The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. By Barry Glassner, Basic Books, 2000. 312pp. ISBN 978-0-4650-1490-3. Paperback, $15.95.
The Culture of Fear
Here’s the Butchered Nation primer on how the media works—in a nutshell.
This is why Media Literacy is a crucial skill!
- Broadcasters sell a product. This product isn’t entertainment, it isn’t even anything you are interested in when you tune in. The primary product of broadcasters is YOU! When a broadcaster makes a "sale" the product is x-number of viewers and the buyer shoveling out money for this "product" is advertisers.
- Someone, somewhere down the line discovered that sensationalism caused more viewers to tune in. More viewers makes a more valuable product for broadcasters to sell.
- Additionally some marketing analyst discovered that a large "product" in a state of anxiety—especially when unable to identify the source of anxiety—were much more likely to buy something in order to help them feel less anxious. Continuously combining sensationalism with fear was the next value-added product improvement broadcasters were looking for: not only could they sell larger audiences to advertisers, the could sell advertisers larger audiences who were more likely to buy something because they were kept in a mentally stressed state.
Of course the above list is a simplified summary of the business of mass media. What is important to add to the above relationship is that politicians have always been a bit slow on adapting the modern world into their war chests. It took politicians twenty years
to realize how valuable television was to the life and career of a politician. And it took them a little longer still to realize that the sensational/fear combo platter could work for political power the way it worked for advertiser’s products.
Large corporate interests who’s budgets allowed for national advertising began demanding sensational, anxiety-inducing content. And when these same interests learned that political agenda could be controlled—with the aid of politicians willing to cry wolf right along with them—vast amounts of policy could be swept under the carpet while the vast majority of people were preoccupied with an avalanche of utterly garbage, meaningless and frivolous legislating.
The real legislating, the real favors and special interest payouts all happen behind this corporate/industrial smokescreen of distracted anxiety. At the point where broadcasters screamed, loudly, "Awe, shucks... It’s only entertainment!
" is where the public, en mass, ought to smash in their televisions (or at least turn them off). But given that there is this "national need of utmost importance" to be a "well informed and [laughably] conscientious American" by being a thoughtless consumer of "Only Entertainment" being sold literally as "news" without even as much as a single critical thought on the part of the viewer, it is clear that the media illiteracy rate in this country is by far swallowing a staggering majority of Americans.
So why does Butchered Nation recommend The Culture of Fear
? Because it is an exposé on manipulation. It is a taste of what it means to be a politician and a "news-maker" in this country.