OPINION – Not much is more effective at creating a herd mentality than the proven combination of politics and fear-mongering.
The recent San Bernardino shootings are currently being used as an emotional thunderclap to stampede the herd in a desired direction.
Liberals and conservatives are locked in a contest to see which group can become the most irrational. For liberals, the source of their irrationality is gun control; for conservatives, it’s Islam.
Both sides appear to be winning.
The liberal herd is being directed towards greater infringements on the natural right to protect one’s life by calling for more gun control laws. Meanwhile, the conservative herd is stampeding towards war with a worldwide religion of more than 1.6 billion members based on a handful of terrorist attacks.
Both are motivated by irrational fear to plead for greater government intervention at the expense of essential liberties. They have fixated on the hype being fed to them by the mass media without stopping to consider where the stampede may be taking them.
We have more to fear from the truly terrorized, on the political right and left, than we do from terrorism itself. Fearful people are not known for their rationality.
In the words of Dan Sanchez:
Stop swallowing the overblown scaremongering of the government and its corporate media cronies. Stop letting them use hysteria over small menaces to drive you into the arms of tyranny, which is the greatest menace of all.
Recognizing the herd mentality and refusing to join in is not the same thing as sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending that nothing is wrong.
Risk is a part of our existence and will always be so.
There are sociopathic individuals, both abroad and among us, who act with murderous intent. Some are motivated by a radicalized religious fanaticism, others are not.
There is a very real possibility of becoming a victim of a gun owner or Islamic terrorist. However, possibility does not equal probability. Statistically, the average American is more likely to die from a spider bite or at the hands of a police officer than to be the victim of a terrorist or mass shooter.
None of this matters to the irrational who blame firearms or religion for the action of malevolent individuals. Their sense of reason and proportion are overruled by the pathological need to feel safe or to exert control over others.
Those who seek to disarm the law-abiding apparently haven’t noticed that they already live in a nation of over 100 million firearms owners with roughly 300 million firearms and trillions of rounds of ammunition.
If most gun owners were truly a violent bunch, our lives would be very different.
Many Americans apparently took to heart the president’s advice to “talk about guns” over Thanksgiving dinner.
In response, a record-setting 185,000 background checks for gun sales were conducted on Black Friday alone. The answer to calls for more gun control is not just “No” but “Hell no!”
By now it should be clear that government, for all of its security theater, cannot protect us personally in any meaningful way. This is as true for crime as it is for acts of random terrorism.
All politicians can do is to happily assume greater power over us, tighten the straps on our straitjackets, and assure us that the loss of our privacy and individual freedoms is for our security.
Conservatives who bay for more and fiercer war are forgetting that the so-called War on Terror has done little to make us safer while successfully stripping of us of freedom. Still, this doesn’t mean it’s been a total waste.
It is interesting to remember that terrorism is not bad for everybody. For the Pentagon, Nine-Eleven was a windfall, providing wars and new drones; for NSA, a massive expansion in its powers; for Israel and AIPAC, the destruction of Israel’s arch-enemy, Iraq; for the arms manufacturers, hundreds of billions; for the federal government in general, near-dictatorship and, for jihadists, the involvement of the US in crippling and endless wars. Which is what they wanted. Everybody profited except the American public.
Instead of becoming a garrison state, a better approach is to take personal responsibility when it comes to protecting what we love. For some, this means understanding the principles of personal security, attaining skill at arms and being prepared to respond in the unlikely event of a life-threatening attack.
For others, it could start with simply becoming more situationally aware of the warning signs of danger and having a plan in place to mitigate risk.
The surest antidote to irrational fear is found in assuming personal responsibility for our safety and well being. This empowers us rather than turning us into the equivalent of human livestock.
Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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