Monday, February 2, 2015

Real Fears & Bogus Ones: Telling the Difference

It  is a matter of observation that our society is awash in fear and the selling of fear. Look on the news programs any given night and you will see it staring back at you and blabbering nonstop – from the latest ISIS beheading outrage, to the latest terrorist bomb attack overseas, to the latest food contamination scare, or some manner of horrific crime committed on a college campus.

 It’s all there and designed to be fright-inducing because, well,  this is what the corporo media networks are all mostly about: stoking the fire of collective fear. According to sociologist Margee Kerr from her upcoming book, Scream – Adventures in the Upside of Fear

The media  loves to tap into the fear response because it doesn’t engage with the rational mind.”

Which is true. Interestingly, from a meta-perspective, this should place watching TV News at the top of the most insidious sources of long term, free-floating fear. Both Douglas Rushkoff (‘Life, Inc’.) and Benjamin Barber (‘Consumed’) have also warned how the news tends to be delivered in bits or  sound bites with little or no analysis, explanation or clarification –all of which reinforces fear.

If I had to put the number one long term, rational fear out there it would be  the influence of the corporate media (including the print media) on vulnerable brains, i.e. those lacking a good critical thinking antidote. And yes, it’s that big a deal! Americans lacking this antidote have in the past 12 years: 1) been drumbeaten into accepting the Iraq invasion, 2) been drumbeaten into believing Saddam was in league with al Qaeda, 3) been drumbeaten into retreating from acceptance of climate change caused by humans and 4) been manipulated into retreating from earlier convictions that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy.

Indeed, in 2007, a resident ass ensconced at The New York Times actually wrote in the Book Review section (after bellyaching about the latest book):

"These people should be ridiculed, even shunned! It's time we marginalized Kennedy conspiracy theorists the way we've marginalized smokers."

Well, pardon me, but this certified nincompoop shows just how dangerous holding an influential media position can be when the person is a know-nothing moron. An uneducated, lazy moron who probably has never even seen one of Oswald’s CIA files!  But this points up why I regard the American mainstream media as a loose cannon that needs to be feared if one is not fully armed with critical thinking. 

Other long term fears in what I regard as order of priority include:

-         Climate change disasters, local and global (e.g. loss of coastal areas due to sea level rise)

-         The re-appearance of diphtheria, measles, whooping cough and other preventable diseases by anti-vaxxers.

-         The failure to muster funds to find a cure (or at least workable treatment) for Alzheimer’s disease – which number of cases is expected to hit 14 million by 2050 and over one trillion dollars lost in productivity, life quality, time taken off by caretakers – not to mention medical costs.

-         The failure to seriously address the threat of moderate-sized asteroids such as the Chelyabinsk object that struck Russia two years ago. One single asteroid of that size, aimed at New York City, could take it out along with 8 million people. (The odds of one hitting are 35 times more than for a large asteroid).

Now, what about more immediate fears that all rational people ought to have? I list some of these as follows:

-         Eating too much saturated fat – i.e. in burgers, pizzas, and destroying one’s cardiovascular system in the process.

-         Not getting adequate sleep before getting in one’s automobile.

-         Texting while driving, or even walking.

-         Overusing social media (e.g. Twitter) to the exclusion of reading actual books or conversing live with actual people   - thereby risking permanent brain rot. (See also the book, ‘The Dumbest Generation’)

-         Not sufficiently protecting your identity or your credit, thereby enabling its theft – especially identity theft.

This would not be complete without listing the bogus fears that occupy too many today, but which are less grave in relation to the ones above.

-         Serial killers, pedophiles (the risk that you or your child will be a victim is ten times less than the chance a medium –sized asteroid will strike, or 1 in 333,000

-         Mercury in fish, e.g. tuna – all overblown by the fear mongers, I eat solid white albacore tuna at least 12-13 days a month (the rest of the time salmon).  Mothers- to- be should take more precautions, but not eliminating tuna completely! It is high in Omega 3s!

-         Air travel – yes, you probably have heard this before, that you are fifty time more likely to be killed in an auto accident than an airline crash

-         Gluten – again the risk is overblown, and avoiding any and all foods that contain it is over-reaction.

-         Vaccine side effects. This risk is now greatly reduced since vaccines are currently produced without the mercury-based thimerosal (especially for children under 6, see the site)

-         School shooting, mass  murders – again, the odds are about the same as a small asteroid collision. Yes, it is frightful to learn of the latest on the nightly news, but the job of the news is to evoke fear – so if you want it to abate, cease watching!

-         Zombie attacks or a zombie apocalypse? My virologist friend Beth assures me it will only happen if humans try to revive corpses using cell grafting techniques from live humans – especially by implanting stem cells into cryogenically preserved corpse brains.  Just kidding!

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