You an oldster? The fearmongers' pitch is that President Bush is plotting to snatch your Social Security check. Bush's sound idea of setting aside a small portion of your payroll tax as a personal nest egg for your retirement is twisted by the fearmongers into the dread word "privatization." Many older Americans safely covered by Social Security now needlessly worry about being thrust out into the snow.I suspect that this is one of the reasons that some polls are showing Bush pulling into a slight lead. Americans have had this same campaign of fear every campaign since 1980. We're beginning to be able to see through it.
You a youngster? The fearmongers noticed an urban legend floating around the Internet about a "January surprise" to bring back the draft and throw you into the first wave into Falluja. Never mind that it won't happen, because the military knows that a volunteer army works best; the scare tactic is sure to whip up the old fears in the young voters.
You got a cough? The Fear Room says it is probably the flu and that anti-health Bush stole your vaccine. With the shortage caused partly by drug companies' concern about punitive lawsuits, millions who never bothered with flu shots last year now have to have them. By pushing the panic button, the Fear Room pushes up demand and worsens the shortage.
The fearmongers used the death of Christopher Reeve as a news peg for its stem cell desk. Kerry had been gloomily denouncing Bush's "ban" on such embryonic research when there isn't a federal prohibition - indeed, some federal funding has begun, and Harvard is likely to compete with the State of California and others to develop new cell lines. Meanwhile, John Edwards outrageously used Reeve's death to offer false hope that paralyzed people like him would "get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."
After approving ads that strike fear into U.S. television viewers by exploiting terrorist beheadings of Americans, John Kerry had the chutzpah to say of Bush's reminders of 9/11: "He's scaring people." That was a classic Fear Room maneuver: as soon as editorial revulsion at scare tactics breaks into print, direct that reaction at the other side.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
William Safire looks at how the Kerry camp is exploiting fear to try to get elected.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:35 AM