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The bogeyman of this century is the ‘Other’ be it an unknown ‘Muslim terrorist,’ an ‘illegal alien’ or even our neighbor across the fence. It is the ‘not-yet-discovered’ or articulated security threat. And finally, a leading psychiatrist has pegged the paranoia stemming from a multitude of factors, as our greatest ‘fear.’
Yes, a leading psychiatrist at King’s College London has carried out the decade-long research and found that one in four people suffer irrational fears of either being threatened or in danger on a regular basis. In fact, according to Dr Daniel Freeman, paranoia is far more common than had been suspected and is on the rise, as a result of growing inequity, social isolation and a far more competitive society.
US research showed populations with the widest income inequalities also had the lowest levels of trust, and highest death rates. Mistrust was associated with greater numbers of deaths from cancer, heart disease and strokes. Dr Freeman also criticised the media for hyping up threats and adopting an “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude to coverage. He added that the news coverage given to crime outweighs coverage of ‘real killers’ such as heart disease, cancer and road accidents, which fosters a culture of paranoia.
The point is to remember that fear and actual risk or threat do not necessarily correlate but rather that the material conditions of life, especially the mainstream media and state elites, incite fear to achieve their hegemonic ends. George W. Bush and the war against Iraq is a perfect case in point that need not be reiterated here. The nativist overbloating of ‘illegal alien’ criminality and costs to the U.S. economy is another.
Freeman’s findings are published in Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear available now.
This book sounds like ‘fodder’ for the Critical Security Studies school of thought. I wrote a paper on this a while ago that is available in here. I hope the author touches on ideology and discourse while discussing media exaggerations of threats.
I’ll provide more resources and research on this if anyone is interested.