Fear vs Optimism in Western Politics
I’ve been struggling with how to write this post. I am disenchanted with politicians who engage in hateful fear-mongering (to be clear: I’m talking specifically about racism and Islamophobia) in an attempt to get elected. Harper, Trump, Sarkozy, and others who choose this kind of politics are not fighting terrorism. They are not protecting us from anything. They are not going to save us or make us any safer. They are engaging in the politics of fear.
A politics of fear rests on the discourse of fear. The politics of fear serves as a conceptual linkage for power, propaganda, news and popular culture, and an array of intimidating symbols and experiences such as crime and terrorism. The politics of fear resides not in an immediate threat from an individual leader … but rather in the public discourse that characterizes social life as dangerous, fearful, and filled with actual or potential victims. This symbolic order invites protection, policing, and intervention to prevent further victimization. A public discourse of fear invites the politics of fear. It is not fear per se that is important in social life but rather how fear is defined and realized in everyday social interaction (Altheide, Terrorism and the Politics of Fear, 117).
Sound familiar? Niqab? Burkini? Build a wall? Brexit? Terrorists attempt to convince us that life is dangerous, that we ought to be fearful, and that any one, any where, any time faces death from a terror attack. Politicians of fear are essentially furthering the terrorist agenda. Now, I’m not saying ISIS isn’t a problem, or that they are incapable of either committing or inspiring terrorist acts. What I am saying is that ISIS isn’t the problem created by the politics of fear. Buying into a Manichean binary of terrorist/white is. Saying “look at those people. They are the ones who will kill your children and rape your partners. But I can save you,” is the problem.
It is the duty of government to do these things for their citizens. It is in the interest of government to do these things. Instead of suggesting that committing terrorist acts — and Donald Trump has argued that going after the families of terrorists, in essence, committing terrorist acts — is the solution, it’s time to engage in some hope.