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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

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Glassner's book has a provocative title, and it's filled with well-researched numbers and a clear view of reality. It's also got a terse but powerful style that reads quickly, despite being packed full of statistics and meticulous research. As a result, Glassner is convincing when he points out that fear is a powerful force, oversold by our culture to point us at the wrong problems. It's also a salient point that misallocation of fear causing us to spend a ridiculous amount of resources trying to solve the wrong problems.

However, the book doesn't do a great job of pointing out alternatives. This ends up being "Look, this is a problem that exists!" book -- a fact that is unintentionally hilarious when compared to the thesis of the book. There's no concrete suggestions about how to combat this culture of fear. Should we be researching further into this phenomenon? Being more selective with our media consumption? Should Americans simply fearing fewer things or different things, or fear the same things but in different proportions? Is fear the mind-killer or what?

It doesn't help that the book was published one year too early, in 2000. The post-9/11 culture of fear is obsessed with different issues. The fears that the book covers are mostly domestic, and many of them feel somewhat quaint. Some of the book reads "Awww, I remember when that was a real fear we had as a nation!" We still naively fear the wrong things, but they're different wrong things than the book points out. It's not something that the author could have predicted, but it does certainly lessen the book's impact.

This post was crossposted from Goodreads. You can find the original at

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