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Any of you who have followed my work know that I am always looking for re-framing of the nature and role of Fear in history (histories). One of my favorite quotes in this regard, is one written by a political history scholar, Corey Robin (2004) [1]. I am always looking to shift focus on "fear" and put critical analysis on how we create knowledge about Fear. One of the main reasons for this shift is to try to get the 'talk about fear' into the public sphere and not so restricted, as it is, in the private domain (e.g., fear is in my body or mind, or fear is in my genes, or fear is in my problems and thus made for only my counselor or therapist or intimate others). I want to see Fear as part of regular public discourse, including public policy. More and more, slowly, I am finding others who are seeing this is an essential move if we are to ever adequately deal with the Fear Problem of evolution, history, and development itself. 

Robin, among a few others, have acknowledged that "fear" may be (in part) treated as a primal and powerful emotion, feeling, reaction to threat, etc. And, yet, to my delight, they are working to expand that imaginary intellectually so as to expand the conception of Fear in much broader and historical, sociopolitical contexts. Robin (2004) wrote,

"Fear arrives, as it did on 9/11, wrapped in layers of intellectual assumption, some woven centuries ago, that fashion our perception of and responses to it. As an item of public discussion, fear takes its shape from political and cultural elites [primarily], who take their cues from previous elites. Political fear, in other words, has a history, and to a surprising degree, it is a history of ideas. Knowing that history, we can see how our ideas have changed or not--enabling us to better assess [individually and collectively] our own ideas and change them if necessary." (p. 28).

I cannot think of a more worthwhile task on this planet than to critically assess and change our ideas about Fear. Thank you Dr. Corey Robin!

Note:

1. Robin, C. (2004). Fear: The history of a political idea. NY: Oxford University Press.

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If you haven't seen it already, I recommend watching the 70 min. interview of Dr. Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor at MIT, author of over 100 books, and critic--go to Democracy Now, Apr. 4, 2017. I have been following Chomsky's work for decades, off and on. He has written often about the "culture of fear" in various countries and the problems with it in terms of undermining civil societies.

In this latest interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, Amy introduces a question from the viewers as she introduces it as a question about "Trump exploiting fear" and Chomsky answers (a repetitive analysis I have heard him say this several times over the past decade about America):

"[T]his is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It's also the safest country in the world. It's very easy to terrify people [here]."

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Let me say a few brief comments about this statement/observation. To say the least, I agree with Chomsky on the Fear Problem in the USA, and not that I agree America is the most "frightened country" but it is at least right up there in the top of them in the world, especially countries that are under dictatorships, I'd say they are more frightened. But one can't measure this so easily and no data is presented by Chomsky, only some 88 yrs of observations of being an American, and that counts! He's an astute and brilliant social critic of our times. His voice ought to be taken seriously. Yet, so disappointing amongst all his fans and they must be millions around the world, I do not hear any concentrated effort or advocacy of how to handle the Fear Problem, not even from Chomsky himself in terms of fear management/education strategies. That's what tends to gut his emphasis on America as "the most frightened country in the world." You can say this, and it may be plausible, as I say, I agree more or less, yet what is there to do about it directly. I mean to go to the source. Chomsky's general solution is just to have a more rational and civil democracy that works well, and the fear ought to decline. That's pretty much the operating assumption. It's no doubt partially true. However, my 28 years researching the Fear Problem (and "culture of fear" specifically) tells me that this will not be a solution, and it also will not happen without some major intervention (e.g., 'fear' vaccine) to turn America around in another direction away from this chronic frightened state--kind of like a general anxiety disorder on the scale of a whole country. That is pretty much Chomsky's diagnosis. I don't disagree basically and other critics of the "culture of fear" phenomenon has said as much for decades, e.g., the sociologist Barry Glassner amongst the more popular authors.

I have written about Chomsky a year ago. Fisher, R. M. (2016). In defense of fearism: The case of Noam Chomsky. Technical Paper No. 58. Carbondale, IL: In                    Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. I argued he would in all likelihood support the philosophy of fearism (at least my own theory of fearism)--because toxic fearism is like terrorism but works in the more subtle infrastructures of societies to create this chronically frightened (anxious) state, where as Chomsky says, it becomes "very easy to terrify people." So true. I have lived in the USA for 9 years and I feel it and see it among Americans. Now, I have gone out to make myself present here (Carbondale, IL) and reached out to many activist groups, to clergy to political leaders to non-profit organizations, to school system leaders, etc. And they have little to no interest in the Fear Problem, even when they sort of agree with me it is a big problem in the USA. This I have found empirically disturbing to see how they will not, on the whole, or in small groups, focus on the root of all the rest of their problems that makes them so susceptible to being "very easy to terrify." It is like they are so terrified as the 'normal' condition they also are so arrogant that they are "fine" and that they already know how to solve their social problems, etc. They must be in a state of denial and psychic numbing, as far as I can tell. Even Chomsky, will say the core of the problem is fear but he offers no other analysis, or insufficient analysis as I point out in my Technical Paper No. 58. And, I have always said, to Americans I meet and who are so quick to reject or just ignore my efforts to help them, that sure maybe you don't want to be a "connoisseur of fear" (as Four Arrows and Sam Keen and myself suggest) but could you at least consult with people like me, a fearologist, so that you get that expertise to help? No, they do not. I can tell you in all these years, they do not ask for it. This is the real Fear Problem, is when you know you are operating out of so much fear (and thank you Chomsky for calling it out), and you don't do anything substantially different to change it.

All I can say, is that Americans didn't get here over night. It has been part of their European history coming to America, part of their slave trade to build this country--all points that Chomsky has pointed to historically, as have others. The American "culture of fear" or "politics of fear" (e.g., Corey Robin's analysis) has a long intricate history that must be understood and taught in our school systems, and generally it is not, and only as so partial and then with no follow up in terms of teaching fear management/education in the radical ways I have suggested for nearly 3 decades. So, Four Arrows has said it recently in our work together that the Indigenous Peoples of the world, practicing the 'old ways' have a worldview where they are taught not to fear fear itself. This has never really been part of the non-Indigenous or Dominant worldview on the planet.

I'll leave this commentary with the comment that Chomsky threw into his interview (and the quote above): "It's the safest country in the world." Too bad he didn't give statistics for this, and too bad Amy didn't ask him about this. Let me explain where it is coming from, as far as I can tell, because when you read the quote as a whole it is so paradoxical and ironic, that the most frightened country is the most safest in the world, according to Chomsky. Many of the culture of fear theorists, and critics have said the same things (Glassner, Frank Furedi, Gavin DeBecker, etc.). So what is going on here? The argument of these  critics is that America has created the "safest" society but yet it is the most "frightened"--and, there is a real 'disconnect.' One indicator these critics give is that the rates of crime have gone done for decades but on surveys the population as a whole keeps saying that they have a higher "fear of crime." All the critics pin this problem down on how media creates this fear by exaggeration and repetition on TV and other sources of mass media, and they do so to "win" viewers to their programs because nothing gets attention like fear--as they say. It is part of the "economy of attention" as some scholars have called it. It is part of the "culture of fear"--and then, when you get government leaders, activists, and corporations using this economy of attention--that is, economy of fear to manipulate people's opinions--then, fear keeps going up, no matter even if the society is relatively safe and secure.

I agree with most of this "culture of fear" and "politics of fear" analysis to explain the 'disconnect.' It is a very troubling psychic and social state going on, and I have witnessed it here in the last 9 years. But more disturbing to me, is how Americans are so arrogant, and ignore-ant, as a whole, to actually attend to this Fear Problem 'disconnect.' I also am a critic that you can't use simple statistics on "safe" and "secure" to measure a society that is living in a post-traumatic condition and culture of fear as ongoing chronic context. There is always, says, Brian Massumi the cultural critic, a "low-grade fear" that isn't even normal anxiety or fear--it is like another phenomena we haven't easily been able to "name" or study. I have called it toxic fearism.

It would be great if someday, Chomsky and others like him, and the culture of fear critics will take my work seriously and engage with me, instead of deny we need a much better fear management/education that is systematic in all curricula.

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