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FEAR: Its Political Uses and Abuses / Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter 2004)

Arien Mack, Editor

This issue is devoted to the papers from the thirteenth Social Research conference, which was held at The New School in February 2004. The decision to organize the conference, “Fear: Its Political Uses and Abuses,” was motivated by the painful recognition that we are living at a time, not the first, of collective fear -fear that is encouraged by our government and exacerbated by our media.


This article discusses how terrorism was used by the U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration in relation to their political agenda. America's political reality have been distorted by exaggerated fear of Iraq that was hugely disproportionate to the actual danger posed by Iraq. The fear campaign was aimed at invading Iraq and was timed precisely for the kickoff of the midterm election campaign of 2002. It also examines issues concerning the alleged forged document used by President Bush during his state of the union address.


This article discusses on the mechanism and role of emotions. Fear and anxiety are important emotional states that are grounded in early human evolution and continues to dominate contemporary human psychology. The effects of anxiety can be maladaptive and the troubling consequences of anxiety is its ability to worsen the quality of thought and reasoning. Over the last 15 years, neuroscience has played a central role in boosting research interest in emotions across the sciences and social sciences.

This article reports on the biological research which has made considerable progress in understanding how the brain learns about danger. It discusses the emergence of fear through life experiences and the similarities in the response of the brain and body among animals and humans to fear. Similar responses include muscle tensions, increase in the blood pressure and stress hormones are released. It identifies the basis of fearful feelings. It also discusses the role of the amygdala brain region in fear learning in rats.

This article reports on several techniques of promoting fear and its effects on public perception. By fear mongering, TV and print news magazines sell themselves to viewers and readers, politicians sell themselves to voters, quack sell treatments, advocacy groups sell memberships, corporations sell consumer products, and lawyers sell class-action lawsuits. Fear mongers deploy narrative techniques to normalize what are actually errors in reasoning and the most common of these consists in the christening of isolated incidents as trends.

This article focuses on terror management theory, and the research that supports it and that suggests that fear and anxiety are inherent aspects of the human condition. It presents an analysis on the impact of diffuse existential anxiety on an increased conformity to cultural norms. It discusses the role of fear and anxiety in both normal everyday behavior and serious individual and social pathologies. It evaluates the consequences of living in a society dominated by fear. Moreover, it identifies the source of human fear and the resulting inability to observe introspectively the way it affects humans which makes it an effective force with which politicians, religious leaders manipulate the society.

This article examines how graphics are used to intimidate and instill fear as a tool of politics and ideology. It discusses the power of symbols, such as the swastika, to continually elicit fear. It analyzes the use of visual depictions of an enemy and the content of wartime propaganda to provoke fear and identifies the characteristics of visual propaganda. Moreover, it examines the impact of propaganda on the views of citizens about wars. The most fearsome images of war include the graphics for precautionary tools, like biological, nuclear, and chemical gear sold on the internet.


This article presents an analysis of the World Trade Center destruction during the U.S. terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The destruction of the World Trade Center was understood by its sympathizers as an act of revenge against what is perceived by many Arabs and Muslims as a constellation of Western imperialism, Arab and Muslim subservience, and Israeli colonialism. The American policy of torture of combatants captured in Iraq and Afghanistan is simply the most frightful expression of tyranny.

This article presents an analysis on the views of modern intellectuals about fear. It discusses the modern political thought on the opposition between freedom and fear. It discusses the arguments of modern theorists on the political use of fear. Many political theorists have suggested that fear may be a necessary condition of selfhood and a free society. Fear is something to be cherished because it arouses a heightened state of experience. It quickens the human perceptions as no other emotion can, forcing an individual to see and act in the world in new and more interesting ways.


The article discusses various reports published within the issue, including the issue concerning the role of politics in the emergence of fear among U.S. citizens and views on the foreign policy of the U.S.

This article discusses the impact of fear on civil liberties. It examines the role of the courts in determining justified intrusions on civil liberties. The three possible approaches of courts include requiring restrictions on civil liberties to be authorized by the legislature, giving more skeptical scrutiny to measures that restrict the liberty of identifiable minorities, case-by-case balancing might well authorize excessive intrusions into liberties. Moreover, it discusses several implications for fear, policy, and law.

This article reports on the investigations made by the U.S. government on the terrorists responsible for the attack on September 11, 2001. It discusses the history of the planned neoconservative war against Iraq and the justifications of U.S. President George W. Bush in going to war with Iraq. President Bush offered two justifications in asking Congress for the authority to go to war with Iraq. First, he had decided that further diplomacy would be a waste of time. Second, the U.S. was continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those organizations, nations, or persons who authorized, planned, committed, or aided terrorist attacks.

This article focuses on the concept of nationalism resulting from terrorism in the U.S. The propaganda value of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were unprecedented in the scale of the damage to lives and property. Their propaganda value to the terrorists was immense, heightened greatly by the collapse of the twin towers and the damage to the Pentagon, the symbol of American military power. It identifies the consequences of terrorism and discusses the connection between terrorism and mass media. Moreover, it examines the factors which contribute to the disproportionate reaction of the public to terrorism.

This article examines the mechanism of fear in a global society. It discusses the factors which contributed to the pervasiveness and permanence of fear. It also discusses the different forms of fear during war which includes the fear of the civilians exposed to invasion or to aerial warfare, the fear experienced by soldiers who were in the trenches of the Great War and risked death whenever they were ordered to run toward the enemy's positions, or those soldiers who fight guerillas in countries in which they cannot distinguish who is the enemy. Moreover, it examines the impact of fear on public liberties.


This article discusses anticommunist political repression in the U.S. It provides an overview of McCarthyism or anticommunist political repression. The term "McCarthyism" is a synonym for the anticommunist political repression of the early Cold War. There are different forms of McCarthyism, each with its own agenda and modus operandi. However, all sought in one way or another to protect the nation against the threat of domestic communism. Moreover, it explains the role of the federal government in McCarthyism and the conflicts in the campaigns of the government against communism.

This article discusses the role played by sociocultural in the constitution of fear. It illustrates the political use of fear derived from its sociocultural constitutedness. It examines the association of the state of aloneness with fear, torture, and politics in South Asia. Moreover, it discusses the comparison of the state of being alone in asceticism and being alone in "Aloneness Dis-equipoised Fright." The state of being alone in ADF is not merely a state of being alone but a state of being alone in an irreducible triadic correlation with being disequilibrated on the one hand and frightened on the other.

This article examines the source of fear of terrorism among the citizens of the U.S. It also discusses several issues, including the political use of fear by the government, the response of policymakers to visible crises, and the role of media in the goal of terrorists to provoke fear. The Congress approved a new legislation in relation to the threat of terrorism. The USA Patriot Act overrides laws in 48 states that had made library records private. The act allows searches and seizures without judicial warrant, and prevents Congress from overseeing how carried out.


This article presents an analysis on the political uses of fear in relation to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. It also discusses several topics, including the description of the political manipulation of fear, the consequences of political fear for political culture and institutions, and the distinction between rational and imaginary fear. Moreover, the analytic challenge of the study on terrorism is to sort out the rational from the irrational, the fear that is grounded in real threats from that which is manipulated by those in power.


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