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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
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The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

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3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,677 Ratings  ·  288 Reviews
In this eye-opening examination of a pathology that has swept the country, the noted sociologist Barry Glassner reveals why Americans are burdened with overblown fears. He exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our anxieties: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as both are declini ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published March 16th 2000 by Basic Books (first published 1999)
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Nancy
I couldn't even get through this book. The information was poorly organized and it just wasn't very good reading. It was recommended on Michael Moore's website a while back.

The premise of the book sounded interesting to me and Michael Moore's heart is in the right place, but the book is just utter rubbish. It's not for serious thinkers who are looking for something insightful and revealing about US culture.

Bad Michael, I'm disappointed in you.
Ensiform
Apr 05, 2015 Ensiform rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The thesis of this thoroughly researched and lucidly written book is that the media trumpets scares that are not based in reality, created with ulterior or subconscious motives to distract the public from real and much more difficult to face problems. Faceless villains in nursing homes are killing our grandparents; we don’t have to think about the troubling conditions and egregiously low funding we set aside for our oldest and most vulnerable citizens. We should worry about nuts shooting up the ...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Dec 16, 2008 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it it was ok
Tell me something I don't know. The media sensationalizes whatever they can for ratings and statistics can be twisted to show whatever someone wants them to show.

Consider the source when you get your info. Who funds them? What do they have to gain? Is there another way to read a statistic? Then, take your Paxil and crawl back into your basement bunker with your guns.
Dennis D.
Dec 06, 2008 Dennis D. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks Fox News is really fair and balanced
This is a terrific non-fiction book about how special interests, news organizations, and the government manipulate the populace through fear tactics. Researching social epidemics such as airline safety, school violence and road rage (among many others), Glassner pretty effectively illustrates how we are fed a diet of fear by trumped up "experts," and people who have a stake in keeping us afraid. This second situ is what was appalling to me. If your livelihood is consulting and giving speeches ab ...more
Sara
Jul 16, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I give this 4 stars not because it was necessarily super well-written, though it was clear and concise, but because I thought the subject matter was remarkable.

I would have never, ever picked this up as my own volition. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. These types of books never appeal to me. However, my older brother is very into economics, social studies, etc. etc. and he wanted me to read this. I found the abridged audio version, which is what I am reviewing and figured I could handle dedicating 4 da
...more
Clinton
Oct 08, 2012 Clinton rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The Culture of Fear truly and aggressively insinuates that America is trapped in a culture that feeds off fear mongering by corporations, public officials, experts and mostly media personnel. Glassner brightly examines the phenomenon of fear mongering, which ultimately it creates a shallow society. Americans are brainwashed by the information provided by the media, which instinctively and distinguishably misinforms and misguides Americans. Yet, the blame doesn’t stop at the media; public officia ...more
Emma Sea
The book itself hasn't dated as much as I expected. While the discussion is still sketchy and simplistic it's true these same topics are still being fearmongered: child abduction, the medicalisation of life, race, youth.

However what I really wanted to read was the new chapter on the post 9/11 world. Sadly this is as shallow as the original book. There's a great quote from Dan Rather on page 234, regarding how, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to question government became tantamount to treas
...more
Amyelyse
Sep 19, 2008 Amyelyse rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Amyelyse by: Michael Moore
This book really opened my eyes to the manipulations of the media, and the politicians. The whole point is "Be afraid, give us money" which my BF and I say whenever we see it happening.

If you watched "Bowling for Columbine", He sites this books and suggests it, and when speaking to Marylin Manson if you had a moment of "Holy crap he has a brain," or any minor epiphany because of the points that come up in that interview segment in the movie, then you need to read this book.



Actually everyone who
...more
Hadrian
Analysis of how modern media keeps people afraid of imagined or exaggerated dangers. I was aware of this phenomenon even before reading this book (or seeing Moore's documentaries) but it is surprising to understand the extent of the problem. Full of relevant statistics to drive home the point. Very necessary book.
Chris brown
It was an over all ok read; i would love to see an updated edition, "Fear revisited" or something of that nature with updated statistics and new information. In the book they reference soldiers as having GWS (Gulf War Syndrome) which is now umbrellaed along with the term "post traumatic stress syndrome." Little things like that would make a, "2nd edition" an even more enthralling read for today's somewhat aware generation. Its a very good read for those who have some suspicions that the things t ...more
T. Rudacille
Mar 13, 2013 T. Rudacille rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sociology majors, People studying writing subjectively versus objectively
I love the premise of this book: Taking popular media scare tactics and debunking them with facts, both statistical and otherwise. However, the execution of this premise was lacking and the political bias was obvious. In regards to the latter, I am in agreement with Glassner but still found it disconcerting to see fingers pointed at guns, government, and other metaphorical boogey-men, when he is supposed to be dismantling the fear, if you will, not advocating his political agenda.

In the beginnin
...more
Jerry Smith
I found this book less interesting as it went on. I think this is because Glassner is making essentially the same point, albeit with well written prose, over and over again with a number of different fears to illustrate his point.

All of this is spot on, but I couldn't help feeling that he was rather stating the obvious. Personally I have a pet peeve when people blame anything on some vague force known as "the media". Problem with society? Oh, it's the media. Soccer violence? Must stem from the
...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Jul 06, 2013 Paul Schulzetenberg rated it liked it
Glassner's book has a provocative title, and it's filled with well-researched numbers and a clear view of reality. It's also got a terse but powerful style that reads quickly, despite being packed full of statistics and meticulous research. As a result, Glassner is convincing when he points out that fear is a powerful force, oversold by our culture to point us at the wrong problems. It's also a salient point that misallocation of fear causing us to spend a ridiculous amount of resources trying t ...more
Justin S
Nov 05, 2015 Justin S rated it it was amazing
Barry Glassner's exposition of the modern media and the public fear it feeds on is both eye-opening and (ironically, given the title) terrifying. Not afraid of calling out the people that make this pathology possible, Glassner crafts a well-written narrative that is still deeply rooted in fact - one that is guaranteed to leave the reader disturbed. Highly recommended reading for everyone.
Nate
Feb 24, 2010 Nate rated it it was ok
Shelves: media
Glassner discusses the cultur of fear which is prevalent in the news media today and shows how various topics are continually presented, not for their accuracy but for their sensationalism. The problem with this is many of the stories, such as airline accidents, or middle-age heroin addicts that the media reports on are false. Scientific and statistical studies have found that on these topics the media is overplaying the anomalies. I appreciated Glassner's research and insight for clearly bringi ...more
Heather Colacurcio
Glassner makes a solid argument, but the main thing missing here is a real exploration of what these "fears" truly represent. Glassner seems to delve into numerous, well-researched examples of the fears, but does not examine them as thoroughly as he could in terms of their larger social context. This is an important book for it's time; the recent release of the 10th anniversary addition which includes almost 30 extra pages of new material and "fears" makes it a bit more relevant to contemporary ...more
Jake
Feb 08, 2016 Jake rated it liked it
A look at a very scared America. It was written before 9-11 and Columbine so many of the fears are dated, but the idea is still relevant. It has lots of examples of irrational fear-mongering, like George Bush the First having a speech written on the dangers of crack cocaine in which he held up a bag of crack confiscated across the street from the White House. This required a bag of crack, which they couldn't find in a park across the street, so the DEA paid a drug dealer to come to the park wher ...more
Wellington
Feb 24, 2008 Wellington rated it it was ok
Barry wrote this book in 1999, so it a whole different social landscape of fear than we have now. However, one can see the parallels between our worlds and a somewhat belabored book could be summed up in a handful of points. Let me see if I can do this.

People begin to see the things that they fear. Perhaps, we are all hypochondriacs at some level.

I have laughed at myself at this weakness, but I think we all have it. When exposed enough to an idea (fear), we will believe it.

Trust but verify.

Sex s
...more
Stephanie
Nov 23, 2015 Stephanie rated it did not like it
I only got through a little more than half this book before the skimming began. Glassner's Gospel of Food is dead-on; he has his finger on the pulse of food/diet issues in America. But this? Culture of Fear sidles up to the progressive/social justice/welfare warriors of our time leaving conservative gun-owning hard-workers in its wake. Glassner wholly devalues a Christian ethic and fails to see the need to return to a set standard of godly morals in our society. The foundation of fear he purport ...more
Kellie Coon
Aug 24, 2015 Kellie Coon rated it liked it
Interesting perspective
Justin
I want to begin with a disclaimer that The Culture of Fear was written in 1999. As such, parts of what it focuses on feel rather dated (crack cocaine, anti-semitism among the black community, etc.), while current scaremongering (Islamophobia, illegal immigrants, etc.), is understandably underrepresented. However, it's the topics that have endured, like "fad" mental illnesses diagnosed in children (ADD then, autism/asperger's now), and fears about supposed harmful effects of vaccines, that give t ...more
Jerry Peace
Sep 14, 2015 Jerry Peace rated it really liked it
"Will it take an event comparable to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to convince us that we must join together as a nation and tackle these problems[hunger, dilapidated schools, gun proliferation, deficient health care for much of the U.S. population]?" Written in 1999, this question from the end of the book is, sadly, not prescient but instead ironic. After 9/11, we were a nation for about a minute and a half, before the administration and congressional fearmongers teamed up with the media ...more
David
Mar 21, 2014 David rated it liked it
I was initially hesitant about reading a sociological work that uses statistics to counter other statistics. I also assumed this would, at best, reinforce what I already believed at a gut level. However, although it did indeed reinforce much of what of I already believed, this really was an eye-opener in terms of where our fears get misplaced. At best, these fears are time-wasting distractions; at worst, they reinforce racism, xenophobia and other kinds of bigotry. Some of the examples date this ...more
David
Nov 25, 2014 David rated it liked it
Shelves: society-politics
The book builds a case that the media (and politicians) tend to make mountains out of particular types of molehills, then keeps jumping up & down pointing to the molehill for extended periods of time. I'm sympathetic to the idea the media focuses on somethings and gives too little attention to others. Yet there were times the author made disparaging comments that might have put off less sympathetic readers, and even I felt a sense of relentless pounding at the media's chosen molehills. Some ...more
Janet Carroll
Apr 06, 2015 Janet Carroll rated it really liked it
This book was so interesting that I wanted to keep reading and reading until I was finished. Glasner manages to relay America's fears while showing how omission, redirection, and plain fabrication are used by the media and political groups. He illustrates who benefits and why. Topics such as booby-trapped Halloween candy to single moms to plane cashes, one factor stands out, and that is if good copy and misinformation can be used to confuse reading/voting public, it generally is. There were seve ...more
Reeb
Jan 26, 2014 Reeb rated it did not like it
This book focuses on the sort of public media scares that have, and continue to, grip the

American public. It argues that not only are these episodes of mass hysteria completely unfounded, they are actively detrimental to the American population.


From fears of car-jacking and plane crashes to those of silicone breast implants and unwed teenage mothers, Glassner uncovers significant evidence that these threats were grossly overblown, even in the face of hard countervailing evidence. So, that rais
...more
David Bridges
Jan 15, 2015 David Bridges rated it really liked it
I liked this book because I found it informative. I also really liked the nerdy and awesome HG Wells War Of The Worlds comparison to our current culture of fear and histrionics. It does kind of read like a long ass power point presentation at times but that's ok because it has to be detailed like that to make its point and the point is we create crisis and fear out of thin air just to control others and limit ourselves. Over all I agree with the premise of the book and definitely learned some ne ...more
Kelly Wagner
May 29, 2016 Kelly Wagner rated it really liked it
This was a re-read. The book was published in 1999, and a lot of strange things have happened since then, but Glassner's main point is still true: politicians and the media play up rare and unlikely dangers, to avoid mentioning the fact that our country is not dealing with common and preventable things that harm children, perpetuate poverty, and leave millions of people worse off. As I write this review, the North Carolina bathroom bill has passed, because it's really scary to some people and by ...more
Heidi
I really like the ideas presented here, but I didn't realize this was written pre-9/11, and I would have liked to hear his thoughts on the current fear-mongering going on.
Jonathan
Apr 05, 2016 Jonathan rated it liked it
Tell me something I don't know. The premise of this book is that people worry too much about things that have a infinitesimal change of happening to them. They see pandemics where the are none (poisoned Halloween candy, breast implants that cause cancer, a generation of "crack-babies") and meanwhile, important real problems are never addressed. The media exacerbates this, politicians take advantage of it, and companies capitalized on it.

I commend Glassner for all the research, but this is just c
...more
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Barry Glassner has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, and has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. A professor of sociology at USC, Glassner lives in Los Angeles. His most recent book is THE GOSPEL OF FOOD: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong.
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“In addition, when a neighborhood's crime victims are portrayed as victims-sympathetically and without blame, as humans rather than as statistics-people living in other parts of the city are more inclined to support social services for the area, which in turn can reduce the crime rate.” 4 likes
“Criminologists have documented that the amount of coverage a crime victim receives affects how much attention police devote to the case and the willingness of prosecutors to accept plea bargains.” 3 likes
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