Friday, September 26, 2008

Media and Fear Mongering

Friday Night Mr. Red Peanut Bank will return next week. Meanwhile....

I read Narrative Techniques of Fear Mongering by Barry Glassner for my media class and thought I would share some of it with you. Much of it has to do with info you’re already aware of. This would include that “politician sell themselves to voters, TV and print newsmagazines sell themselves to viewers and readers, advocacy groups sell memberships, quacks sell treatments, lawyers sell class-action lawsuits, and corporations sell consumer products.” This we already know. BTW, everything in quotes will have come directly from the article.

You will even recongnize the techniques fear mongerers use: repetition, the depiction of isolated incidents as trends, and misdirection. We see this regularly. This is especially noted repeatedly on the Daily Show were we see clips of how FOX News along with other news stations and the administration repeat certain phrases that we know are lies to misdirect us.

Turns out that in the 1990’s the murder rate actually went down 20%, but newscasts increased the stories by 600% leaving us with an impression that the murder rate had increased.

Another example, also during the 1990’s, is that both Time and US News and World Report had headlines how teenagers were “time bombs.” This was really a time “in which violence-related deaths in the nation’s schools actually hit a record low: 19 deaths out of 54 million children.”

Remember the child kidnapping scare of the 1980’s? I do. That’s when my daughters were very young. Turns out “police agencies were reporting fewer cases of stranger kidnapping than in previous years.” But the ones that were highlighted were reported as “trends” and “epidemic” by reporters by using a few isolated incidents.

Glassner explains these techniques distract us away from real issues. Billions of tax dollars are wasted by creating legislation that isn’t needed because of public outcry from the success of the fear mongering. This money could be better used to contribute to society in areas of education, infrastructure, and health care.

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