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.
Lets see. Critical Security Studies has been a prime interest since I was 16 years old and running the Terror Talk/Threat Construction Kritik at policy debate tournaments. I won rounds solely on the basis of this — I remember my debate coach once remarked that I never ever used “the threat of Islamic terrorists” or any such discourse to win any rounds no matter what. It may have cost me on several occasions but that is all in the past. I graduated and let the Threat Con file sit and gather dust for 3 years until I finally used it as a final paper for my Undergrad. This is possible Doctorate level work that I am not keen on pursuing at this point for obvious reasons. It reminds me that I am too smart and intellectual for law school. I also tend to think it is a DUH. Can you believe someone won the Nobel prize for writing that poverty and terrorism were related? Goodness, that’s just common sense and I have been writing that since I was 15! Where is my Nobel prize yo?! Actually you keep the Nobel Prize, just hand me a Green card, will you?! 🙂
Anyway, excerpts are in order. Whole paper is here
“The discursive speech acts embodied in various National Security Strategy documents establish that the act of securing the American people has given way to the politicization of national security. Politicization refers to the employment of national security discourse for political ends and not specifically for meeting the actual security needs of civil society. Starting with President Truman’s NSC-68 document in 1950 and continuing up to Bush II in the present day, the discourse of national security strategy has been systematically cemented on the national policy agenda, employed for purposes other than the security of the American people. Upon a thorough examination of these documents, a central theme that emerges and dictates United States foreign policy is the pervasive construction of an enemy, an external “Other” as a threat to national security. I argue that this security discourse functions as a tool for identity construction and reification of the American state apparatus with far-reaching consequences: an increasing politicization of security, legitimization of a permanent war economy, the oppression and marginalization of minority groups, omission of key security issues from the security agenda, and paradoxically, a more insecure, unstable America and global order. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to deconstruct the totalizing and unitary narrative of the National Security Strategy documents under Truman, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, and unearth counter-narratives that challenge dominant security discourses based on ideological threat construction. I conclude that the main objectives set out in NSC-68 continue to govern US foreign policy even in the post-Cold War era, that American foreign policy today mirrors American foreign policy post-World War II: a search for identity and power, which ironically leads to more insecurity for Americans and for the entire world.”