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"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment." --Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself…and, of course, the Boogieman." --Pat Paulsen, comedian
Some things are not the best to cultivate. Take for instance, misplaced, inordinate fears that are broadcast across the airwaves everyday--bear attacks, flesh-eating bacteria, work-place violence. The likelihood of any of these terrors happening is exponentially lower than getting hit by lightening. And alarmist claims about rages are not supported by hard data, “but on often poignant anecdotes and a sick-society narrative that amplifies their significance,” writes sociologist Barry Glassner. And what do we harvest when we sow misplaced fear in our social and individual consciousness? “Americans,” Glassner says, “have remained inordinately fearful of unlikely dangers. But this culture of fear has had more effects than stoking Americans’ anxieties. It has helped to foster in our public discourse an approach to social problems that looks for answers in individuals’ biology and psychology rather than in underlying societal conditions.” For example, stoking parental fear that an anonymous sexual predator lurks around every schoolyard is a scare story that distracts our attention from the reality that most sexual abuse happens within a child’s family/friends circle. And if you dig deep, Glassner has found you will find a wide array of groups that benefit from promoting such fears, from businesses, to the media, to religious organizations, to current political regimes. Polymath Marie Curie said, “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” So join Professor Glassner in conversation that may include not only a piece of pizza but also some peace of mind.
Barry Glassner, Professor of Sociology & Former President at Lewis & Clark College
Barry Glassner is a professor of sociology and former president at Lewis & Clark College and was previously professor of sociology and executive vice provost at the University of Southern California. He has received a Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, a visiting fellowship at Oxford University and “best book” designations from the Los Angeles Times book review, CHOICE magazine, and Knight Ridder newspapers. His research specialities include cultural sociology, qualitative methods, and media studies. Glassner has authored or co-authored nine books, including The Culture of Fear, which discussed the culture of fear phenomenon.