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David Ropeik

David Ropeik

Posted: October 19, 2010 04:35 PM

The Word: Feariness

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The word: Feariness

A lot of punditry take various players to task for using fear. Using it to garner votes. Using it to garner sales or sell papers or increase ratings. Using it to garner support for a wide variety of causes or ideologies.

This denigrates fear... the real kind... the well-founded concern about actual threats that helps us stay healthy and alive. To take from Gordon Gecko, Fear is Good. To be sure, too much fear, or too little, can certainly be a problem... what, in How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, I call the Perception Gap that can lead to new risks all by itself. We do have to fear fear itself... too much or too little. But we also have to fear the way the pundits and manipulators give fear a bad name. So in that vein, and with due acknowledgment to Steven Colbert, "that brings us to tonight's word."

Feariness

There are two kinds of fear. The real kind. And feariness.

They're easy enough to tell apart. The real kind of fear is the fear that keeps you safe. (From what, Steven? Bears?)

Safe from fanatics who want to impose their religion on America. (Glenn Beck?)

Safe from those who would weaken America by unpatriotically attacking the president at a time of war. (Dick Cheney?)

Safe from those who attack our constitution with their own interpretation of the law of the land. (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas?)

Real fear is the kind that protects us from those who would take our jobs. (Hey Steven, who mows your lawn?)

Real fear is the kind that protects us from violent criminals (Is that a .38 special in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?)

Real fear keeps us strong enough so we're willing to send our brave men and women into battle to keep us safe. (WMD? What WMD?)

Then there's the other kind of fear... the fake kind... feariness. The kind the Patrons of Panic throw at us to get us all riled up about trumped up threats when there's no threat there at all. (Climate Change?)

You know, the false fear the doomsayers use to attract members and money to their do-gooder organizations, freaking us about their pet peeves, trying to get us all worked up over nothing. (Poverty, hunger, illiteracy, racism)

There are a ton of them, these hucksters, trying to get us so worked up we'll do and say anything they want us to. Buy any product, vote for any candidate, support any cause, in the name of keeping ourselves safe. (How about next time we try real diplomacy first and invasion second.)

Or the greedy fear-meisters in the press and punditry who say they are just trying to keep us informed, when all they care about is sell papers or boosting their ratings or their personal careers (Uh, careful there, Big Guy!)

We shouldn't be taken in by that kind of feariness, fake fear about non-threats a boy scout could solve while he's earning his Merit Badge. (Global deforestation, ocean dead zones, industrial chemicals in our blood).

Feariness that preys on our emotions and drives us into angry polarized tribes supportive of people like ourselves but threatened by anybody else. (Mission Accomplished!)

Trumped-up fear that makes us so afraid we'll turn into a bunch of sheep and follow the Pied Pipers of Panic right off a cliff. (See you at the Keep Fear Alive rally!)

It's time to stand up in defense of real fear. Stand up against Feariness.
A nation of namby pambies whining about every two-bit bogeyman is just a second-rate nation of Chicken Littles. A nation righteously worried about all those others who would do us real harm... that's a nation scared of the right things.

Be afraid, America! A scared nation is a strong nation. Just remember what Geena Davis-as-Veronica Quaife said in The Fly; Be afraid! Be very afraid!

 
 
 

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