Extremely cynical: the Politics of Fear

I have tried to avoid making the topic of the Big Upshot political. I’ve skirted the line with that recent post about Ukraine and Russia. I admit that. For the most part, I just don’t think that I can do a lot of good in the political sphere. I could write inflammatory, poorly-researched posts about surface issues, but there are lots of those already. I could write well-researched, well thought-out, powerful analyses, but I suspect nobody would read them. So, instead, I try to focus on the humor of science and the humor of living around science.


But this was just too much. ScienceNow at Science Magzine (Arguably the most prestigious publication on the map) posted a piece called “The Politics of Fear.” Not too long ago, The Jester talked about our culture of Fear and Consumption.His opinion is that the fear-memes of that kind prey on our natural responses to scary, threatening things. Evidently, it is more than just speculation. The article over at ScienceNow sums up an article by Okley et. al. called “Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits.” The article correlates genetics, fear responses and political decisions.

The implication is that some people have a more pronounced fear response – they are easier to scare and upset. And this correlates with the person for whom they vote. People who are threatened easily (“Are you threatening me?!”) probably are easier to influence with lies and scary pronouncements in paid TV commercials. Evidently, this is so much the case that they will vote against their own selfish interest.

I’m afraid that I have a hard time not reading this with a very cynical eye. The implication is that it is hopeless to try to have a good political debate (in my naivete, I thought I would see one this election). This scientific result implies that inflammatory, poorly-researched diatribes will win consistently over well-researched, well thought-out, powerful analyses. They will excite different kinds of brains, and I’ll let you guess which are more strongly represented in the general population.

Sorry for the cynicism today. I miss my girl.