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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Thingsby Barry Glassner
Synopses & Reviews
In this eye-opening examination of a pathology that has swept the country, the noted sociologist Barry Glassner reveals why Americans are burdened with overblown fears. He exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our anxieties: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV newsmagazines that monger a new scare every week to garner ratings. A passionate and reassuring study, The Culture of Fear thoroughly debunks many of the predominant scares of our age. The author lays bare the frightening lies and half-truths told about: workplace violence, the Internet, airline safety, child abduction, gulf war syndrome, baby-killing mothers, suicidal teens and angry African Americans.
Whether by the promotion of dubious statistics about pseudo-problems like "road rage" and "husband abuse," or frightening stories about "middle-class junkies" and "depraved adolescent murderers," the peddlers of fear cost Americans dearly. Individually, we're weighed down with needless worries, and as a nation, we waste billions of dollars combating minor or non-existent dangers. All the while, we neglect real problems that we could solve if we put our minds to them.
Barry Glassner's book diagnoses a predominant pathology of our age and provides a rallying cry for a return to rationality in our personal lives and in our national sense of purpose. As such, The Culture of Fear offers a timely antidote that Americans cannot afford to pass up at the dawn of the new millenium.
"[F]ocuses on how public perceptions of risk are shaped....Glassner seeks a solution in collective action." Peter Huber, WQ: The Wilson Quarterly
"Mr Glassner, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, has written a workmanlike book with a good argument. Americans, he says, should confine their worries to the things that are truly amiss in their society: inequality, poverty, racism and — a brave try, this — too many guns. The money lavished on metal detectors in schools and safety features on aircraft would be better spent on school books or health care." The Economist
"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." Publishers Weekly
"A critical look at the baseless, harmful paranoia spread by our mass media. Glassner identifies the media as major villains in his eye-opening book, which depicts both periodical and TV journalists lusting for the audiences attracted by scare stories (following the dictum, 'if it bleeds, it leads')....One of the most important sociological books youll read this year, and certainly the most reassuring." Kirkus Reviews
Americans are more afraid than ever. Glassner looks carefully at the objects of our fear, from road rage” to diseases, to crime, finding that in most cases the threat presented is widely exaggerated. Glassner locates the source of these fears in media, corporations, and politicians who profit by raising and then exploiting our fears.
There has never been another era in modern history, even during wartime or the Great Depression, when so many people have feared so much. Three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today then they did twenty years ago. The Culture of Fear describes the high costs of living in a fear-ridden environment where realism has become rarer than doors without deadbolts.Why do we have so many fears these days? Are we living in exceptionally dangerous times? To watch the news, youd certainly think so, but Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. The Culture of Fear is an expose of 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 newsmagazines that monger 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.
Three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did 20 years ago. "The Culture of Fear" is about the high costs of living in such a fear-ridden environment where realism has become rarer than doors without deadbolts.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 211-257) and index.
About the Author
Barry Glassner is Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. He is the author of seven books, including Career Crash and Bodies. He has been quoted extensively or profiled in articles in dozens of newspapers and magazines. His own articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The London Review of Books.
Table of Contents
Dubious dangers on roadways and campuses : how fears are sold — Crime in the news : tall tales and overstated statistics — Youth at risk : faulty diagnoses and callous cures — Monster moms : on the art of misdirection — Black men : how to perpetuate prejudice without really trying — "Smack is back" : when presidents and the press collude, the scares never stop — Metaphoric illnesses : how not to criticize the establishment — Plane wrecks : small danger, big scare — Final thoughts : the Martians aren't coming.
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