Perspectives: Manipulating the fearful for fun and profit

OPINION – The first time I heard of a fictitious college course entitled “Molding your child’s behavior through fear and guilt,” I laughed. Like any good joke it contained an element of truth, though I expect few of us would seriously consider such methods to influence our kids.

If only the same could be said for power seekers who yearn to influence or manipulate others by amplifying and playing upon fears. Many otherwise rational adults allow their lives to be shaped by the fears promoted by others. Power-seekers and those who sit comfortably in seats of power find ample opportunity to play on such fears when people do not guard against them.

For instance, how many of us continue to live in mortal fear of terrorism?

Though the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were a horrifying wake-up call, they needn’t have been the beginning of a lifetime of fear on our part. The images and loss of life were awful to behold, but do we realize that during that same year over 12,000 of our fellow Americans died at the hands of our own homegrown criminals?

This is not to minimize our losses on that day, but to provide some much needed perspective that has been seriously lacking for the past decade. Any loss of innocent life is tragic, but opportunists recognize that some tragedies provide greater emotional leverage than others.

Avenging a nation’s dead and punishing the guilty is one thing. But too many Americans have fallen into a trap of perpetual fear; stoked and renewed by the endless parade of self-described “experts” on terror, self-serving politicians and ratings-seeking media figures all of who are empowered by the fear they help to create.

Fear becomes a powerful tool to those who seek to manipulate others because it blinds the fearful by focusing their attention on events that might happen as opposed to those matters of real consequence that are occurring right under their noses.

When we spend our time fixating on what a handful of radicals are threatening to do around the globe, we tend to miss important issues that actually affect our abilities to live freely here at home. We forget about things like eminent domain being used to destroy private property rights. We don’t recognize how expanding federal and local police powers in contradiction to the Bill of Rights leave us less free and less safe than before. We ignore the implications of allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial or charge which may affect future generations.

These are real issues that are taking place now and are being implemented by an organization that actually has the power and the financial resources to make them a reality. So where is our attention best directed? We have a choice, we can focus on fearful possibilities or we can engage our thinking to weigh the realities and respond with sensible response and action.

Fear has the power to cloud people’s minds regarding reality. Certain emotion-laden buzzwords assign undue importance to the source of our fears making them seem darker and more dangerous than they really are. These words can create a mindset that is more easily steered into false choices.

In order to be properly manipulated, resignation to someone else’s definition of the alternatives is essential. In other words, if fear is governing our beliefs and our decisions, we will be at the mercy of those who promote our fears. And while straining the gnat we may unwittingly swallow a camel that actually does affect our life and liberty.

This is not to suggest that dangers such as terrorism aren’t real or need not be confronted, but rather to point out that most of us stand a greater likelihood of dying from a spider bite than a terrorist attack.

The antidote to fear is simply perspective. The perspective one adopts makes the difference between living a tenuous life of indecision and dependency and living a life of awareness and involvement. The latter

One gains perspective by actively seeking out all relevant information and weighing it against those things we personally know to be true. It cannot be gained when we are dependent upon experts to tell us what to think. This requires a willingness to engage in the hard work of thinking, but nothing worth having ever comes easily.

We can choose to not live in fear, even through those events over which we have no control. And a free people will never reward those who seek to manipulate them by playing on fears.

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St. George News columnists are responsible for their own content and offer their own opinions, which may not reflect those of St. George News. Bryan Hyde is also a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM.


 Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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1 Comment

  • Pseudo-pseudo Dionysius May 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    The antidote to fear is right living, not perspective. A great and broad perspective of a sudden, crushing, and total annihilation, does dispel not fear. Xerxes had a wonderful perspective from which to view the destruction of his magnificent fleet, according to Herodotus, and it quite unmanned him. And take this classic example:

    Sir Thomas More: You threaten like a dockside bully.
    Cromwell: How should I threaten?
    Sir Thomas More: Like a minister of state. With justice.
    Cromwell: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.
    Sir Thomas More: Then I am not threatened. -“A Man for All Seasons”

    It is sometimes impossible to live without fear. It is always possible to live without cowardice. Ask anybody facing a firing squad.

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