Fear-Based Society

Fear-Based Society
Image by Stuart Anthony via Flickr Creative Commons

By Mike Starry

Writing for the Fresno High School newspaper and studying Fresno State sociology helped me understand how in a fear-based society, the power structure can use the media to manipulate millions of working people to vote against their own economic interests.

The new diversionary tactic is Donald Trump. Conjuring social issues that have absolutely no impact on their targets’ lives, unless in their imaginations, many politicians know that politics is like a magic trick. If they distract their voters with diversionary tactics like the social issues of abortion and gay marriage, the voters won’t notice the trap doors and strings.

A diversionary tactic is like a manipulation of the Rally Round the Flag Syndrome effect, causing an increase of national fervor from the general public. Their target is the collective of high-anxiety individuals who have great needs to feel special. In exercising those needs in consuming and acquiring more stuff, they simultaneously suspend temporarily and emotionally validate their anxieties. Having more stuff replaces their being part of a sharing and equal socioeconomic system. Except it does not provide personal fulfillment.

Merging public relations and politics into a seamless operation, marketing authoritarian populism is just another marketing campaign for the wealthy exploiters. For the One Percent, the working people must literally love the order that dominates them. One way the modern aristocracy gets people to internalize the brainwashing that the “aristocrats are more-deserving people” is by stoking a fear that the “American Dream” is being threatened by hordes of undeserving intruders.

Nevertheless, using a wide variety of methods to destroy reason, such as the suppression of popular literacy, is incompatible with a modern economy. Once the common people become educated, more sophisticated methods of domination, a kind of Fox News rationalized irrationality, are required.

It is no accident that illegal immigration has emerged as a theme at a time of epic corruption among the conservative aristocrats in business and government. Someone must be blamed for the 2008 Recession fallout, and it isn’t going to be the One Percent.

For example, petroleum corporation propagandists have turned Christians into Climate Change Denialists by arguing that if you believe climate change is real, you’re not showing enough trust in God. It’s a nasty way of manipulating people by preying on their insecurities in order to get them to set aside their moral considerations. Religion can be whatever the believer wants it to be. It might seem like an aggressive misreading of the Bible to imagine, as the Christian right does, that Jesus was a laissez faire capitalist who wasn’t bothered by poverty or climate-changing pollution.

As a high school librarian in the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD), I learned that if you can write, you can think, something educated parents want their students to do. School boards usually give most parents what they want, entertaining athletics, as long as their kids are contained all day and come home safe. This is not exactly a university-preparation program like the library-research-intensive one offered in the Clovis Unified School District.

Unfortunately, although experienced teachers were attracted to the only middle-class FUSD high school that I worked at, and because they were conditioned to poorly financed libraries, most of them had years of lessons that avoided student-originated research to support writing, thus students avoided buy-in-ownership thinking. This required them to stick to quasi-thinking, top-down, state-approved texts that did not threaten the power structure. After taking most tests, they forgot about what they were studying in a few days. No vested interests via buy-in-ownership thinking equals no learning.

Fortunately, in the past 20 years a new kind of teaching that downplays lecturing (talking down to the peasants) and test regurgitation now favors students’ brainstorming and teamwork, thereby promoting individual students’ creativity, weaving basic subjects into real-world lessons that develop leadership skills. This is unlike the 2012 Republican Party of Texas, which opposed the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification) and critical thinking skills thereby enshrining blind obedience into its doctrine of political domination. The One Percent really wants to jam Government of the Few down children’s throats. “Don’t think about why you are poor. Ask no questions so we can remain in power only with an electorate that cannot think critically.”

With crony capitalism, corporate welfare and the invisible depression of unemployment becoming ever more visible by the day, a nice little situation like Vietnam would be just what the doctor ordered to distract people’s attention from their economic misery. So, regarding Syria or Iran’s nuclear capabilities, look for a phony international crisis to magically appear in the near future.

“All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”—Nazi Herman Goering, Nuremburg prison, 1946.


Mike Starry is a resident of Fresno and retired librarian.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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