people. Easily aroused to panic, yet amnesic about it once the news media move to a new threat — so that we never learn. While a pitiful state for a once-great people, we can regain our former sense and skepticism.

“Maybe it will all work out ok, but if you catch Ebola just remember your nice article calling anyone concerned chicken little as your lungs fill with fluid, and you’re shitting and vomiting blood.”
By Sam, October 14. One of the many terrified commenters, fruit of conservatives’ fear-mongering about Ebola — immediately forgotten after the election.

Missouri: the "Show me" State
What happened to these people? We need them now.

A few months ago we quaked in fear about Ebola (see John B. Judis’ in The New Republic: “Ebola and ISIS Are Making American Voters Go Crazy. Here’s How Irrational Fears Shape Elections.“), about the horde of immigrants flooding in from Latin America, and about the campus rape epidemic (1 in 5 coeds raped!). America was a nation of wet pants. Suddenly these threats are gone, replaced by new ones about which we’re just as irrationally frightened (Yemen!).

Best of all, from our leaders’ perspective, we forget the stories about the previous threats and so eagerly believe the new ones. I watch these transitions with astonishment.

All peoples have manias, of different kinds. Today in America it’s their magnitude and frequency which makes our politics so dysfunctional. While we run screaming in terror at each new phantom, our elites quietly build a New America on the ruins of the old.

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch
“The Scream” by Edvard Munch.

“… the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

— The demon Screwtape describes a road to Hell, in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

A comment posted at Physics Today: captures the absurdity of our situation, as people of the most powerful nation in history become so easily manipulated.

When a popular foolishness arises in society one may weep for Reason, or laugh at absurdity. … Politically, phantom hazards are ideal tools for manipulating a trusting population. The threat is what the proponents construe it to be, it will never physically materialize, and victory can be declared at any time it loses its persuasive ability and attendant revenue. The true danger lies in real damage done to society through misapplication of effort and funds, and the theft of personal freedom …  {I disagree with the point of the comment, but this paragraph is imo correct. Hat tip to Steve Harris.}

We have no excuse for these panic attacks. A combination of common sense (1 in 5 girls raped in college?) and consulting the relevant experts would repel these fear barrages. We have the IPCC to consult about climate change, the US and international energy agencies who advise us about energy, and their equivalents to consult about epidemics. Journalists report their words quietly, with greater emphasis to activists, promoters, and doomsters. But we can read and listen carefully, sifting the dross from the valuable metal on which we can build our opinions. It’s not that the experts are always right, but that they are an anchor for our personal opinions.

“Note also that there are significant illegal immigrant flows from West Africa into Europe. This is bound to spread the disease, first to Europe and ultimately to us. ”
Another comment confidently forecasting doom, another triumph for the fearmongers, October 20.

I see no hope for America until this changes, so it gets prominence in the post about Reforming America: steps to a new politics. Rejoice at this news: the first step is the most crucial step, and is the easiest (the rest of the road looks steeper and rougher, long and dark). History shows that a change of spirit can occur almost instantaneously in a people. That’s how revolutions erupt (not always wisely). That’s how religious revivals begin (not always wisely).

Redemption is a core capability of each person. It’s easy for America because we are so rich in examples from our past. We’re a nation of becoming, from which we’ve taken a holiday — but can resume any time at will. We need only look in the mirror, decide we don’t like what we see, and resolve to do better.

Girl looks into a mirror.
If only we had a mirror in which to see ourselves, and the nature of our folly.

For More Information

For more about the fear epidemic I strongly recommend reading ”The Pressure to Escalate: The Phantasmagoric World of Washington“ by Tom Engelhardt.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Ebola pandemic — and the more serious fear epidemic. Especially see these about the coming dooms:

  1. Spreading the news: the end is nigh!
  2. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off!
  3. Propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island — Jared Diamond warns of the End.
  4. Today’s conservative doomster warning (ludicrous but fun) — America will collapse before 2017!
  5. The IPCC rebukes the climate doomsters. Will we listen?
  6. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility.
  7. A warning about the end of the world (doomster scenario #137) — “Industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?”
  8. About the warnings of a monster super El Nino coming to you this year.
  9. Will we starve after all the bees die?
  10. Requiem for fear. Let’s learn from failed predictions to have confidence in ourselves & our future.

We can become greater

Cat sees lion in the mirror
We can be better.



3 thoughts on “Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past”

  1. I remember that Ebola discussion in this very forum.

    At that time, I rebutted the doomsaying commenters who claimed Ebola would spread to Europe because of illegal African immigrants and from there contaminate the USA. I pointed out that illegal immigrants take months to travel from Africa to Europe and would therefore die from the infection before completing their journey. I remarked that every previous oubreak of a highly contagious, fast killing disease always moved from one continent to another because of people travelling legally by airplane. My conclusion was that the risk of propagation through illegal migrants was vanishingly small.

    It was pointless, facts would not stand in the way of scaremongering.

    From the beginning of the Ebola epidemic up to now, an average of 500 illegal immigrants per day have reached Europe from Africa. Not a single one with Ebola. None. Every single Ebola case in the USA and Europe was due to an infected person, in the majority of cases a member of an NGO specifically fighting Ebola in Western Africa, travelling legally by plane. Even in Africa proper, the Ebola cases were caused by people, legal travellers, returning from an Ebola infected region — e.g. from Liberia to Nigeria by plane, or from Guinea to neighboring Mali and Senegal by bus.

    The increasing dearth of sober, cold-headed analyses based on solid data is disheartening.

    What next? The Houthis disembarking on our shores to lay waste to our cities?

  2. Pingback: About the Green New Deal, dreams given form | Watts Up With That?

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