Fear As Scapegoat

In November I said we malign fear because it shows low status:

Political pundits like to accuse opponents of a “politics of fear”, or of hate. … Why do we embrace and accept our own fears and hates, even as we suggest that others’ fears and hates are bad signs about them? One obvious explanation: relative to low status folks, high status folks have less occassion to fear or hate. … Complaining that your opponents have a “politics of fear” or hate is really just complaining about their low status. (more)

We also unfairly blame fear when people die in crowds:

In the literature on crowd disasters, there is a striking incongruity between the way these events are depicted in the press and how they actually occur. In popular accounts, they are almost invariabluy described as “panics.” The crowed is portrayed as a single, unified entity, which act according to “mob psychology” – a set of primitive insticts (fear, followed by flight) that favor self-presevation over the welfare of othres, and casues “stampeded” and “tramplings.” But most crowd disasters are caused by “crazes” – people are usually moving toward something they want, rather than away from something they fear, and, if you’re caught up in a crush, you’re just as likely to die on your feet as under the feet of others, squased by the pressure of bodies smashing into you. In disasters not involving fire, panic is rarely the cause of fatalities, and even when fire is involved … research has shown that people continue to help one another, even at the cost of their own lives. (more)

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  • Buck Farmer

    Reminds me of military commanders steeling their men not to flee during battle.

    Sounds like our cultural organs want to reinforce the importance of sticking together and following orders/collective-good while in danger.

  • Evan

    i think fear is one of the most powerful motivating emotions that humans have. especially when used by tapping into a parents fears for the safety of their children. because of this, it is a terribly effective way to spread propaganda. by inducing fear into the populace it is very easy to get people to give up individual freedoms or grant more power to a ‘protective’ government.

    i dont think it is wrong, then, for others to point out how some people are using ‘politics of fear’ to move forward their agenda. by using this tactic, the fearmongerers are able to influence society absent a rational cause. calling them out is really the only recourse for anyone trying to have a reasoned discussion on whatever topic is at hand

  • Jon


    Don’t allow yourselves to be made afraid by Evan’s attempt to demonize fear. His fear-of-fear is really as bad as the simple fear he seeks to criticize.

    Don’t fear the meta-fear!

    A free meta-lollipop will be given to the first to criticize fear-of-fear-of-fear.

  • Jon


    I meant to say
    Fear the meta-fear!

  • Hopefully this explains the “politics of fear” critique: