Altheide Terrorism and the Politics of Fear - Ch2 in Charon

Altheide Terrorism and the Politics of Fear - Ch2 in Charon...

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50 Terrorism and the Politics of Fear DAVID ALTHEIDE The Four Questions 1. What is the problem? 2. Is it a social problem? 3. What is its cause? 4. Does Altheide suggest ways to alleviate the problem? Topics Covered Politics of fear Social construction Fear Social control Socialization Mass media Popular culture Politicians of fear Propaganda T he politics of fear is paradoxical. The complex- ities are illustrated in various crime control efforts as well as military interventions discussed in this book. On the one hand, the policies, programs, and changes that occur are perceived as beneficial in the short run because they keep us safe, solve prob- lems, and prosecute—and kill—those who threaten us. On the other hand, public perceptions change over time as more people come to regard such policies as reckless, destructive, and serving the inter- est of the manipulators. Recall that excesses and egregious civil rights violations by the FBI and the CIA were made public; these agencies were reined in by congressional action. However, the collective memory seems to last about as long as the next crisis, when entertainment-oriented news media fan the flames of "emergency" and shut out the soothing language of context and perspective. The problem, then, is that we are all increasingly implicated as being manipulators. More of us enjoy the alleged safety and security that is credited to the formal agents of social control with whom we have entrusted more of our lives. Part of the challenge, then, is to recognize how publics are cultivated through the mass media to accept the ethic of control: problems can and should be solved by more invasive control. After a brief overview of how citizens become involved in reducing their own citizenship rights, I will suggest some ways to offset, if not over- come, the pervasive politics of fear. DEFINING THE POLITICS OF FEAR [T]he politics of fear refers to decision makers' promotion and use of audience beliefs and assump- tions about danger, risk, and fear in order to achieve certain goals. The politics of fear should correspond well with the amount of formal social control in any society. The source of fear may be an authority, God, or an internal or external SOURCE: From David Altheide, Terrorism and the Politics of Fear, permission. 538
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ARTICLE 50 TERRORISM AND THE POLITICS OF FEAR 539 enemy. Tracking the expanded control efforts over time can illustrate how the politics of fear has evolved in any social order. Moreover, behind most efforts to enact more control will be a series of events and accounts about "what should be done." Changes in public language and in the dis- course of fear will also accompany social control changes. However, as emphasized here, once such changes are enacted, they symbolically enshrine the politics of fear even when public perceptions about the specific source of that fear process may diminish. The politics of fear is exercised during times of
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Altheide Terrorism and the Politics of Fear - Ch2 in Charon...

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