Culture of Fear
The fear of death tends to cross cultures to shift people to the right. That’s part of the reason that the constant announcements and displays of threat levels during the George W. Bush administration were so effective politically in selling the invented Iraq War for Dick Cheney’s Halliburton war corporation and hundreds of other war profiteers. The segments of the “Terrorism Alert Desk,” seen locally on the Sinclair station KMPH-26, are designed to gin up fear of foreigners via local news.
Over the past 25 years, proponents of terror management theory have conducted more than 300 laboratory studies demonstrating that subtle reminders of death on a subconscious level motivate a statistically significant number of subjects to exhibit biased and xenophobic type behaviors, such as gravitating toward those who they perceive as culturally similar to themselves and holding higher negative feelings and judgments toward those they perceive as culturally dissimilar to themselves.
Those voters who were prompted to think of death said they intended to vote for George W. Bush, the hawkish conservative president, by a three-to-one margin. Similarly, death reminders made U.S. students who identified as politically conservative more supportive of extreme military attacks on foreign nations that could kill thousands of civilians. This begs the question: In the two weeks before the 2018 election, will President Trump invent an attack by a foreign power to scare voters and give Republican candidates the leading edge?
Thus, aware of the potential reaction of conservative viewers, Sinclair’s 193 stations across the country in more than 100 markets produce millions of frightened conservative reactions on a daily basis. A single bit of sloppy reporting might not chip away at the public’s understanding of facts and truth, but a year of these segments creates an entire avalanche of misinformation meant to induce panic. The collective psychological result is undoubtedly truly damaging.
How easily it could be different.
Costa Rica abolished its military forces in 1949 and since then has devoted substantial resources to investment in health and education. It is a country that has placed a high priority in investing in public education, including the university system, as well as technical and vocational training. Its population of 4.4 million people enjoys a literacy rate of 96% (versus 86% in the United States) and a life expectancy of 79.3 years (versus 78 in the United States).
Costa Rica is one of the only developing countries to have adopted a tax on hydrocarbons, partially funding the only national system of payment for environmental services, and becoming the largest buyer of forest carbon in the world. Moreover, Costa Rica has set a goal to become a carbon-neutral country by 2021.
Instead of allowing our strings to be pulled so easily by others, we can become more conscious of what drives us and work harder to base our opinions on factual knowledge about the issues, including information from outside our media echo chambers.