Friday, October 08, 2004

The Fear Factor

It is the peak of the election season in the US, and it is impossible to escape the impending sense of occasion that seems to be hanging all around. This one seems to be one of the most closely contested election, and in a larger context, very important for US and indeed a large section of the world.

I did not follow the election campaign in 2000 as closely. I had just landed in the US and my world started and ended with my graduate school. A lot has changed since that year, and this time I have made it a point to follow the events more carefully.

The most striking thing about this election to me is that it is being fought on 'the fear factor'. If you don't elect us, you'll be dead is the simple message sent out to the Americans by the Republicans (Cheney said it literally in a rally too!). Issues like healthcare, economy, schooling, taxes have all been swept under the rug. The only deciding point for an American voter seems to be: which of these men can keep America safe? I don't blame them. Michael Moore brought that point out very well in the documentary 'Bowling for Columbine'. The American media has built a culture of fear. One look at any news program confirms that. They especially highlight crime and war in all the newscasts, speak in unbelievably grim tones and give a general impression that the moment you step onto the road, you are likely to be killed by a terrorist or a mentally deranged person or a sniper or some one else. You get the picture? When there is a slightest hint of a danger, the newscasts highlight how some paranoid Americans are building underground bunkers in their houses, or storing ration for a long haul, or buying gas masks. It will make you feel as if that is the reaction of an average American to crisis.

Compare and contrast this to news coverage in India (that is the only one that I can compare with). Is there a lesser danger or terrorist attacks in India, or is there lesser aggression by the ones wanting to destabilize the country? No. Even a city like Mumbai has seen tons of bomb blasts. But do the newscasts play on that all the time? No. You can't live in this fear all your life. You could step out of your house and get run down by a car, for all you know. Do you put your life on hold while worrying about that possibility? If anything, you can blame Indian news for a degree of apathy, but not an attempt to instill fear.

What scares me are the two options available to Americans. On one hand, you have an existing President whose administration LIED their way into a war and gave the terrorists a reason to unite. Not only that, they refuse to acknowledge the ground realities and carry on as if they were right and are doing well in this 'God-given' right. Now, the contender. Forget the fact that he dilly-dallies around the war. Now, he seems to have decided that it is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. He talks about killing the terrorists and bringing the troupes back at the same time. Huh? Are you giving the terrorists a time-table that they need to look at to survive? He talks about getting other nations to participate in policing Iraq. If is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, are the other countries foolish to send their men to die?

What a mess!!! As scary as it sounds, it can only get worse from here. If these are the two choices America has, then really, God Bless America!! Do I sound like I am instilling more fear here? :-)

On a different topic, read this excellent article on opinion polls in America.


phucker said...

Yes you could blame the Indian media for apathy. But what the Print Media forgets, the TV makes up for. Every channel (Star News, Aaj Tak, NDTV) has a programme devoted to Crime like "Crime Watch", "Crime & The City" e.t.c. and these programs are all very sensationalist, very much like their American counterparts. That being said, I am a Kerry Supporter all the way! I blame Bush not only for all the things you've said, but for further polarising the xenophobes and religious nuts. Americans always had a warped view of the outside world. And after everything that's happened, it's ultra-warped. America's entire reaction to the war has been that of a wounded adolescent. "Mommy, I got hurt! Why do they hate me mommy?". Give a moody, hurt adolescent some of the most technologically advanced weaponry, and the neighbourhood shudders.....Attacking Iraq wasn't about making the world safer, it was about lashing out and showing us non-American barbarians who's boss. Whoops, this is my favourite rant, and I've used your site as my own personal blog. With this apology I shall slink into the wilderness....

Parth said...

Tarun, you are welcome to rant as much as you want on this blog :-) I think we have a mutual rant-miration society between us :-)