I’ve been stateside for the last week, and after spending hours in various airports listening to “Homeland Security Advisories”, dealing with airport security and watching American newscasts, I’m now more convinced than ever that the Fear Industry is very real.
For reasons that I can only speculate on, there seems to be a concerted global effort to create a culture of fear throughout the developed world. In countries like Australia and Canada, this industry is more subtle, but in the UK and the USA, there seems to be little or no attempt to hide it.
As I type this, I’m actually sitting in the airport and listening to the “Security Advisories” being announced. Has anyone else noticed that since they started doing these threat level announcements 8 years ago, the level has never dropped below “Orange”? Be vigilant, they say. Watch for suspicious activity. Inform the police or Transport Security officers of any perceived threats. Oh and while you’re at it, why don’t you subject yourself to our overzealous and ineffective security screening process? You don’t mind do you? Sure it violates a couple of your rights, but it’s in the name of public safety in the “War on Terror”, so you really shouldn’t complain.
What really disturbs me though is the number of people who truly believe that by carrying 100mL bottles of shampoo, the world, or at least the airport, is a safer place. They truly believe that by taking off their shoes, they are thwarting the next 9/11.
“Most people want security in this world, not liberty” ~H.L. Mencken, Minority Report, 1956
Especially here in the United States, the people are constantly inundated with messages of violence and fear and possible terrorist attacks. All of the major news networks flood their viewers with information. There’s the news anchor with pictures and videos of some tragic story that they repeat ad nauseum for days on end. There are the scrolling panels that are impossible to follow and leave the viewer feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And my personal favourite, has been the gradual shift from reporting facts to intentionally eliciting a specific emotional response in the viewer. “There was a motor vehicle accident on the highway this afternoon involving multiple vehicles that left one person dead and several others in hospital with minor injuries” has been replaced with “There was a horrific crash on the highway that took the life of an innocent young mother, left several others clinging to life in hospital, and left witnesses traumatized”.
The news writers carefully word the stories to guide the viewer to a precise emotional response, be it fear or grief or worry, etc. Whatever that emotion may be, it will very rarely be positive. CNN hasn’t been dubbed “Constantly Negative News” for no reason. This phenomenon is by no means limited to the US – it’s just far more blatant here than in other countries.
As I mentioned earlier, I could speculate endlessly on the reasons for this constant fear factor, but I think that would serve little purpose. What’s more important, in my opinion, is being aware of what has been, and could be, done while people are in this state. You see, when people are feeling afraid, or hopeless, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or stressed, they have a tendency to give up rational thought. They’ll listen to anyone who claims to be able to make those uncomfortable feelings go away, and damn the consequences.
The consequences, however, are huge! What I see happening on almost a daily basis is a gradual erosion of our rights and freedoms. Every day we trade a little bit of freedom for the illusion of safety. I’ll repeat that last bit: the illusion of safety. All of the endless new laws and security screening procedures simply make us think we’re safer, while doing nothing to actually address the underlying issues.
What many people fail to grasp, is that we live in a world of duality. Light and dark, hot and cold, up and down, love and hate, good and evil. You can’t have one without the other. All the rules, regulations, laws and security procedures in the world will never, ever change that. If someone is determined enough, they will always find a way.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to make the world a better place. I’m saying that we need to carefully consider the wisdom of our current path. Do we really want to live in a world where everyone is presumed guilty? Do we really want to live in a world where people are punished because of what they might do? Is legislating safety really making us safer, or just making us feel like we are?
Lastly and most importantly: what’s the point of fighting for freedom, if you’re going to use that freedom to create laws that take it away?