Our Culture of Fear (and Violence)

As an English major, I read more books than I can recall. However, several influenced me and have remained in my thoughts. One such is Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner (link below). In it, Glassner describes how the media uses fear, perpetuating misplaced beliefs about what is dangerous.

By looking closely at the kinds of stories the media runs with, and how they perpetuate stereotypes and norms regarding what is or is not safe, I received, at the start of adulthood, a bit of skepticism when hearing what others would consider dangerous.

Case in point: recently, in conversation with friends, several women described their fears regarding traveling alone abroad. I found this odd given that in terms of places to fear, the USA is likelier far more violent than any of the countries they would visit.

Obviously, if one were to visit a country in the midst of a civil war or sectarian violence, this is an exception. And it’s seems the exception proving the rule. Other developed—and many developing—countries generally do not experience the degree or kinds of violence we are accustomed to witnessing here in the US. Unsurprisingly, there is data to back this claim.

According to the 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index (link below), the United States ranks 33rd in safety & security. According to The Legatum Institute’s Headline Findings for 2015, “[The United States] has the same level of political violence as Saudia Arabia.”

Is this a violent world? In many ways, yes. For Americans considering travel overseas, consider this: the chances of violent death or witnessing violence is often higher here than abroad. It’s ironic that the perception is that we are safer here. If my friends are inclined to fear, they should be afraid of what may happen to them here, not abroad.


  1. Glassner’s book, linked here, has since been updated and republished.
  2. Information regarding the data used for the Legatum Prosperity Index, and their full list of rankings, can be found on their web-site, linked here.

Originally published at scottvignola.info.