I was listening to some sound bytes from inaugural day protest speeches around the country, and one of the themes which a lot of speakers seemed to be hitting on was that GWB either gets people to support him or got them to reelect him through playing to their fears. Their thesis seems to be that the War on Terror and the war in Iraq are just ways of scaring the American people into supporting his administration and policies they would not support if they weren’t so terribly scared of what would happen to them without his protection.
Apparently these people are listening to a different GWB or at least hearing a different message than I am. Spreading fear is a very negative thing, and as far as I can tell from his public statements, GWB hits a relentlessly positive note in his speeches and in his policy proposals. Rather than running and hiding in fear his approach seems to be to confront enemies directly and show them we are not afraid. You don’t take the war to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq if they scare you. You do that if their actions outrage you and you want to put an end to their monstrous crimes. If the country has problems and you try to fix them that’s not acting out of fear, that’s taking positive initiative to change things for the better.
I know I’m not afraid because GWB is president or because of anything he says. The fact that he has plans and knows what he wants to do and is confident in his initiatives reinforces my feeling of progress and positivism. I’m not worried about a terrorist attack here in my fortified compound in rural Texas, and I’m not any more concerned when I fly to visit relatives in the northeast or walk the streets of a major city. As I see it the terrorists are being kept too busy elsewhere to come over here and cause me any trouble.
So if fearmongering clearly isn’t part of the War on Terror, where is it? Perhaps it’s in Social Security reform. Maybe I’m supposed to be afraid that I might have a chance to get a decent return on at least a small portion of the money the government takes from me every year? Or perhaps the fearmongering is in tax reform? I know, I should quiver in terror at paying less in taxes and being taxed more fairly. But actually it seems like in these areas of policy initiatives GWB is offering us a pretty positive message of reform and forward movement. I guess some people fear change, but when things aren’t working right or when they’re unfair they aren’t going to get fixed without change.
It seems to me that if there’s anyone feeding on fear like some sort of vampire, it’s the extremists in the political opposition. They keep their careers going by feeding their gullible audience on fear of the president and loony conspiracy theories and a relentless message of pessimism and negativity. With no positive agenda to offer all they have left is trying to make people afraid of the programs and policies of the administration and when there’s no reason for fear they’ll make one up, spin fantastic tales of worst case scenarios and tell outright lies. They do whatever it takes to paint the blackest possible picture and bind their supporters to them with unreasoning bonds of paranoia. They tell people that any change means disaster and that those who want to implement change are doing it for evil reasons and must be feared.
They’ve learned that fear works. People who are afraid don’t think. They just look for someone to blame and for someone to save them. Such people are easily led and unthinkingly loyal. Political opportunists need people like that desperately because they’re afraid too. They fear losing power and status and control and as they see it slipping away they feed the fires of fear and make the lies bigger and the boogeymen more horrific. Anything to keep the easily intimidated in thrall, because fear gets them votes and votes keep them in power.