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Cassandra M. Bellantoni Headshot

Is Technology Turning Up The Terror?

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Are we becoming a nation of fearful sissies? If you watch the news, listen to talk radio, read viral emails and comments on YouTube or even Facebook, it sure seems like that might be true. And it makes me wonder if technology is the cause of keeping the fear level up at blood red, contributing to an unhealthy, overreacting fearful society. Time to clear the fear!

There's no doubt that smart manipulators have used fear to control people throughout our history. However, we're in new territory here when it comes to the wide-range delivery speed of anxiety-provoking news, yet still dealing with the primal reactive emotions of our forefathers. Our bodies are designed to respond to threats with adrenaline, making our hearts beat faster and creating a fight or flight response even when the threat is imagined. The result of this perpetual fear cycle is a type of stress, which has become a common word and condition in society, affecting everybody.

Remember when our heroes were intelligent and courageous? We cheered these heroes on as they stood up valiantly to fear-mongers, upholding American ethics and values... making us proud. Even as children we learned the value of not being afraid of bullies or the bogeyman. What has happened to the shame we used to feel when being fraidy cats?

It's sad that nowadays instead of a measured response to real threats, we see so many individuals and groups overreacting like terrified villagers in old movies, ready to grab their guns, give up all their previously held ethics and throw out our legal system, as well as the Constitution, because they're afraid. Half the time they're afraid of things that aren't even true. These people are a perfect example of FDR's famous statement "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."

The loudest voices and role models spreading this negativity never offer real solutions or correct the misinformation that might calm the anxiety of their followers. Instead through technology they drum up more fear, using specific sound byte language and scary headlines that can be easily repeated, resulting in angry, fearful sheeple. This fear trickles to others who fear potential violence from the frenzy, tapping into a collective fear. Why would anyone want this? The answer is simple: power and money.

Fear-mongering demographic-specific, electronic campaigns are being crafted purposefully to raise money, push policy, fund greedy corporations, divert attention from reality and control the narrative of our society. Sadly, much of this is directed at some of the most vulnerable people in our country; the elderly, the uneducated and the working poor. Yet none of these frightened people or their leaders, would think of themselves as cowards.

Here's just one example. Let's take Sarah Palin's involvement in the movement against health care reform. On August 9, 2009 she, or someone who can write, posted on her Facebook page this statement:

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

This caused quite a ruckus and brought in donations for the GOP and Democratic candidates at the end of the day, so her false statement got play everywhere, firing up people on both sides and achieving results.

After health care reform passed anyway, Palin used Twitter to say

Commonsense conservatives and lovers of America don't retreat, instead reload Pls see my Facebook page.

The Facebook page showed a map of Congressman that she wanted to "target" circled with a gun cross hair scope. This was while members of congress were being spat on, heckled with racial epithets and receiving death threats. Palin, at the SLRC conference, insisted that her "reload" comment was about "taking an opportunity to engage in debate and to vote." Yet when she delivered it again at the conference, she received a standing ovation. The comment fuels fear and anger in a group of people who feel they've lost a battle against evil, aka health care reform and another group of people worried about potential violence because of a leader's irresponsible comments. Plenty of fear for every one, spread by Facebook, Twitter, TV, YouTube, Radio and the Internet in just this one example!

There is plenty of outrageous fear mongering that makes the news, but there is a more subtle aspect to mass fearfulness, maybe more dangerous, because mild agitation, anxiety and stress are basically accepted in our culture as normal, even when the source is not based in reality. Technology is helping to fan the flame of this unhealthy side effect of instant connection.

We can change this, but first we must become aware. Americans are frightened about many topics yet strangely unaware of the level of constant influx, because it's become the norm. A day in the life might contain a dose of scary statements about the housing market, job-loss, terrorism attempts, child abductions, horrible teens, global warming, cancer and other illness, animal cruelty, genocide, a rapist on the loose, nuclear weapons. In any given day there are thousands of frightening things presented to us through technology, the likes of which our grandparents rarely, (if ever) contemplated over the course of a decade, let alone in a day. Should we keep pretending this isn't changing us as a people and as a nation?

I for one, was embarrassed by the fearful behavior of former Vice President Dick Cheney who while publicly criticizing Obama's every decision, made it clear to the world that he is so terrified of Al Queda that he no longer has faith in our American legal system or law enforcement. He has cowardly admitted he condoned water boarding despite the Geneva Convention. Now Colin Powell's Chief of Staff, Larry Wilkerson has signed a declaration regarding a Gitmo detainee and says specifically about Cheney:

He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent... If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it." This is fear and reaction to fear that will be spread around the world.

How can anybody pretend this is honorable? It's getting so predictable that when Obama signed the nuclear treaty I had to laugh at this posting on TPM "Fox News On U.S.-Russia Nuclear Pact: Cue The Mushroom Cloud (VIDEO)."

There are the usual suspects, Beck, Limbaugh, Drudge, etc. Their misinformation and fiery language is welcomed on Fox News. But flip over to MSNBC or the Sunday shows and you'll see the same guys, although being criticized, getting more air-time. The reality is, collective fear keeps ratings and egos puffed up on every outlet, so it's effective. If you missed any crazy rants on TV, you can find the clips online then share them on Facebook and Twitter to outrage your friends. I have a better idea. Let's just stop it.

Clear The Fear Challenge:

Keep calm. If you are stressed or worried about anything at all, take a couple of minutes every day or anytime you feel stress or anxiety bubbling up to simply take notice of your current situation, in the present moment. Just take one very conscious deep breath and ask yourself, is there anything I really need to fear right now? You can do this anywhere! If your mind butts in and starts to put fearful thoughts in your head like "I can't pay my bills" or "what if my child is being kidnapped" or "America is being destroyed," stop. Visualize wrapping the nasty thought in a bubble and then blow it away. Doing this even for 60 seconds will help reduce stress. Over time you'll get more and more immune to any kind of fear mongering and see that actually 99% of fear doesn't serve you.

For two weeks turn off the things (non job-related) that make you feel anxious, stressed and fearful, even if it's an entertaining crime show, the news or a talk show with a lot of arguing. Watch stuff that is relaxing or funny. Don't give any attention to the fear mongers by watching them, even if it's with a "watching a train wreck" point of view, as you watch Glenn Beck. Watch The Daily Show & Colbert for your news. Don't share anything fear or anger provoking with others by email, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. Ignore negative hateful comments. Don't respond no matter how tempted you are to speak your mind. Delete old emails with scary headlines so you don't see them when you log in and don't read the new ones. Believe me you won't miss anything important and you'll find out if something is really necessary for you to know.

Do look at and share things that make you feel joy. Make a point to use technology for collective consciousness by focusing on the beautiful things that make you laugh, feel happy, inspired, touch your heart and connect you to others. Promote helping people and sharing the beauty of nature for the good of all. Go out of your way to share those things with others to spread joy at every opportunity. Just as fear is contagious, so is peace and consciousness. If you really give yourself two weeks, you won't want to stop. Try it now and please let me know what happens.

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