Liberals Are Becoming Addicted To Fear, And It’s A Problem
The unhealthy collective compulsion toward fearmongering and exaggeration is crippling the left's ability to respond consciously to real issues.
My criticisms of the Democratic establishment used to get me accused of being a Putinist or a Kremlin operative on a daily basis. That all stopped on January 20th, which was when the establishment propaganda mill switched its emphasis from fearmongering about Russia to fearmongering about the new President.
In order to keep liberal Americans in a constant state of fear since the November election so as to avoid having to make any changes in the way it does business (which has indeed been the objective), the neoliberal/neocon establishment media was pounding the “Russian hacking” narrative into their skulls in daily fire-and-brimstone fearmongering updates until Trump’s inauguration. You don’t hear nearly as much about Russia now that Trump’s been sworn in, because until he became an actual government official taking actual government action, there was only so much they could squawk about before the spell they were casting wore off. So they babbled about Russian hackers and urinating prostitutes nonstop from November 9th until January 20th to fill in the fear gap.
And now, at long last, they’ve got President Trump to fuel the fire. Every single thing he does, every tweet, every comment, every word-salady mouth fart he makes in front of the podium gets twisted into the most extreme possible interpretation and alarm bells ring throughout the nation to keep America’s liberals in a constant state of cortisol and adrenaline-soaked fugue.
A temporary immigration ban becomes a “Muslim ban”. Mumbling some drivel about how it was a mistake not to secure Iraqi oil from ISIS becomes “OMG he’s definitely going to invade Iraq again!” A CIA-funded Washington Post shill drops an anonymous rumor that Trump plans to sign an executive order making it legal to discriminate against gays and it gets pumped all throughout social media as gospel truth despite being immediately denied by the Deputy Press Secretary. Building a wall becomes the most horrifying and monstrous thing anyone could possibly do, despite the fact that it’s a frigging wall. And of course, everyone and their grandmother is Hitler.
It’s true that the neoliberal think tanks are working overtime to pound these fearful narratives deep into America’s consciousness. It’s true that the political establishment’s media mouthpieces have every political and financial incentive to keep people afraid of the Orange One. But it’s also true that American liberals are lapping it up. These narratives are seized upon, circulated, upvoted, made viral all over the internet, over and over and over again, all by the same people who never tire of finding a new thing to be terrified of.
Why? Because they enjoy it, of course.
They do. They enjoy it immensely. There’s an orgiastic fervor to these nationwide collective fear fests these people keep partaking in day after day after day. To be frank, it has a very strong masturbatory element to it. We’re watching America’s liberals repeatedly engaging in collective orgies of fear porn.
Egos love to freak out about something together with other egos. There’s a reason Eric Hoffer said “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” The best way to galvanize people behind you is to give them someone to freak out about together.
Humans are primates, which are among the most social creatures in the animal kingdom. Our ancestors succeeded as organisms because they lived in groups, with many eyes looking in all directions to alert the tribe to approaching predators. Giving a group of primates a predator to whoop and holler about resonates deeply with the most rudimentary aspects of our evolutionary heritage. A pack of monkeys is never more united than when they’re scrambling to the treetops and screeching at a leopard together. It triggers the same social reward center of the brain as receiving compliments or group approval. The triggering of this reward system was essential for the survival of our evolutionary ancestors, strengthening essential social cohesion to ensure collaboration toward group survival. But it’s also highly addictive, and fear hormones kill our ability to think clearly.
Scientists have known for years that elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol wreak havoc on the immune system and contribute to an endless list of ailments from obesity to heart disease to hypertension, but most importantly, it cripples our ability to learn and to form new memories. It makes us stupid, irrational and forgetful, which are also the first three adjectives I’d use to describe the current state of the political left in its response to Donald J. Trump.
This is a problem. There are many actual, real-life flaws with the current administration, and by keeping our bodies in a constant state of fight-or-flight response, we’re crippling our ability to tackle them in a very real way. Everyone’s jumping at shadows, tackling non-issues, annoying and desensitizing the rest of the nation with nonstop crying wolf and irresponsible hyperbole. We’re spread way too thin and stretched way too far to properly fight Trump’s insane environmental policy, for example, or to watch for and combat human rights violations in the impending deportations of millions of purportedly lawbreaking undocumented immigrants. We’re too stupid, irrational and forgetful to respond consciously to real challenges, and the rest of the country is getting too busy wishing we’d cease our nonstop shrieking to hear our concerns.
The political left has got to find a way to create a healthy amount of space between its psyche and the fear propaganda. The fact that dissenting narratives are being circulated through alternative and social media provides some relief, but it hasn’t been enough. These stress hormones were intended to give our evolutionary ancestors quick boosts of energy and incentive to escape from imminent danger; keeping it in our systems with endless thought loops and masturbatory fear habits is not what they were intended for.
The best possible outcome that I can foresee from all this mass insanity is people’s fear responses being unable to keep up with the demand. Nobody can sustain this kind of fear response indefinitely. Maybe we’ll start to see people just collapse after a few months and go completely still. And in that stillness, maybe some self-inventory and self-inquiry can happen. Maybe people will become acutely aware of the chasm of difference between the stillness they’re experiencing and the constant frenetic fear orgy they were immersing themselves in day after day. It could happen; the political establishment clearly intends to keep herding everyone in that direction until 2020 at the very least. If America is collectively incapable of handling that kind of psychological brutalization and gets pushed too far, some real miracles might occur.
I really don’t know, though. I just know that we cannot keep doing this.