Fear Is the Biggest Threat to Our Democracy

Dear Readers, 

Fear is a huge problem in the United States, and it’s only getting worse as our society frequently smells of creeping authoritarianism. All of us experience the consequences of living in fear-based society, we see it when people don't stand up for themselves, are too afraid to reach out to strangers, or when we turn off the TV in disgust.

I’m writing to ask your support for AlterNet’s critical new initiative to push back against destructive fear-mongering. Can you make a contribution to AlterNet right now? 

Click here to donate now.

Two Kinds of Fears: One Fake, the Other Real

Fear is a big problem for two reasons. First, propaganda and disinformation are used by conservatives and the media to scare people and generate anxiety. The result is that many people are fearful of the wrong things, which makes our society ripe for militarism, spying, and denying people basic rights – while people clamor for more guns.

On the other hand, there are many millions of people who are afraid for very real reasons. These include bad policies and messed-up priorities resulting in half the country living on the economic margins or in poverty; widespread PTSD from our wars; and massive militarization of local police departments who use their equipment, gear and racist attitudes to treat citizens as if they were terrorists.

These are real and valid fears. But they tend to be the ones politicians and the wealthy elites deny or ignore.

The Culture of Fear

People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. Fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid —very afraid.

Americans are endlessly bombarded with media messages that are deceitful or exaggerated – fake threats about crime, drugs, terrorists and diseases. Television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life.

Yet the crime rate is actually on the decline. In fact, you have more of a chance of being hit by lightening than killed by a terrorist.

Fear, along with militarism, inequality, and criminalization, are the biggest threats to our democracy. Going forward, AlterNet is emphasizing the emotionality of politics – race, violence, gender and trauma – all which are highly influenced by  the culture of fear.

Our Coverage

AlterNet has initiated our fear coverage with a flurry of articles, which is a good start​. But there is so much more to do. We need your help to move forward over the weeks and months ahead. Please make a contribution today. 

Everyone who makes a financial contribution* to our annual spring fundraising campaign will receive our new e-book, Fear in America: The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy. 

Thanks for reading,

Don Hazen

Executive Editor, AlterNet.org

P.S. Some of the most popular articles in our fear coverage includes:

How Americans Are Brainwashed to Fear Exactly the Wrong Things

Social Panics That Gripped the Nation, Were Totally False, and Did Horrible Lasting Damage

10 Things Black People Fear That White People Don't (Or Don't Nearly as Much)

P.P.S. For contributors: We will email you to link to the ebook as soon as it is finished... within 10 days for sure.

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