Who Benefits From Fear?
I grew up being told that the Soviet Union was something to fear.
I grew up being told by the government, by movies, by television, by the news media that I should just cower in fear of the Soviet Union attacking the United States and making the world a Communist Gulag and that I would lose my freedoms and my family and everything I held dear. I was gonna be a Wolverine, like Patrick Swayze, and defend my country from the Russian invaders (which, in the remake became the Chinese invaders).
I also grew up being told that if I had pimples, I'd never get laid.
And that killer bees were coming to the U.S. in giant clouds of angry bee-death.
Nuclear power plants were absolutely going to meltdown.
Escalators will chew your babies up.
Coffee is bad for you... um, then good for you... then, fuck it, bad for you and now it's good for you...
It wasn't until April 20, 1995 that I began to see the cracks behind the pronouncements of fear. A terrorist — most likely a Middle Eastern terrorist, they said — had blown up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. It fit the narrative. Arnold had battled Middle Eastern terrorists in True Lies, after all, and when it turned out to be a white American guy who blew the building up, I was as surprised as anyone.
Why would so many intelligent, thoughtful people jump to that completely wrong conclusion? The easy, kneejerk reaction is that anyone — everyone who jumped to that conclusion without facts or evidence were racist fuckclods. But I'm not buying the easy, kneejerk, nor did I then. There was a narrative in place that made the conclusion foregone. Like the narrative that young black men are naturally dangerous, even though more mayhem, crime and violence is proliferated by young white men by a huge margin. Who wanted us to leap to that conclusion? And who would benefit from it had it been someone brown rather than white?
Who would benefit?
I thought back. If I was afraid that zits would prevent me from dipping my wick then the people that benefited from my fear were those telling me to be afraid. Because they were selling shit that prevented acne. If I paid their fee, I would have the garlic to ward off the vampire of Adolescent Crater Face and, thus, the girls would line up to pleasure me.
If I believed that Y2K would shut down the country and set us back to the Stone Ages, the people promoting that fear benefited because they were selling bottled water and cyber-security and the illusion of safety from the Boogie Man that they created. I knew people who spent thousands of dollars preparing for the inevitable collapse of all of our computers only to feel completely duped on January 1, 2000.
If I believed that the asshats who flew planes into the World Trade Center were criminal masterminds and that al Qaeda was financed by a criminal genius — like the ones James Bond had to outwit — then the organizations that benefit from that belief are the ones that make the planes, the tanks, the drones, the bombs because they are selling our salvation from the monsters. What we know now is that al Qaeda is less an organization than an idea and that the criminal mastermind was hiding in a shack without even color TV.
Yet, as a country of supposedly free thinking individuals, many don't learn from any of this. When two white guys (and they were fucking WHITE GUYS) bombed the marathon in Boston, the first reports were that they were "dark-skinned." As hackers in China (because it ain't just the Russkies, folks...) fuck around with our cyber space, we grow in fear that the country whose economy is rooted in our rampant consumption will destroy that economy by "shutting down the country and setting us back to the Stone Ages."
The Russians are going to hack us again and destroy democracy.
Trump is going to destroy democracy.
Nazism is coming back into vogue and will destroy democracy.
I'm grown up now (for the most part). I am now more frequently suspicious of anyone crying that the sky is falling (or might fall if we do this or don't do that). Who benefits from the hysteria? If the organization creating the hype is selling the solution and lining their pockets when we buy it, I'm inclined to think that the Monster Under the Bed is a load of crap.