Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things” as Want to Read:
The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,381 ratings  ·  267 reviews
Americans are afraid of many things that shouldn't frighten them, writes Barry Glassner in this book devoted to exploding conventional wisdom. Thanks to opportunistic politicians, single-minded advocacy groups, and unscrupulous TV "newsmagazines," people must unlearn their many misperceptions about the world around them. The youth homicide rate, for instance, has dropped b ...more
Kindle Edition, 360 pages
Published (first published 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Culture of Fear, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Culture of Fear

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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.
Books Ring Mah Bell
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Sep 19, 2008 Amyelyse rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Paul Schulzetenberg
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
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
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
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
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
The Unbridled Stallion
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
David Bridges
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
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.
Bill Glover
This book is 15 years old, and it still offers a very important lens to analyze media tone and presentation. Many of the topics that cultivate public fear, with the aid of the media, are cyclic and as such have come around again.
Art is often a response to those things we can not engage directly, the import of this book is that the public understand that mass media is no different in most cases. We can't confront the injustices we live and perpetuate, but we can build mountains out of mole hill t
although informative and well researched... i found it to be a tad pointless.
Jul 14, 2007 Colin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
One of those books that literally will change the way you view the world.
Joe Wilkie
Watch out for razor blades in your candy bars kiddies...
Mark Abersold
There's a lesson to be learned from this book, and that lesson is to be skeptical whenever somebody is worried about something that they claim will destroy our society. That doesn't mean reject it outright - far from it - but to examine those claims and use data. Of course, the book shows that even data cannot necessarily be taken at face value, and we should examine who's collecting it and how it's being collected. Overall, there are things we should legitimately be worried about, but they're m ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Richie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Richie by: Joe Rogan (I think)
Barry Glassner's "The Culture of Fear" is a great wake-up call to a society who allows the media and special-interest groups to dictate what it is we spend our time worrying about. At times, illuminating - Always, common sense. I think anyone who allows the nightly news to dictate our lives and concerns would do well to read this thorough bit of journalistic research. Of course, with any statistics, the question becomes, "Whose do you believe?" And while I feel Glassner does a stellar job of cit ...more
Paul Haspel
In The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner offers an intriguing thesis: that the major scares foisted upon the American public by a sensationalism-minded media may in fact be an indirect expression of cultural concerns regarding more complex, seemingly unsolvable issues. In Glassner's paradigm, for example, stories about crimes against the elderly, or of senior citizens abandoned outside nursing homes, reflect unspoken guilt within American society regarding the younger generations' trea ...more
Apr 14, 2009 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Budding Sociologists, Concerned Citizens, Media Scrutinizers, Curious Minds
Little can be said about the content of the book that is not summed up in the subtitle: "Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things!" An excellent sociological perspective into how and why Americans develop, and perpetuate unreasonable, irrational, and often detrimental fears.

Common fears and misconceptions including drugs use, black youth, single mothers, air travel, road rage and more are analyzed through a meta-analysis of various sources. While seemingly only psychological issues, the per
I recently read "The Culture of Fear" by Barry Glassner. Glassner talks about what Americans are afraid of and why they are the wrong things to fear. Some issues Americans are afraid of are crime, teen moms, and plane crashes. Many of these topics are amped up by the media so much that Americans are trained to fear them. This is not new news that Glassner is telling us. We all know hoe much American media blows top stories out of proportion so we don't know the full story. They emphasize the per ...more
Jami Zehr
I was impressed with was Glassner's statistical analysis, various source sitings to back up his theory that a lot of fears are founded on media hype and not what we should really be concerned, but he also states what we can do to reduce the impact of these real concerns. I am not at all impressed by someone spouting off on unseen foes or telling me what I should fear, I understand the media need to sell copy. But I am impressed when someone has done research in order to show real issues that exi ...more
Could your child be a ticking time bomb?

Will you die in a horrible plane crash that could have been prevented?

Will your child be killed in school?

Will you be killed by a disgruntled co-worker?

Answer: No.

At least, it is very, very, very unlikely. But chances are those scenarios make you feel the tiniest bit afraid. Why? Why be afraid of plane crashes when you're far more likely to be injured or killed in your car? Why be terrified of being killed by some random criminal when violent crime rates p
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
UB Libraries Book...: The Culture of Fear Discussion 1 11 Apr 29, 2014 05:40AM  
  • When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor
  • Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man
  • Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity
  • Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say
  • Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill
  • The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger
  • Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School
  • Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
  • Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market
  • The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls
  • Sidewalk
  • The Twilight of American Culture
  • A Tribe Apart: A Journey Into the Heart of American Adolescence
  • Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV
  • Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much: A 4-Step, 8-Week Plan to Finally Lose the Weight, Manage Emotional Eating, and Find Your Fabulous Self
  • The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge
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.
More about Barry Glassner...
The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know about Food Is Wrong Bodies/Why We Look Our Studies, Ourselves: Sociologists' Lives and Work Qualitative Sociology as Everyday Life The Jewish Role in American Life: An Annual Review, Volume 3

Share This Book

“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.” 3 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…