Nothing to fear but fear itself

19Sep09

I usually enjoy TIME magazine, but this week I can’t stand to even look at the cover.

Time cover

For me, this Mad Man—as TIME has dubbed him—personifies the obnoxious, destructive rhetoric that’s derailing our culture.

TIME paints a colorful, complicated portrait of Glenn Beck. He’s affable, a hard worker, with a great sense of humor. Some of his quotes are almost conciliatory. But this is the one that stuck with me most:

I’m afraid. You should be afraid too.

In The Village, director M. Night Shyamalan shows us a community that lives in terror of the monsters that are said to prowl the woods.

The Village was sold as a horror film, but to me it was a deeply allegorical parable about how fear can be used to manipulate—and shape—an entire culture.

In The Village, the community’s culture was built around their collective fear. No one left the town. Everyone followed strict rules, to avoid provoking the monsters’ wrath.

In the end, it turned out that the monsters really did exist—but they weren’t what we’d expected.

And so it is with folks like Glenn Beck. By relentlessly preaching fear, they’re shaping our culture and our perception of the world.

There are monsters out there, alright—and serious problems too. But what monster was ever defeated with fear? What problem was ever solved by cowering, or finding someone to blame?

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt started his first term, the country was also wracked with fear. World War I had altered the global landscape, and we were in the throes of the Great Depression.

What did President Roosevelt say to his nation? It’s worth revisiting his inaugural address.




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