Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fear of the Fiscal Cliff

Original Link to Blog Post, will probably look better here.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Super PAC - "Corporations Are People" - Frank Luntz
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive


  1. Our leaders have certainly become very good at manipulating the public with respect to fear. The propaganda and wagging-the dog that our government and corporations engage in is often frighteningly sophisticated (I wonder how much of it bypasses my conscious thought processes and goes straight into my subconscious).
    I believe that reforming our political processes should be at the center stage of our political agenda and would solve many of the problems we are facing. Unfortunately, that discussion would never be broached by anyone with power since they're all gorging themselves at the same trough.
    I've often wondered if a lottery system would work better than elections. It's hard for me to believe that it would be any worse. At the very least we could go with campaign finance reform and the elimination of the electoral college.
    The so-called "fiscal cliff" is just another iteration of distracting fear mongering with the purpose of preserving the monstrous privilege of the upper classes.
    ... And yes, I do recognize how cynical this sounds. Forgive me.

  2. Good thoughts, Aric. I'm sure you've probably watched this already, but if not, Christopher Allen's presentation on persuasion came to mind as I read this - he talks about certain modes of persuasion, and mentions that some of them are not always the most ethical. Fear-mongering is probably among them.

    I hear your frustrations about politicians protecting their butts and spending too much time focused on image. Sometimes I have this fantasy about all the members of Congress going to Channel Rock and playing creativity games, learning about systems, and appreciating each other. Wouldn't that be awesome?


  3. Good thoughts Aric,

    I agree that fear is often used as a manipulation tool in our news culture and in politics, and that this is frequently done at the expense of fact.

    At the same time, it seems that the US societal change is almost always precipitated by crisis. I generally agree with you, but I do think that fear definitely is a powerful motivating tool, and can and should be used to affect positive change. LIke fear of another financial crisis leading to more stringent regulations of wall street, or hopefully, the recent hurricane in New York as a reason to take climate change more seriously.

    Perhaps the key is framing issues in ways that are fearful enough to me motivating, but not paralyzing.

  4. Aric, I appreciate your deviation from your original intentions with this post! The fear tactic drives me crazy and really frustrates me, and the only way to challenge it is to shine a spotlight on it. Though even then, those coining the terms and spreading the rhetoric are extremely adept at achieving the desired reaction, and it's often difficult to even realize when the fear tactic is being used. I completely agree with your statement that this is unacceptable for the media to play off hate and instill fear and class/etc warfare. Hopefully enough people will realize it and stand against it to be a genuine force to challenge this.
    Two other examples of instilling fear that come to mind are the conspiracy theories surrounding Agenda 21 and the concept of sustainable development ("Walkable communities! It's a plot to move us all into highrises and take away our property rights!") and the whole debate around plastic vs. paper vs. reusable cotton or other bag. We're working on an extensive sustainable development project in Greater Yellowstone, looking at how our development patterns can negatively or positively impact the environment, taking into account wildlife migration corridors, biodiversity, etc, and one of the communities has been infiltrated by out-of-state tea party representatives that were elected to the town council. We were working with a volunteer citizen group for a community park, and the council voted to essentially close the park because it was a communist plot to take away property rights. A true quote, directed at me and my boss (the only 2 employees for my non profit): "It's not paranoia if they really are behind every tree." ...huh? Anyway, they voted to close the community gardens as well, so it's a deeper issue but still playing off people's fears and getting them to really believe that sustainability is a threat and bad idea. As for E-Coli laden reusable bags, I remember when the manufactured scare of bacteria in reusable bags swept the media, and people were terrified, scrapping their reusable bags for the "safer alternative" of single use plastic. Turns out the "study" was commissioned and financed by the plastic bag manufacturers, and didn't include actually washing your reusable bags occasionally.
    Thanks for making me think about this. And Daryl, I'm intrigued by the idea of a lottery instead of an election! I always thought that the sitting president should, rather than wasting the last year in office running for re-election and raising millions of dollars, should take all that money and put it toward the deficit or some other worthy cause, not even go on the campaign trail and tell everyone he was going to continue to do his job for the last year, not run around in a monkey suit trying to convince people he's the good guy.

  5. What's fascinating to me is that when this tool could be applied in such an impactful way, it's nowhere to be found..... i.e. in discussing climate change and the fact that our world is sadly, going to hell in hand basket. At that point, when fear is literally staring us in the face, we will be forced to act. Fear seems to be a factor in the very short-term, such as in regards to natural disasters (SANDY) or with regards to catastrophic events (911), but it seems to be nowhere in relation to issues that have long-term ramifications, such as global warming.

    John raises a great point above, that fear can be a good motivating factor. Does it matter whether or not the motivation behind the action is altruistic or not? I suppose that this is where Bob Willard's discussion about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons may come in handy. On the other hand, I believe that this also depends on whether or not the fear is based upon accurate information or FEAR—— FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL?


Blog List