Not long ago I read a blog post about fear. The blogger went to great lengths to rant against how the government, media, and capitalists were all manipulating us with fear to get what they want.
Ironically, during the rant there were a few fears thrown in for good measure – global warming, government intrusion and guns. These apparently were the good and legitimate fears that we should all believe in.
After reading the comments, I could see that by and large the readers agreed with the post and related some of their own experiences with fear being used as a manipulation tool. Various solutions were suggested – though nothing new or startling.
What’s missing here?
But here’s the thing that the post seemed to miss. There is a reason fear is used in anything from news reports, politics to selling widgets – it works. So then, rather than just ranting about fear and manipulation perhaps we could drill down into the topic further and examine not the use of fear, but why fear works as a manipulation tool.
Fear works because:
- Everybody has a bias. If you can tap into that bias, then that person is yours for the asking.
- Most people hate being bored and modern life creates a lot of boredom. Let’s face it, modern technology has taken much of our critical thinking away from us. We don’t need to pursue information in earnest anymore, we have Google and Wiki. And they are happy to do our thinking for us. Hell, we don’t even have to drive or parallel park our cars anymore. Technology will do it for us.
- Sensation is king among humans. This is a bit of an extension from the boredom bit. Humans love to feel stuff. They love the rush. It interests them, it kicks in endorphins, and it relieves their boredom. Otherwise, no one would ride a roller coaster, sky dive, mountain climb, read horror novels, or go to horror movies or truth be told, watch the news. Sensation makes humans feel alive.
What to do about fear manipulation?
You could do many things about it, if you had the will to do so. If you are the kind of person who is strong willed you can simply refuse to give into it and go about your business
Though the better solution might be to find a hobby or activity that interests you and creates more sensation than the lookie-loo joy of watching blood and guts parade of the nightly news.
But above all else, and you’ll hate me for saying this, I think we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims. So what if capitalists, marketers, and politicians lie and use fear to manipulate? None of them is holding a gun to your head. You don’t have to take the bait. You don’t have to see yourself as a victim. You can actually take responsibility for your own fate and pursue what is important to you in life.
This is not to say that I don’t sympathize with people who are truly victimized. Crime, abuse, violence, natural disasters, illnesses, and accidents are all equal opportunity victimizers and there is usually no rhyme or reason or discernible why. But that is the exception to the rule. Most things you can walk away from and refuse to be victimized by:
- Mean words
- Critical comments
- Being cut off in traffic
- News reports
- Celebrity spats
- Opposing political opinions
- Stupid things said by public figures
You can trade in that fear for something that excites and interests you. By doing so you might find it makes you happier in the long run.
How about you? Do people in your life try to make you afraid? Do you take the bait? Or do you ignore it and go about your business? Regale us with your stories in the comments.