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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

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  3,285 ratings  ·  332 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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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  3,285 ratings  ·  332 reviews

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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.
Carrie Poppy
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Books Ring Mah Bell
Dec 01, 2008 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.
Bryan Alexander
This review is about fear.  Specifically, about stupid fears.  Those are not realistic concerns about ill health, economic stress, or living in a war zone. Instead, these  fears are either literally fantastic, made up of delusions, or, while based on tiny grains of truth, have been blown far out of proportion into large-scale cultural terrors.

The occasion isn't anything in current events.  It's not about Trump or wars
Apr 05, 2015 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
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
Dennis D.
Dec 05, 2008 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
Todd Stockslager
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Review title: Fear of flying

Glassner wrote this timely book nearly 20 years ago, and the decades since have proven that rather than correcting our fear of flying (the act of transport by airplane, not the book of that name which is about.... something else) we have confirmed our fear of the wrong things. He takes a sociologist's view of the causes and methods of misguided fear, using logic and statistics to battle bad logic and misused statistics.

What are the wrong things we feared
Sep 28, 2011 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
Paul Schulzetenberg
Jul 06, 2013 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
Oct 12, 2011 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
Jul 10, 2008 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.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is all about how modern day fears are stoked by the media. Although I knew much of the big ideas being brought forward in this book, I appreciated the concrete facts which backed up the propositions. Unfortunately I was reading a copy published in 1999, and there is a newer version that came out around 2010. My guess is that much of the text is the same, but that many of the examples come from more current times. I would also imagine that the post-9/11 world has made a big impact on ou ...more
John Gilbert
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this book is the 10th anniversary edition of the original book that was published in around 2000. This updated edition is now ten years old. The original text is presented in original form and the update is added at the end. I confess I didn’t read the whole thing because I think I read it when it first came out or at least something very like it. So it was familiar ground and disconcerting to read examples from 1994 in 2019. That said, if one is unfamiliar with how fear can be promoted by in ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: junk
This is one carefully engineered book. And I appreciate this, as I am left with the impression that most non-fiction books are simply written on impulse.

Glassner starts with "The Culture of Fear". So far so good. Than he starts pushing towards his set of chosen fears. So by now I am intrigued: the collectivist mind of Glassner can't show him he is doing the exact same thing he started by criticizing?

Later it becomes obvious Glassner has his own axes to grind. And the book
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would be interested to see how this book would be updated given that it's almost 20 years old. Very provocative concept. Makes me want to read so much deeper into news sources.
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
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 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.

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
Feb 24, 2010 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
Aug 06, 2015 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
May 05, 2015 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
Feb 24, 2008 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 i
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.
Justin S
Nov 05, 2015 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.
Jun 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
although informative and well researched... i found it to be a tad pointless.
Kellie Coon
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting perspective
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.
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UB Libraries Book...: The Culture of Fear Discussion 1 12 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.
“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
“Samuel Taylor Coleridge was right when he claimed, 'In politics, what begins in fear usually ends up in folly.' Political activists are more inclined, though, to heed an observation from Richard Nixon: 'People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday school, but it's true.' That principle, which guided the late president's political strategy throughout his career, is the sine qua non of contemporary political campaigning. Marketers of products and services ranging from car alarms to TV news programs have taken it to heart as well.

The short answer to why Americans harbor so many misbegotten fears is that immense power and money await those who tap into our moral insecurities and supply us with symbolic substitutes.”
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