Fear Mongering

I made a point in passing in an earlier blog that Obama’s “hustle” in the first debate may have been a ploy to help his party raise more money. I was being facetious (as I often am). But I am now beginning to wonder. Immediately after the debates cyberspace was inundated with requests for money and the appeal was clearly an appeal to fear: Karl Rove is raising millions of dollars in swing states, WHAT IF!!?? The following paragraph from a Yahoo News story sheds some light on the subject:

President Barack Obama and the Democrats raised $181 million in September — their largest monthly haul since he launched his reelection bid, his campaign announced Saturday.

I really don’t want to accept the fact that Barack Obama would stoop to this level. So I will assume for the time being that it is merely a coincidence that Obama’s loss in the first debate would send a shock through the Democratic world that could be turned into big bucks for the home team. But it does seem to be the case that the Democratic party is considerably richer today than it was the day before the debate.

There are two major difficulties here, it seems to me. To begin with are the obscene amounts of money that have been raised already on behalf of the politicians running for political office in November, as summarized in a recent New York Times article. This cartoon sent to me by saltypoliticalmusings says it all:









But the appeal to fear is a problem of a different order. If the amount of money going to reelect politicians is obscene, the increasingly common appeal to fear borders on the immoral. It is a given, sad to say, that the voting public is unwilling to spend much time and attention on the question of who it is they will vote for next month — if they vote at all. So appeals to the emotions are commonplace. They grab unwary TV viewers since they are very effective, if logically fallacious. And we have known for some time that Newt Gingrich is a master of that sort of appeal. We have come to expect such appeals from politicians.

Following 9/11 the appeal to fear was palpable and it resulted in huge increases in defense spending, the initiation of “Homeland Security,” and the rise in prestige of the CIA and greater license for its clandestine activities. A certain amount of this hysteria is to be expected and the results are not all bad. But the carry-over into political marketing is alarming. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be led to do something because of a fear that if I don’t do it something dreadful will assuredly happen. That amounts to extortion and that is not morally acceptable.

Clearly, the “game” of politics is writing its own rules as it goes along. As voters without bottomless pockets we seem to be along just for the ride. We really don’t have much to say any more about who runs this country and how it is to be done. But we don’t have to like the way the game is played. And we can refuse to play as we raise our shrill voices in protest.


19 thoughts on “Fear Mongering

  1. …” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be led to do something because of a fear that if I don’t do it something dreadful will assuredly happen.”…

    I don’t know if any of us even have a choice Hugh. I’m not sure it even ever reaches the level of conscious awareness. If you haven’t read the Scientific American article below, perhaps reading it will better explain what I am getting at. It is last election stuff, but, all that means is that the powers that be have had another 4 years to work on their technique.


    Great Post, but, can we “really” refuse to play? I wonder.

  2. Good post, Hugh. Carefully watching the appeals, I think, will show that all the emotions are addressed; fear, pride, loyalty, family etc.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Fear is such a harmful emotion and should have no place in politics. remember the red phone commercial in the primaries? Both sides do it – and I “fear” it won’t go away anytime soon.

  4. “What if all the money spent on this…. were spent on this..’ ===

    this is so true.. in my little community in Ecuador, the municipality is doubling the width of a gravel/country road while a much-more massive road construction parallels it a few miles away. I have stated the same concerns over the past week – the hospital needs something/anything inside, including a telephone line, while an amazing amount of money is spent on a ‘redundant’ parallel (primary) super highway.

    Like drawing names for gifts, one should have a limit on how much one spends on campaigns for public office…. you are right, the obscene numbers are appalling and all but make me cry when i try to absorb those figures – and how they’re spent on slinging accusations at each other. how in the world did values get so out of whack?


    (…and if you don’t forward this to ten people within the next half hour, something dreadful might happen!)


    • I don’t know how it happened. But I agree with you that it is totally out of balance. I do suspect greed is the ultimate motivator. Someone gets very wealthy when these projects are undertaken. And someone else suffers from lack. And the money spent on politicians is beyond imagining.


  5. Great post. The money is both obscene and insane. My recommendation to all is not to donate to politicians. Pick your favorite charity and say I am donating $100 or whatever amount on behalf of Candidate XYZ. Or, for every dollar requested, save that amount for your or your children’s future. That with turning off the TV ads will improve your sanity and help you or someone else. BTG

    • Great advice! We give to charities of their choice at Christmas time in the names of our kids and their wives. But your suggestion tops that!


  6. Unfettered capitalism has issues. We need responsible capitalism. It gets to the old ethics question on the vendor who buys 5,000 hot dogs to sell at a football game and then finds out they are tainted and will make you sick, not kill you. Does he sell the hot dogs or suffer a loss? Unfettered capitalism would see him tending to sell them. Responsible capitalism would see him tending to suffer the loss. I am a business person and capitalist, but we must have rules, ethics, and mores to govern. The new Consumer Protection Bureau (created by Dodd Frank) has just penalized its third credit card company in three months for aggressive telemarketing and false advertsing. Over $500 million has been refunded to those misled. Sorry for the diversion from the theme. BTG

    • I disagree btg. The driving force behind capitalism is greed and I’m not sure responsible greed can exist head to head with “unresponsible” greed for long. The game on Monopoly only ever ends one way. Sooner or later one lucky/skillful player owns all the houses, hotels, utilities & railroads. Game over! One of two options are available to the players. (*)

      1. The winner gives everything back so the game can go on.
      2. The other players cut the greedy bastards head off and take it back.

      (*) [see: HISTORY]

      • Yes it is, that is why it needs to be governed. History shows us that the haves will always take advantage of the have nots. That is why I say unfettered capitalism because of its greed will do greater damage. That is what Pottersville looked like versus Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    • Actually Adam Smith (the father of modern capitalism) never espoused “raw” capitalism. He was part of the Scottish school of moral sense and always thought capitalism would be tempered by fellow-feeling. This is close to what you like to call “responsible”capitalism.


      • There doesn’t appear to be much “Scottish School” thinking going on these days in Pottersville….I mean Washington D.C…. where the haves bought off any moral sense that might have once existed. Besides, corporations don’t have any senses, or hearts, lungs, conscience, or anything else we might associate with qualities that can be appealed to. They have accountants instead.

        “Responsible” capitalism would dictate that “someone” would be held responsible and the whole point of incorporation is to limit that liability. If a person, through action or inaction, kills a person they are held responsible and their “person” is incarcerated and/or punished. When a corporation, through action or inaction, makes a business decision, or, does business in a fashion that results in the death of hundreds, even thousands, the corporation is fined. So called “Tort Reform” is the final move, the ultimate victory in the complete unfettering of capitalism in America. A jury made up of people like you and I are perfectly capable of finding justice in legal cases involving individuals, as our exalted Founding Fathers intended, but, corporations and ESPECIALLY insurance companies NEED a whole separate “kind” of “so called” justice because the juries that would judge us are not worthy to judge them. Their punishment, of course, must be limited…… To make things… “fair”. HA!

      • You are absolutely right about the fact that corporations are seldom found culpable while they are the greatest single cause of most of the damage we are doing to the environment and to ourselves as well. There seems to be no way to curb their greed. I have blogged about this a number of times. The founders never gave corporations a thought and that is the main flaw in our constitution.


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