America has largely become a society of fear. We live in a constant state of worry about terrorism, foodborne illnesses, wars, other people – these are all things we are afraid of. Many people think our fears are based on what others tell us to fear, and that our fears are really unfounded or not based in fact. This paper will discuss three separate essays and the construction of argument in each, “The Market in Fear,” by Frank Furedi, “Is the World Becoming More Peaceful?” by Paul Rogers, and an article by David G. Myers entitled, “Do We Fear the Right Things?”
Frank Furedi, author of “The Market in Fear” is a sociology professor who does nothing but study human responses. He decided to focus his research and studies on fear and its place in society. Furedi thinks our society has become entirely fear-based, and he breaks this down into four main ways this has happened. First, he says there is a market for fear. Products do not sell if no one buys them, and then they eventually get off the market. Fear has continued to grow because people keep “buying” it. He states there are “fear entrepreneurs” who market different propaganda about things we should be afraid of; capitalizing on specific events such as natural disasters, or on general fears such as public health. Furedi gives a brief history of fear, explaining that fear used to go along with terms like ‘reverence’ but now fear equates with terror. Next, Furedi says we are a market in fear. Since we are already so fearful, it is not hard to get us riled up about the next thing. We tend to focus on the negative and get scared just to be scared. Lastly, there is a politicization of fear. Conscious efforts are made by politicians to scare people about the opposition and make them feel safe in a group with a certain elected official. Furedi says we need to be more aware of ourselves and focus on our positive human attributes, such as resiliency, instead of focusing on our negatives, or vulnerabilities (Lamm & Everett, 2007). Furedi is someone who studies fear for a living. He constructed a well-thought-out argument but it is important to keep in mind that he can also take evidence of the fear in society and focus on the negative, much as he states his subjects do.
Paul Rogers, author of, “Is the World Becoming More Peaceful?” is another professor who has doubts about the security of the world, but in a different way. He is a supporter of peaceful ends to conflict, and he raises his doubts about whether the world is becoming a more peaceful place in the wake of the September 11 attacks. His essay was written in 2005, but it is a poignant piece even today, just after the ten-year anniversary of those attacks. Rogers thinks Americans are creating more instability in the world because of the unrest we are a part of in the Middle East. By fighting there, he feels we are creating the instability and fear that we are afraid of. His argument is basically that it is ridiculous to think we can create peace through war. He also states that we are operating through fear if we think that we really need to use so much violence to get our point across. Rogers is a clear advocate for one side, the side of peace, so he is going to construct an argument based on that. He says that we perceive a world of increasing violence because that is what we are shown in the media, which is along the same lines as what Furedi says in his argument.
David G. Myers also constructs an argument about fear in his article, “Do We Fear the Right Things?” He thinks we do not. He is much like Furedi and Rogers in that he believes we fear what the media sensationalizes rather than what is really likely. An example he gives is about flying. Many Americans are terrified of flying, especially after the attacks of September 11th, when really it is far more likely to die in a car crash. He thinks we have more fear of the things we cannot control, and the things which are put on the news. Even though more people die from gun-related injuries or the flu each year, we are still fearful of rare things like shark attacks because that is what is portrayed in the media or on film. Myers’ argument is that we fear the wrong things, and we should be more careful what we let ourselves be afraid of. We need to check our fears against the facts.
Each of the authors represented has their own method of gathering evidence and constructing and argument, but the message is the same. Americans have become so fear-based that we are forgetting to check our sources and we should be careful not to jump from one fear bandwagon to the next. If we are not careful, we will continue to let fear rule us and our decisions individually and as a whole.