Politicians are well acquainted with the power of Fear. Especially over an under-informed public. We have only ourselves to blame.
These days, it seems Fear trumps Hope every time. Remember Barack Obama’s message of Hope? Lots of us bought in to that…for a time. But then the Fear machine cranked up in earnest, and suddenly we were inundated with messages hinting at untold perils at the hands of the President. “Obama-Care will ruin lives!”…“Death Panels will kill Grandma!”…“The President is a Muslim!” (and we all know what that means.).
Works the other way, too: Governor Walker of Wisconsin has a secret plan to destroy all unions, which would lead to the total destruction of the United States and the end of life as we know it!
Climate Change is a hoax perpetrated by evil scientists who want to ruin our lives! Dastardly bankers want all of our money! If we legalize marijuana it will lead to a nation of drug-crazed zombies! If we don’t, we’ll waste millions and drive our nation further into debt! If we cut taxes, we’ll drive the economy further into the tank! If we don’t, we’ll drive the economy further into the tank!
Although it seems more pervasive than ever, fear-mongering is nothing new. If JFK was elected, the Vatican would run America (also said about Presidents Van Buren and McKinley). If Barry Goldwater became President, we’d all die in a nuclear war. In the 1950s, we were told to fear Commies. In 1692 we were told to fear witches.
The power of Fear was demonstrated brilliantly back in 1997, by a Utah junior high student named Nathan Zohner.
Young Nathan created a petition that demanded strict control or total elimination of dihydrogen monoxide. He listed its dangers:
- Can cause excessive sweating and vomiting
- Is a major component in acid rain
- Can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
- Can kill you if inhaled
- Contributes to erosion
- Decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes
- Has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients
Of the 150 people he asked, 143 signed the petition. 6 weren’t sure. And 1 person knew that dihydrogen monoxide is water.
Nathan won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. The title of his prize-winning project: “How Gullible Are We?”
He might easily have titled it, “How Easily Are We Frightened?”