Communicate to Foment Fear… Or to Maintain Calm

After an early morning run today i popped into my local coffee shop (sadly it’s a Repsol gas station.. but ok) and bought myself a coffee and a newspaper to practice some spanish.

la, la, la…. la, la, la i get to page 13 or so on the bottom left and i read that yesterday the police here in barcelona had arrested members of a suspected al qaeda cell who allegedly were falsifying documents for the terror network.

no wonder people seem calmer here. in the u.s., my god, this would have been a screaming front-page headline spooking the bejeebies out of everybody

i don’t know much (actually anything) about the relationship between the media and the government here — except that not that that long ago this place was a dictatorship, so i imagine a certain deference to power exists here amongst the press. i don’t know whether this is a deliberate keep-the-people-calm policy, or just a truly cultural attitutde that some stuff just isn’t worth getting superfreeked about.

it is, potentially, a bit concerning no? it wasn’t that long ago when terrorists bombed trains in madrid. and spain is kind of a symbolic patch of land for conservative islamists who would like to see the iberian pensinsula back under their control once again.

i don’t really know either what the true deal is in the states. is fear a deep-seated cultural fact? are the media there (mostly very large, publicly traded companies) in cahoots with the government where, pre-obama at least, fear-mongering sold votes and sold defense budget allocations. or is it the wheels of commerce that know that fear sells papers, webviews and tv ratings.

something to ponder

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  1. My mind wanders toward where you ponder in your entry’s conclusion. And methinks fear in the United States is indeed part of a mercantile process that is reified and commodified by social construction (e.g., through our media channels and how we communicate en masse to the masses for masses of money).

    Nuestra misa de hoy:the daily mass and weekly missive is a massaged message of flat-out fearmongering foment. Nothing communicates this to me more than returning from travel in hotel rooms, whether it be Texas or Oregon or Massachusetts, all places wherein the thing binding us all is MSNBC or Fox News. How much “Breaking News!” can one stomach before the lining breaks?

    All the news that’s fit for foment.

    You’re quite right about fear here in the States: we use fear first to make money, capitalizing as the media channels do on the ancient Hellenic formula of the goal of tragedy, namely instilling pity and fear in the audience. Sadly, while the Greeks used it for ritual to instruct and inspire, the U.S. media moguls push the stuff at us daily, scaring us into submission to party politics and a conservative resistance to change.

    Meanwhile, nothing entertains me more than watching the foolery and fearfests of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in these anonymous hotel rooms that bear that lingering smell of yet another sucker’s fear. I am enthralled, entranced and inspired by these peddlers of anger, fear and hate. Sadly I join the millions to watch train wrecks and wonder where the missing child is buried. But only in hotel rooms, where this type of television eases the anomie and solitude of the road. What about those watching daily? I admit I’m a sucker for the stuff when out on the road, and I argue that many fellow Americans are every night at home as well. We all want so badly to feel something, and that’s quite lucky for media entrepreneurs: they’re making out like bandits, profiting from our desire for damsels in distress.

    You are correct, sir: fear in the US is bought and sold in the marketplace, whether it be a new wave of slasher films or nightly news. Good old Guy Debord had it right with his appraisal in the _Society of the Spectacle_. He notes the “spectacle’s social function is the concrete manufacture of alienation.” All this anomie breeds fear and hate in us, and nowhere has this been manifested in capitalist production as in the good old US. And, by golly, it sells papers and products. We’re dying to see more of the killing fields, led like so many goats to the slaughter. Sheepishly I admit to buying into the con myself, especially when in hotel rooms, seeking companionship of human voice and finding myself scared and unable to sleep. Kaching! And that’s how they get you, employing the oldest trick in the book, namely creating new types of bogey men and monsters to keep us up late at night.

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