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John Chuckman


A study by University College London (UCL) PhD student has uncovered that the fear of crime is perpetuated by the opinion of others and in most cases doesn’t correlate to the actual likelihood of experiencing crime.

Well, it is interesting to see another angle of analysis taken on this, but the finding is definitely not new.

I noted decades ago that people, especially in America, develop inordinate fears of crime from local news on television which almost always seeks out sensational items to feature, sensational items about violence or danger always having the effect of increasing your viewing audience and the intensity of its level of involvement.

News on what local city council is doing about rubbish collection, genuine local news, just does not affect ratings and advertising rates the same way.

If there is nothing local of a sensational nature to broadcast, then something is selected from another place, either a neighboring town or city or a more distant place.

The net result is a steady drizzle of such stories into the living rooms of otherwise comfortable and safe middle-class people.

In an extremely safe – judging by the actual stats – small-size city in the United States, I heard some ridiculous statements at times, as from a couple in a nice, safe neighborhood who felt they had to accompany their grandchildren to the playground about two blocks away.

It was ridiculous, but it was extremely serious for those people. The only explanation was paranoid feelings induced from local television news broadcasts, and of course these feeling reinforce each other among neighbors.

I think it is also true that some individuals are more susceptible to paranoid and fearful suggestions, just as some people are more easily hypnotized than others or more susceptible to various superstitious appeals.

As it happens, the psychological mechanisms are exactly the same for so-called terror. I say “so-called” because the distinction between violent crime and terror is one that largely cannot be made. It’s just that adding the word “terror” somehow makes violence, in the eyes of many ordinary people, “doubleplus” frightening.

Terror for most people is virtually non-existent. The statistics tell us clearly that, in the scheme of things with innumerable violent crimes and terrible events, it is an extremely rare thing to be hurt by terror. But people hear about it all the time on news broadcasts, constantly having their fears reinforced.

Governments understand this and deliberately use the phenomenon for their own purposes. There is no question that America’s government exploits fear of terror constantly to buoy up support for its wars in the Middle East, wars which in fact have nothing to do with fighting terror.

Indeed, people might well ask how it even could be that you can fight against a method or a concept, such as terror, with real guns and bombs, but that basic question has long been lost in all the smoke and noise of numerous real wars whose targets are real people and real possessions, not the thoughts or plots of demons.

America’s Middle East wars actually use covertly-organized mercenary forces – rag-tag armies of people spouting all kinds of nonsense to disguise their purpose – organized to resemble what terrorists might be expected to resemble, to get their way in places like Syria or Libya. Of course, those wars also generate the periodic backlashes of vengeance or anger which are mislabeled “international terror.”

The ugly publicity from all of it – whether the work of mercenaries like ISIS or Al-Nusra employed by America and Israel and Saudi Arabia in Syria or the periodic outbursts of angry young men trying to strike back in places like London or Paris – is used as kindling to feed the fires, to keep the wars going, to keep the mood hard for “fighting terror.”

It’s a clever but extremely evil game of power.

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