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Forum Post: Political Fear Mongering and Why It Works October 22, 2010 By J Stepper

Posted 12 years ago on Dec. 22, 2011, 3 p.m. EST by gjames (3)
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Political Fear Mongering and Why It Works October 22, 2010 By J Stepper

This image is available on T-Shirts at our online store www.cafepress.com/outofstepper For years now politicians have been using fear to motivate people to vote. This is not the province of just one political party; most, if not all politicians do it to varying degrees. But why does it seem to work? Or does it?

I have always followed politics to some degree, finally getting immersed in the political scene around 2004. For years I have seen people voting against there own best interests. The average person will vote to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires even though they are never going to see that money again. Those tax breaks are never going to help the average American worker; in fact they might even harm their ability to earn a living. And yet, they will do it.

Many people have offered opinions over the years as to why they think a person will vote against their best interests. In the case of tax breaks, many people have said that the reason the average person will vote to lower the taxes of the very wealthy is because that same average person likes to think they are going to be in the super-wealthy category someday and they don’t want to pay extra taxes when they get into that income bracket. This theory never made a lot of sense to me. I think most Americans realize they are never going to be super-rich, though it is nice to dream about it.

Fear is one of the, if not the best, motivators out there. Most people when faced with a real or perceived threat will do something to eliminate the threat, either by fighting what has made them fearful or by getting away from the threat. This is the acute stress response or as it is more popularly known, the “fight or flight response”.

The nervous system is divided into two sub-sections called the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the one that generates the fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is the one that gets activated when the threat is gone. It is the system that brings the bodily functions back to normal.

When a person is faced with a threat, or is placed into a fearful situation, certain physiological changes take place in the body to ready that individual for whatever his or her next move might be.

When a person is threatened, the first thing that happens is messages are sent to a section of your nerves called the autonomic nervous system, (ANS). This in turn causes certain hormones, like adrenalin and cortisol, to be released into the blood stream. The heart rate becomes elevated, the digestive process to slows down and blood is redirected to major muscle groups like the thighs, biceps, and other muscles needed to either fight the threat or get away from it.

There are also changes to the respiratory system. The breathing becomes deep and accelerated, bringing more oxygen to the body’s tissues to assist in the flight or fight response. The side effects of this heavy, accelerated breathing, is that there is less blood flowing to the brain. This can cause dizziness and lightheadedness.

For most people when the threat is removed, the parasympathetic system kicks in and brings the bodily functions back to normal; usually within minutes. This can cause the person to feel more calm and relaxed then they were prior to the threat being introduced. However, there are some exceptions to this process.

People whose parasympathetic system is out of whack for some reason do not return to normal bodily functions as quickly as most people do. These are the people that have panic attacks and high anxiety. For these people it can be hours of even days before their body returns to normal.

The other reason for a person’s body not returning to normal quickly is if you are already in a highly stressful situation. Stressful situations like being unemployed, homeless, getting divorced: Basically any situation that can cause a person a lot of stress.

So when a threat is perceived, the body goes into automatic mode, redirecting blood to certain parts of the body and away from the brain. The respiratory response also decreases the blood supply to the brain, literally making a person unable to think clearly. In other words, the loss of blood to a person’s brain can make him or her stupid, literally.

As I stated above, most politicians use fear mongering to one degree or another. However the Republicans are masters at the game. They have been successfully employing these tactics for decades. The Republicans began a concerted effort to use fear mongering in the 60s and 70s when they first employed the “Southern Strategy”. In the past two years the Republicans have brought fear mongering to a new level.

There are big risks to the Republican’s strategy of making people afraid, especially at this time in our history. Make no mistake; fear mongering is a strategy for the Republicans. It is in the Republican playbook on how to win elections.

If a person makes others afraid and they are already in a stressful situation such as is occurring in America today, the fight or flight response doesn’t go away very easily causing even more stress. This will have different reactions in different people. Some will remove the threat through the political process, either by withdrawing from it, or going to the polls to vote the threat out of office, thereby eliminating the threat. Those people I am not concerned with necessarily.

It is the people that chose to eliminate the threat through physical means that are the danger to our country and the people living in it. For some, if the perceived threat isn’t dealt with through the electoral process, they will take it to the next level, which generally means violence of some sort against a person or group of persons. You are seeing that being played out right now http://www.outofstepper.com/?p=1713



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