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The bestselling book revealing why Americans are so fearful, and why we fear the wrong things-now updated for the age of Trump
In the age of Trump, our society is defined by fear. Indeed, three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did only a couple decades ago. But are we living in exceptionally perilous times? In his bestselling book The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as rates for both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV shows that create a new scare every week to garner ratings. Glassner spells out the prices we pay for social panics: the huge sums of money that go to waste on unnecessary programs and products as well as time and energy spent worrying about our fears.
All the while, we are distracted from the true threats, from climate change to worsening inequality. In this updated edition of a modern classic, Glassner examines the current panics over vaccination and "political correctness" and reveals why Donald Trump's fearmongering is so dangerously effective.
In a provocative report, Glassner (Career Crash, etc.) contends that Americans' worries about crime, drugs, child abuse and other issues have been blown out of proportion by a mass media that thrives on scares. Exposing fear-mongering in many quarters, this University of Southern California sociology professor argues that trendy issues like road rage, workplace violence, teenage suicide, "granny dumping" (abandonment of the elderly by callous relatives) and sex crimes via the Internet are "false crises" manufactured by inflated statistics and hype. Lambasting liberals as well as conservatives who allegedly blame teen moms for the nation's social ills, Glassner contends that teenage pregnancy is largely a response to the nation's economic and educational decline. He also believes that America's expensive campaign against illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana diverts attention from the far more serious problem of deaths from the abuse of legal drugs and physicians' gross negligence in prescribing them. The good news, he reports, is that airplane travel is safer than ever and that the incidence of child kidnapping has been wildly exaggerated. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has his own axes to grind: he calls Gulf War Syndrome a "metaphoric illness," tweaks the hypocrisy of "those who single out rap singers as specially sexist or violent" and labels the FDA's 1992 ban on silicone breast implants "a grand victory of anecdote over science." Some of his arguments are fresher than others; in any case, this antidote to paranoia is a guaranteed argument-starter.