“From a psychological point of view, extreme fear and outrage are often projections. … Within public discourse, fears proliferate through a process of exchange. … Conservatives also like to spread fears about liberals, who respond in kind.”
“Samuel Taylor Coleridge was right when he claimed, ‘In politics, what begins in fear usually ends up in folly.’ Political activists are more inclined, though, to heed an observation from Richard Nixon: ‘People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.’ That principle, which guided the late president’s political strategy throughout his career, is the sine qua non of contemporary political campaigning. Marketers of products and services ranging from car alarms to TV news programs have taken it to heart as well.”
Are you ready for an interesting tidbit? Those words weren’t written recently. That’s an excerpt from The Culture of Fear, a book written by Barry Glassner 18 years ago.
Jeffrey Eisenberg knows I don’t follow Seth Godin. But he also knows what would interest me. Last week Jeffrey sent me this brief extract from Godin’s blog of January 4, 2017. I was impressed by it.
Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the “L” stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the “History” stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss…
We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that’s left is candy.
Give your kid a tablet, a game, and some chicken fingers for dinner. It’s easier than talking to him.
Read the short articles, the ones with pictures, it’s simpler than digging deep.
Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.
The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It’s bait, after all.
I was encouraged by Godin’s comments because he’s one of a growing number of voices calling for our society to return to intelligent, thoughtful decision-making, to seek out ethical, responsible journalists and reward them with our listenership, readership and viewership so that ad dollars will follow and the networks will finally have a motive to return to something that resembles objective reporting.
My hope is that these voices will be heard and that others will join them.
Glassner’s comments about Richard Nixon and Godin’s comments about people who click on clickbait put me in memory of something the late Hunter S. Thompson said to his arch-nemesis Richard Nixon during the years that Nixon was President:
“Let me ask you a question, sir: what is this country doing for the doomed? There are two kinds of people in this country, the doomed and the screwheads. […] I was never really frightened by the bopheads, and the potheads with their silliness never really frightened me either, but these goddamn screwheads, they terrify me. And the poor doomed — the young, and the silly, the honest, the weak, the Italians — they’re doomed, they’re lost, they’re helpless, they’re somebody else’s meal, they’re like pigs in the wilderness.”
I’m not sure why, maybe it’s only because Seth Godin said exactly what I’ve been thinking, but I’m encouraged.
I hope you are, too.
Roy H. Williams