Let’s Talk About Irrational Fear in the Age of Trump and Alternative facts
As the song goes in Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes,” and it’s true. Every time I think a racist thought, I have a little conversation with myself that goes a bit like this — “you’re being irrational, not to mention a horrible person,” and I give myself a bit of a time to review why I think this way and address my impulse then and there. I address the root of my unfounded fears, and approach my political viewpoints and actions based on reality, not irrational fear. Unfortunately, America seems to have lost its value of logic.
I’ve always been fond of marketing — maybe that’s why I went into the field. Good marketing makes life easier because you don’t have to think for yourself. Great marketing makes you think you’re thinking for yourself, but really you’re not. — As a child, I’d be the first to run out to the mailbox with excitement to get whatever catalog came that day and devour its pages. I loved the feeling of being sold to, given something to believe in. When it came time to plan our family Disney World trip at the age of 10, I must have watched the promotional video about their many hotels dozens of times. I was transfixed. I loved being marketed to by great marketing. It gives you this incredible sense of control which is a complete illusion. And, all we want as humans is to feel in control — of our lives, our security and our destinies.
What does marketing have to with racism?
Marketing has everything to do with racism. The marketing of fear, something facist dictators are amazingly good at. Trump may not be a facist, but he has admittedly studied the marketing of facist leaders. He lives in a world of “alternative facts,” which, can only be defined as “lies or selective usage of truth without the whole story which suit the message you’re trying to sell at any given moment.” In other words, Alternative Facts is simply (and horrifyingly) facist marketing billed as truth.
This week, Trump signed executive orders to ban all immigration from 7 Muslim Countries (but to legalize Christian refugees from these countries to immigrate and allow immigration from any Muslim country where Trump does business), to build a $2B border wall separating Mexico from the US, and to begin mass deportations of undocumented immigrants from the country.
Plenty of people in the country are cheering these moves, as they were core promises of the Trump campaign.
Let’s talk about fear and our hunger for a false sense of control.
It’s much easier to blame an entire group of people than to understand the reality of what is going on based on statistics. It gives us that coveted sense of control. The world is a fucking scary place. For starters, we all die. Yes, we are mere mortals and alive for a blip of time in forever. The leading cause of death is heart disease, followed by cancer, followed by chronic lower respiratory diseases. We will die. Our friends will die. Our kids will die.
Ok, feeling good and in control now?
Terrorism by Muslims makes up one-third of 1 percent of all murders in the US. “The 54 fatalities caused by Muslim-American extremists in 2016 brought the total since 9/11 to 123. More than 240,000 Americans were murdered over the same period.”
While 239,946 people were murdered in 2016 by people who are not Muslim extremists, we are basising a global policy on 54 deaths. This is not to minimize the value of those lives that were lost, but take a step back to consider reality vs marketing in our fears and our actions as a country.
This post was inspired after a friend of mine on Facebook asked if anyone she knows thinks a Muslim ban is a good idea because “exclusion is not congruent with anything [she’s] ever been taught.” I shared that the racist (scared, wanting to be in control) part of my brain is terrified of terrorism. I want to feel in control of my safety therefore a part of me intuitively wants to avoid allowing people in the US who may drive a truck into a crowd of people. Trump’s rise to power is built on this type of fear. It is irrational — you are far more likely to die from many other causes compared to terrorism (many of which are preventable), yet banning Muslims is what we’re focused on.
How likely are you to die by a terrorist attack vs other causes?
This ATTN article shares “The Truth about Terrorism the Media Won’t Tell You.”
1 in 3.5 million chance of being killed by terrorism.
What’s more likely?
1 in 1.5 million chance of being killed by a home appliance.
1 in 950,000 chance of drowning in a bathtub.
1 in 8,200 chance of being killed in a traffic accident.
1 in 540 chance of being killed by cancer.
“Terrorism Is A Marketing Campaign That’s Uniquely Successful”
Sixty-four percent of Americans believe it is more important to focus on preventing terrorism than preventing gun violence, according to a Huffington Post YouGov survey from December 2015. This is despite the fact that tens-of-thousands of people are killed by guns every year (the most recently reported annual number was 32,251 in 2011, according to CDC data).
Many of the same people who want to ban Muslims from entering the country do not want to address safety concerns with gun ownership, or home appliances for that matter. It’s much easier to fear and collectively ban a group of people from legally immigrating to our country than it is to allow yourself to review the facts — the real facts — and think.
Instead, Trump won the election largely due to playing on fear. In June after the Orlando nightclub attack, 50% of voters polled supported a ban on Muslim immigration, up 22 points from May 31 before the attack.
Perhaps if this nutjob hadn’t shot up this nightclub, Trump wouldn’t have won the election. Americans right now are clinging to wanting an illusion of security, thus the easiest way to do this is to ban all Muslims from entering the US. However, this does not make the US more secure or stop mass murders in our country.
If we look at the facts, time and again we see that we are disporportionalty fearing people from one religion for this false sense of security, when we are ignoring the vast causes of murder and death. Why? Because it’s easier to pretend we have control of things versus acknowledge that life is fucking terrifying and we have a lot of work to do in order to make ourselves and our families “secure.”
Clearly, there are more mass shootings (by far) by non Islamic terrorists, but we focus on combating this tiny piece because it’s easier to grasp, compartmentalize, and market as part of “Making America Great Again.”
Fighting Radical American Fear
We should be terrified not of Radical Islam but of Radical American Fear and and a government who creates policy based on how good it plays in their marketing materials — to ultimately give them more power and wealth.
There is more to say on this topic, and I will continue to confront irrational fears, “alternative facts” and racism which gives facists their rise to power. I’ll leave you with a post from this week by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, which speaks to our need to support immigration and put our focus on solving for the real problems we have in our society.
My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla’s parents were refugees from China and Vietnam. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and we should be proud of that.
Like many of you, I’m concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.
We need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat. Expanding the focus of law enforcement beyond people who are real threats would make all Americans less safe by diverting resources, while millions of undocumented folks who don’t pose a threat will live in fear of deportation.
We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help. That’s who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla’s family wouldn’t be here today.
That said, I was glad to hear President Trump say he’s going to “work something out” for Dreamers — immigrants who were brought to this country at a young age by their parents. Right now, 750,000 Dreamers benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows them to live and work legally in the US. I hope the President and his team keep these protections in place, and over the next few weeks I’ll be working with our team at FWD.us to find ways we can help.
I’m also glad the President believes our country should continue to benefit from “people of great talent coming into the country.”
These issues are personal for me even beyond my family. A few years ago, I taught a class at a local middle school where some of my best students were undocumented. They are our future too. We are a nation of immigrants, and we all benefit when the best and brightest from around the world can live, work and contribute here. I hope we find the courage and compassion to bring people together and make this world a better place for everyone. — Mark Zuckerberg, 1/27/17