Culture of fear

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Culture of fear (or climate of fear) is a term used by certain scholars, writers, journalists and politicians who believe that some in society incite fear in the general public to achieve political goals.

Fears are usually exaggerated or irrational in nature.[1][2] The term has also been used to describe irrational fear in other contexts, such as citizens fearing persons of different ethnic backgrounds, or neighborhood residents fearing retribution if they assist police in identifying criminals.[3]


Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argues that the use of the term War on Terror was intended to generate a culture of fear deliberately because it "obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue".[4]

Frank Furedi, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent and writer for Spiked magazine, points out that today's culture of fear did not begin with the collapse of the World Trade Center. Long before 11 September, he argues, public panics were widespread - on everything from GM crops to mobile phones, from global warming to foot-and-mouth disease. Like Durodié, Furedi argues that perceptions of risk, ideas about safety and controversies over health, the environment and technology have little to do with science or empirical evidence. Rather, they are shaped by cultural assumptions about human vulnerability. Furedi say that "we need a grown-up discussion about our post-11 September world, based on a reasoned evaluation of all the available evidence rather than on irrational fears for the future.[5]

British academics Gabe Mythen and Sandra Walklate, argue that following terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon, Madrid, and London, government agencies developed a discourse of "new terrorism" in a cultural climate of fear and uncertainty. UK researchers argued that this processes reduced notion of public safety and created the simplistic image of a non-white "terroristic other" that has negative consequences for ethnic minority groups in the UK.[6]

In his 2004 BBC documentary film series, The Power of Nightmares, subtitled The Rise of the Politics of Fear, the journalist Adam Curtis argues that politicians have used our fears to increase their power and control over society. Though he does not use the term "culture of fear", what Curtis describes in his film is a reflection of this concept. He looks at the American neo-conservative movement and its depiction of the threat first from the Soviet Union and then from radical Islamists.[7] Curtis insists there has been a largely illusory fear of terrorism in the west since the September 11 attacks and that politicians such as George W Bush and Tony Blair had stumbled on a new force to restore their power and authority; using the fear of an organised "web of evil" from which they could protect their people.[8] Curtis's film castigated the media, security forces and the Bush administration for expanding their power in this way.[8] The film features Bill Durodié, then Director of the International Centre for Security Analysis, and Senior Research Fellow in the International Policy Institute, King's College London, saying that to call this network an "invention" would be too strong a term, but he asserts that it probably does not exist and is largely a "(projection) of our own worst fears, and that what we see is a fantasy that's been created."[9]


Sorted upwards by date, most recent last.

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  1. ^ Zbigniew Brzezinskiwhile the true nature of the threat can't be established: it can be less it can be worse. (March 25, 2007). "Terrorized by 'War on Terror' How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-03. "The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America...." 
  2. ^ Pankaj Mishra (15 August 2009). "A culture of fear". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-12-03. "Is Europe about to be overrun by Muslims? A number of prominent European and American politicians and journalists seem to think so. The historian Niall Ferguson has predicted that "a youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonise - the term is not too strong - a senescent Europe". And according to Christopher Caldwell, an American columnist with the Financial Times, whom the Observer recently described as a "bracing, clear-eyed analyst of European pieties", Muslims are already "conquering Europe's cities, street by street". So what if Muslims account for only 3% to 4% of the EU's total population of 493 million?" 
  3. ^ Police urge Mattapan residents to fight culture of fear after shootings (October 20, 2010). "Police urge Mattapan residents to fight culture of fear after shootings". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-12-03. "Authorities urged Mattapan residents Tuesday night to fight against the culture of fear that kept their neighbors from coming forward with information about last month's deadly shootings." 
  4. ^ Post Store (25 March 2007). "Terrorized by 'War on Terror' by Brzezinski". Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  5. ^ Frank Furedi. "Epidemic of fear". Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  6. ^ Communicating the terrorist risk: Harnessing a culture of fear? Gabe Mythen Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, Sandra Walklate University of Liverpool, UK
  7. ^ "The Power of Nightmares: Your comments". BBC (London). 3 August 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Jeffries, Stuart (12 May 2005). "The film US TV networks dare not show". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  9. ^

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