The danger posed by irrational fear

The flames of fear that I wrote about before among some white, English speaking Christians in the US that they are under siege from Hispanics on the one hand and Muslims on the other has been fueled by xenophobic elements and fanned by media outlets like Fox News that have created a climate that people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin have been able to exploit and whip up, each to serve their own personal goals. The coverage they get from so-called ‘reputable’ news outlets serve to merely expand the audience for their craziness. The few times I have seen these three people perform (and I use that word advisedly) I get the sense that they seem to be laughing at the stupidity of their ardent fans, at how easily they can be frightened. For such cynical manipulators, the whole thing seems to be a show that they use for their personal gain. Beck and Palin even had the audacity to hold an event on September 11 in Anchorage and charge for tickets ranging from $75 up to $225.

Note how the people at the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin rally on August 28 can conjure up all manner of fears but when asked for specific facts or actions to back up their claims, are at a loss.

Sam Seder talks to a person at the recent Beck/Palin rally who is articulate and not obviously nutty but yet cannot see that her claims are clearly self-contradictory, an indisputable sign that fear has overtaken reason.

It is easy to laugh at these people’s ignorance. But the cost to the country is great. A country in the grip of irrational fears is one that can lash out and harm itself as well as others. As the great Tbogg once said, “If the terrorists are smart, they will give up on trying to attack us and just sit back and wait, because eventually our entire country is going to be so stupid that people will start sticking their tongues in wall sockets just to see what electricity tastes like.”

When people say that they think Obama is not an American but is a communist and Muslim, they are carrying this fact-free and ignorant paranoia to its extreme end, trying to make concrete their vague fears. What is ironic is that while these people are obsessing about phantom threats, they seem to be oblivious or unconcerned that the more serious and concrete threats to America come not from outside but from within: the heavy financial burden of two wars and an extended worldwide military presence that is bankrupting the country while fueling anti-American sentiment abroad, the decline of its manufacturing base and the rise of an out-of-control financial sector, the growing power and rapaciousness of the oligarchy that is bleeding the country dry for its own advantage, the danger of high unemployment moving from being a transient state caused by recession to becoming ‘structural’ (i.e., permanent), and the assault on people’s privacy and due process protections by the government.

These fearful people express deep concern about budget deficits while opposing tax increases and advocating tax cuts for the rich, while ignoring the costs of the wars and the bloated military and the out-of-control health care costs, all of which are the main causes of the deficits.

If Obama were a different kind of person he could combat this paranoia and douse these irrational fears. He could reprise Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s call, in his inaugural address after his first election in 1932 in the wake of the Great Depression, that ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’. The new carpet in the Oval Office actually has this quote as one of many stitched into it. But Obama cannot do that because he too needs the country to be in fear since it is the only way that he can obtain public and judicial acquiescence for his assault on civil liberties and for his military adventures that cover his and the Democratic Party’s collusion with the oligarchic interests.

The very fear that Obama exploits for his own benefit is the same fear that is returning to bite him. He has been hoist with his own petard.

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