Fear Itself

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Time and time again this quote has proven true. The Cold War is a prime historical example of fear taken to the extreme. When looking for a modern example, look no further than your smartphone

There are hundreds of things you should be scared of and it’s always there, all the time, thanks to 24-hour coverage by social media. In the past, horrors of war or other events came at a much slower pace. Today, the use of smartphones has enabled us to have the world at our fingertips in an instant. But should this wealth of knowledge make us scared?

When used by politicians, the answer is yes. We should be scared because that’s how they make us like them. The idea of fear tactics isn’t new and it will never go out of style. A politician’s only promise that he or she needs to uphold is to protect the people. Protection and security is our most primal instinct and we are drawn to those who keep us safe.

In the age of smartphones, everything we think we should fear is instantly available. Which means there is plenty of material for a politician to work with. Donald Trump is the world’s leading example in using fear as a tool. Fuzz Hogan, a contributor to the website Behavioral Scientist, says that “Last year’s election in the United States, whichever candidate you preferred, showed how powerful fear could be in rallying citizenry in unhealthy ways.” He describes how our response to fear has changed with the advancements in technology. Our brains once only had to fear what was in front of us. The introduction of global fears has left us in a type of drunken smog where we don’t know which threat is the real one to our person.

So of the thousands of things to be scared of, which ones should we actually fear? The threats that get extensive media coverage are the ones that we pay the most attention to. It’s easiest for political leaders to focus on foreign affairs, because the people they are rallying are less likely to have a personal stake.

It seems as if our focus on foreign countries has made us forget about our struggles at home. Recently Parkland High School in Florida, USA was the victim to a mass shooting. In America, school shootings are more common then they like to admit and so many of them get swept under the rug when a foreign country can be forced into priority.

Lots of Americans like their guns and lots of them do not. It’s a divided country that kills more of its own people than foreign extremists do. So why the lack of change? Events likes these that happen on home soil certainly get plenty of media coverage. The witnesses to these events, however, don’t control this media. It’s hard to be overheard amidst the terrified talks of foreign nuclear threats.

While social media is rapid, what is often misunderstood is the new generation’s aptitude for it. Those who remember the cold war also remember a time before smartphones. In their case, they can remember when worldwide news wasn’t readily available whenever they wanted. Because of this, the older generation isn’t used to handling this wealth of information. The youth of today who can text before they can talk are the ones whose voices will be heard amongst the chaos. As Steve Denning, a contributor to Forbes magazine says “They are at home in the world of social media and at ease with mobilizing support among strangers.”

The younger generation doesn’t fear a war that can’t kill them. Like our ancestors, they fear the threat that is right in front of them. Social media is a second nature and they are able to see the difference between real threats and ones used for political gain.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This will always be relevant. Generations have come and gone that knew fear, but our current one is a unique kind to be born into a constant, global state of it.

 

 

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