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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

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  2,836 Ratings  ·  297 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)
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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.
Apr 05, 2015 Ensiform rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 05, 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
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 28, 2011 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
Oct 12, 2011 Clinton rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2008 Amyelyse rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
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
Feb 24, 2010 Nate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 06, 2015 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 05, 2015 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Justin S
Nov 05, 2015 Justin S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Kellie Coon
Interesting perspective
Jun 10, 2007 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
although informative and well researched... i found it to be a tad pointless.
Joe Wilkie
Oct 11, 2007 Joe Wilkie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Watch out for razor blades in your candy bars kiddies...
Jul 14, 2007 Colin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
One of those books that literally will change the way you view the world.
Jan 31, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society
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
Danny Hunt
I see many comparisons to today's political climate, but because this book was written in the 1990's, comparisons are about all it's good for. It was probably a major sociological milestone for its time but for now, we fear other threats, perceived or otherwise. Also, apparently, elect those that represent those fears to the highest possible offices. GG Barry Glassner
Feb 14, 2017 Hermano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great read and a wake up call for all on how society is manipulated. I like the fact author states that there are serious issues we need to address, but we are manipulated to worry about other less significant issues. The art of deflection is strong in our society.
Eric Levenstein
Dec 06, 2016 Eric Levenstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A reasoned discussion of commonly understood societal events, as seen through the lens of statistical investigation. Very, very eye opening. One of my favorite books!
Jeff Miller
Jan 11, 2017 Jeff Miller rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was intrigued by the title of the book. As I read, I found that the author had some good points about how people tend to fear the wrong things. It is well established that people do not judge risk very well, and that the things we fear usually do not pose as great a risk as some things we do not fear. Even though this book discusses some of these ideas, the author uses it as a platform to to decry some things that he personally does not like (e.g. guns). It appears the author himself is inappr ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Reeb rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2009 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I saw this book on a used book rack, I recognized the title and thought I had seen an interview with the author. But when I started reading it, I realized it had been published in 1999. Hmm, maybe I was mistaken about that interview. Regardless, I still enjoyed it. Since it's a decade old, it's a little outdated. Obviously if this had been written post-9/11 there would be something about terrorism in it and this book is all about domestic fears. But other than that, what he discusses is (un ...more
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UB Libraries Book...: The Culture of Fear Discussion 1 11 Apr 29, 2014 05:40AM  
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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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