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16 March 2005

More Thoughts On Fear

Zalm over at From the Salmon has some nice thoughts on fear and the Christian response. He also briefly touches on the way fear is used to manipulate and control people, which is something else I wanted to get into.

Politically, fear is used to keep the masses in check. We can clearly see this in the way George W. Bush invokes the name of terrorism and September 11. Under the guise of security, Bush has tried to convince us to give up basic freedoms and civil rights. Under the guise of security, Bush convinced many to vote for him, making it clear that a vote for John Kerry was a vote for another plane crashing into a skyscraper (never mind that Kerry already has a better track record than Bush’s 0 for 1 on the issue).

Fear is also used extensively in churches to control the flock. The use of the word sheep is telling. If you’re doing something the church hierarchy doesn’t approve of, then you’re backslidden. You’re out of fellowship. Better get in line or you’re not a real Christian. And if you’re not a real Christian, there’s some darkness and gnashing of teeth waiting for you.

But are these blossoms of a plant with far deeper roots? Sometimes I think so. Fear, at least in some sense, seems to be one of the building blocks on which our society is built. Think for a moment just how much fear controls everything that you do. You wear a watch, and use an alarm clock, because you’re afraid of being late. You brush your teeth because you’re afraid of cavities and having bad breath on your date. You shower because you’re afraid you’ll smell badly. You wear makeup because you’re afraid of how you’ll look if you don’t. You wear a seatbelt because you’re afraid of dying. You wear a certain set of clothes to work because you’re afraid of being fired if you don’t do what everyone else does. You wear clothes in warm weather because you’re afraid of what people will think of your naked body. You lock your car doors in “bad neighborhoods” because you’re afraid of being carjacked. You go to college because you’re afraid if you don’t you’ll spend your life working at Burger King. And on and on.

Why? What are we so afraid of? Is everyone and everything out to get us? Are we so desperate for approval that we’ll do anything to get people to like us? Or is it largely driven by a consumptive media machine?

Marilyn Manson: I can definitely see why [the politicians, religious right, and protestors] would pick me [as the reason for the Columbine killings] because it’s easy to throw my face on TV because I’m, in the end, sort of a poster boy for fear. Because I represent what everyone is afraid of, because I do and say what I want. The two byproducts of that whole tragedy were violence in entertainment and gun control. And how perfect that that was the two things that we were going to talk about with the upcoming election. And also, then we forgot about Monica Lewinsky, we forgot that the President was shooting bombs overseas. Yet, I’m a bad guy because I sing some rock-and-roll songs. And who is a bigger influence, Marilyn Manson or the President? I’d like to think me, but I’m going to go with the President.

Michael Moore: Did you know that the day that Columbine happened the United States dropped more bombs on Kosovo than at any other time during that war?

Marilyn Manson: I do know that and I think that’s really ironic that nobody said maybe the President had any influence on this violent behavior. Because that’s not the way the media wants to take it and spin it and turn it in to fear. Because then you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, you’re being pumped full of fear. There are floods, there’s AIDS, there’s murder, cut to commercial, buy the Acura, buy the Colgate… If you have bad breath they’re not going to talk to you, if you got pimples the girl’s not going to fuck you. It’s a campaign of fear and consumption. And that’s what I think it’s all based on, it’s the whole idea that... keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume and that’s really the symbols people are bound to.*

I’ve got no answers. But it’s certainly something worth thinking about.

*Courtesy of Bowling for Columbine. View the clip here.

Comments on "More Thoughts On Fear"


Blogger mary said ... (3/16/2005 07:47:00 AM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Anonymous zalm said ... (3/16/2005 02:30:00 PM) : 

heh. apparently, even comment spam uses fear as a motivator. :)

nice follow-up, kevin.

you ask whether this culture of fear is the result of our own deep-seated need for approval or the result of an aggressive media and marketing machine.

i think it's both. but i think the former is more foundational.

there's no question that appealing to fear improves ratings and sales. but these tactics wouldn't be nearly so effective if we weren't already fundamentally insecure. i think the media feeds this insecurity, but i don't think it's ultimately causal.


Anonymous adam said ... (3/16/2005 05:41:00 PM) : 

Very nice!

Although I'm not so sure that locking your doors because your afraid your black neighbors might rob you is the same thing as taking a shower. Locking your doors and wearing clothes to cover up your body in hot weather seem to rampant manifestations of fear that is created from media and the like. Brushing my teeth and showering are things I do because I wish to have good hygiene. Perhaps they are different types of fear.

Just a thought.


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (3/17/2005 06:21:00 PM) : 


I removed your comments. But I really appreciate your concerns about the size and strength of my penis.

Zalm & Adam,

I think you're both right. The media (and big business) know how to play to our sense of insecurity. And of course we buy right into it, literally. And there definitely seem to be different degrees of fear. But I still wonder what would happen if we all stopped giving into these fearful impulses. What would happen to the societal hierarchies we've built? Would they react violently or crumble?


Anonymous adam said ... (3/18/2005 06:14:00 PM) : 

Interesting question Kevin.
I'm having hard time answering because I'm having a hard time picturing what it would be like to not live out of fear. Are we so deep in our own shit that we can't climb out?


Blogger Leighton said ... (3/21/2005 03:31:00 PM) : 

Fear is inevitable, as it's hardwired into our minds and bodies. I think the key balance to aim for is recognizing when we're being motivated by fear and to choose our responses accordingly, instead of passively letting (e.g.) advertisers and pastors influence us into doing what they want us to do.

There's no way to avoid it really, but I think it's usually only dangerous when we're not aware that we're being manipulated by fear.


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