Monday, September 19, 2016
#263 / The Anatomy Of Fear
On the evening of Sunday, August 14th (no one really knows why), passengers in New York's J.F.K. Airport became convinced that there was some sort of "shooter" loose, or that some other act of terrorism was occurring or about to occur. There turned out to be no reality to justify these fears, but "unreal" fears nonetheless stimulated a very "real" panic. You can witness the reaction of travelers in the picture above. There are more pictures online, accompanying Marc Santora's article, entitled, "From False Alarm to Panic: Inside Kennedy Airport’s Chaotic Night."
The phenomenon Santora writes about is well known. Hysterical reactions among crowds, in all sorts of contexts, is a documented, historical reality. If you'd like to be entertained, as you read up on the subject, I recommend the wonderful book by Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds.
Here's my question: Isn't it possible that our current national policies related to terrorism are, in fact, a kind of hysterical national reaction to a potential, but mostly non-existing, threat?
Isn't the "anatomy of fear" that Santora writes about in his article evident in our national policies related to terrorism, and isn't our reaction to the hypothesized dangers of terrorist incident a reaction without sufficient provocation? Isn't this a reaction we should be resisting, not feeding? Isn't this a fire whose flames we should simply let die down, rather than fanning them into a real conflagration?