How fear is used to control people in “Fear Psychosis and the Cult of Safety – Why are People so Afraid?”

“Fear Psychosis and the Cult of Safety – Why are People so Afraid?” (Academy of Ideas, 3 April 2022)

In itself, this is an interesting video talk about the cultural phenomenon of fear that currently pervades Western society across the globe in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City in September 2001 and what followed after: the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the NATO interventions in Libya and Syria in 2011, the spate of terrorist incidents in Europe and other parts of the world, and ongoing Western manipulation of Ukraine resulting in various Color Revolutions that have had the effect of eroding democracy and bringing to power governments that work closely with NATO with the aim of undermining and eventually overthrowing the current government of Russia. Much attention is given over to detailing how people living under a narrative of constant fear think and behave, and how a belief that the world is a dangerous and unstable place leads to a cult of safety that puts limits on people’s freedoms and ability to make decisions for themselves, their families and communities, and encourages conformity and dependence on authority figures and ideologies. In previous centuries, Western society relied on religion, especially state Christianity in its Roman Catholic and Protestant forms, to control people and enforce conformity; now in an age where most people profess atheism, and with the COVID-19 pandemic being uppermost in the lives of people and nations across the world, the new ideology used by governments and their backers to control people is based on a narrow (and very distorted) interpretation of “science” or what might be called Scientism (and which the video narrator calls The Science), with public health officials, regulation agencies, pharmaceutical corporations and opinion makers elevated to celebrity status by mainstream news media acting as a hierarchy of high priests telling the public what to believe and what not to believe.

The video puts forward quite a convincing argument on how the narrative of fear is used to restrict political freedoms, shut out freedom of speech, compel conformity and stop people from questioning the conditions of society, why things are as they are, and perhaps challenging ideas, traditions, structures and paradigms that have long outlived their original usefulness and relevance and are now being used by power elites to exploit others and deny people their rights and freedoms. The video makes a plea for us to become aware of how fear pervades our culture and our lives, how fear shapes society and the decisions we make, and to try to train our thinking and the way we view the world to become more optimistic and develop an attitude of courage, hope, risk-taking, resilience and adaptability.

Unfortunately the video provides no guidance as to how individuals might take the small steps needed to change their thinking and behaviour, and break away from being brainwashed to fear. Just as importantly, the video does not say how individuals might support one another to maintain optimism, hope, courage and other positive behaviours, ideas and belief systems that encourage and reinforce risk-taking and enterprising personalities. A second criticism that might be levelled at the video is that it fails to make the connection between the cult of fear and the historical experience of Western societies, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries when much of the world was under European and US colonial / imperialist domination. Anglocentric settler societies founded upon dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands and resources, their cultures, histories and identities, and exploiting those peoples and immigrants, voluntary and forced, for their labour to benefit a minority elite, especially lived (and continue to live) under the fear that all these peoples will eventually rebel and claim what is rightfully and justly due to them. The United States in particular is a society very much based on fear – fear of slave rebellion translated into fear of black people, fear of those opposed to American belief in exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny – and this fear has spread into and through its mass media culture. The video does not probe to any degree at all into how US popular commercial culture has shaped and continues to shape people’s perceptions and channels their insecurities and fears into a narrative that now dominates Western culture.

As with its other videos, this video is lavishly illustrated with mostly Western art works that help to illustrate its claims.