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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are…

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Barry Glassner

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1,1421711,434 (3.71)17
The bestselling book revealing why Americans are so fearful, and why we fear the wrong things-now updated for the age of Trump In the age of Trump, our society is defined by fear. Indeed, three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did only a couple decades ago. But are we living in exceptionally perilous times? In his bestselling book The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as rates for both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV shows that create a new scare every week to garner ratings. Glassner spells out the prices we pay for social panics: the huge sums of money that go to waste on unnecessary programs and products as well as time and energy spent worrying about our fears. All the while, we are distracted from the true threats, from climate change to worsening inequality. In this updated edition of a modern classic, Glassner examines the current panics over vaccination and "political correctness" and reveals why Donald Trump's fearmongering is so dangerously effective.… (more)
Title:The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
Authors:Barry Glassner
Info:Basic Books (2000), Paperback, 312 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:current events

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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner (2000)

  1. 20
    The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz (Othemts)
    Othemts: A lot of politics and punditry are based on mythology of how America used to be better and how its so bad today. Read "The Way We Never Were" and "The Culture of Fear" to help the scales fall from your eyes and see the truth behind these myths.
  2. 00
    Domestic Fortress: Fear and the new home front by Rowland Atkinson (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Glassner writes about several overblown, currently entrenched fears prevalent in the US; Atkinson & Blandy examine how one of those fears has changed the idea of home and the building of houses in UK, US, and Australia.

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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Started reading this as an ebook of the original edition from the Open Library, saw the new edition on my public library's shelves and grabbed it to read the updates. This is a terrifyingly clear look at the way news media (and the politicians who manipulate it) focuses our cultural fear onto the wrong things, thus preventing us from appropriately addressing the things that really are dangerous (namely driving, guns, poverty, guns, prejudice, and guns). ( )
  jen.e.moore | Apr 10, 2019 |
Not terribly useful if you have ever read anything else in a similar vein. The author switches topics rapidly, citing statistics and using anecdotes which are probably just as dubious as the ones he questions. He has a thesis of sorts; that these unreal fears are frequently proxies for the real problems people don't want to face. They tend to be simpler, and easier to think about; and consequently what people want to read about. This is probably why I ignore the news, because I get disgusted by these simple-minded, tear-jerking stories. ( )
  themulhern | Jun 19, 2016 |
A must read ( )
  jimifenway | Feb 2, 2016 |
7 stars: Good.


From the back cover: In this eye opening examination of a pathology that has swept the country, the noted sociologist Barry Glassner reveals why Americans are burdened with overblown fears. He exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our anxieties: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV news magazines that monger a new scare every week to garner ratings.


Some quotes from the book:

"pseudodangers represent further opportunities to avoid problems we don't want to confrtont, such as overcrowded roads and the superabundance of guns, as well as those we have grown tired of confronting. An example of the latter is drunk driving, a behavior that causes about 85 times as many deaths as road rage (17,000 vs. 200). Close to all fatal car crashes involve alcohol and 3 in 5 americans will be involved in a alcohol related crash at some point in their lives."

"Worries about Americans acting uncivilly toward one another date back at least to frontier days, and in our present era bad behavior behind the wheel is far from the most significant or pressing form of incivility. At a time when a disabled black man in Texas was beaten by racists then chained to a truck and dragged down a road to his death and a gay college student in Wyoming was tied to a fence, pistol whipped, and left to die, we would do well to focus our sights on big time incivilities such as racism and homophobia. Instead we are diverted by willy-nilly references in stories about road rage, or worse, by fear mongers who intentionally set out to confuse matters."

"In fact, the new [DPT] vaccine was in development before the public panic set in. Research and testing on the vaccine came to successful fruition thanks less to campaigns ... than to the availability of new technology. Moreover, agitation over the old DPT vaccine may well have delayed introduction of the new one, at least in the US. Drug companies and the FDA, fearful of lawsuits, took an especially cautious approach in testing and approval of the new product, whih is not, in any event, as exemplary as its champions make it sound. Compared to the old vaccine, it is less effective and more expensive. Whatever else advocacy groups may achieve through fear campaigns about metaphoric illnesses, they rarely facilitate the advance of medical science."

"Are other hazards receiving less attention than they deserve, and if so, how do journalists justify , in their own minds, the disproportionate coverage? The resounding answer is Yes." [followed by 2 pages of statistics].

"It would be equally wrong to pretend that those interests and experiences have nothing to do with which hazards and categories of victims are favored by the media. As media consumers, we are well advised to take note of those interests and apply a correction factor. K.C Cole, science writer for the LA Times, made the crucial point. When President Clinton gave $1 billion to improve airport security following the TWA Flight 800 crash, Cole found herself cheering. "As a fearful flier myself, I figure I can use all the help I can get." she wrote. "But I also know that dozens of 747s worth of children throughout the world die every day due to easily preventable causes like hunger and disease. The price of lives lost on airlines is clearly higher--according to the powers that be-- than lives lost to simple hunger." ( )
  PokPok | May 10, 2015 |
Mostly a data-dump; emblematic of the failure of American discourse in the 1990s in that it's mostly an exercise in finger-pointing at people on the other side of the political aisle. It does not provide an analysis of deep reasons the politics work the way they do... the best word to describe it is trivial, in the sense of being made up of trivia. ( )
1 vote Inst | Oct 19, 2013 |
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Why are so many fears in the air, and so many of them unfounded? (Introduction)
"There is no terror in the band, only in the anticipation of it," said the ultimate master of terror, Alfred Hitchcock.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Revised edition (tenth anniversary) , Jan 4, 2010
Paperback US $16.95
CAN $21.50
UK £9.99
ISBN: 9780465003365
ISBN-10: 0465003362
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