Why Do Americans Panic So Easily?

I’ll tell you why…

Because we have a huge contingent of the population that is constantly sitting in front of a news media feed from their television, smart phone, or other device… and that feed, for the last 15 years, has been reinforcing the the same message over and over and over again — that we should be afraid. Afraid of terrorists bombing planes, airports… afraid of Zika, which for the VAST majority of people who get it, will be nothing worse than a flu bug… afraid of dark-skinned people… afraid of Muslims… you name it. We are the Fear Nation now.

The news media seems to think we should be so afraid as to not worry about what we recently found out about the NSA (or the Patriot Act years before that), that it’s all in the name of “protecting us” from vague, scary threats. They don’t subscribe to the fact that in an open country, a determined and resourceful person can hurt a lot of people if they choose to. Too much grey area there, too much thinking for oneself is required.

The message from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MSNBC, CNN, and others is crystal clear: we live in a dangerous world and bad things can befall you at any time. Watch out! Be Alert! Say Something if You See Something! Strictly speaking, the part about anything can befall us is true, but it’s badly taken out of context and the context is this: life has always been tenuous! You, Mr. MBA d-bag with the sports sedan and $800 suit? You think you’re “in control” of your life? You’re not. Not really. Neither is your trophy wife, neither will your perfect kids be in control. That’s the illusion that comes from living a sheltered life in a first world country.

What’s changed is that the news media has magnified all the risks because dramatic-sounding stories and emotional stories make them more money. And of course the politicians love this: scared people are way easier to sway than level-head, thinking people. But back to the media: when given a choice between telling a nuanced, level-headed story of how there is some added risk these days, but even so we have a much better chance of being killed driving home from work, or killed by cancer, or indeed a bolt of lightning, than we do of being gunned down or hijacked and killed on an airliner… they’re going to tell you the latter story. Because it’s scary. Because it makes you watch. It makes you talk on social media… which probably makes them more money.

Why the panic? Because we as a nation take our queues from the media and somehow we are now unable to simply detach ourselves from their bullshit and think for ourselves and when something makes a loud crashing noise or whatever, just take a deep breath, look around… and relax.

Get a grip, America. And turn off your damn televisions and smart phones for a few hours each night, OK?

It’s going to be O…K. ; )

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