Fear As A Political Weapon

By | August 2, 2021 | 0 Comments

“The Man in the Glass Booth” is a brilliant but quirky film about a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has so much survivor guilt that he convinces himself and everyone else that he was a Nazi official. In one scene he explains how Hitler came to power:

“He knew what we were afraid of; he was afraid of it, too.”

I have learned more from fiction than from nonfiction. This is the key to how tyrants seize power. They play on the people’s fears. And they work hard to accentuate those fears. “Be afraid, be very afraid” can easily become “Heil Hitler!”

Of course, each version must adapt to current circumstances. The would-be German tyrant of the 1930s wore a military uniform, and spoke in a ranting, gesticulating style. The would-be American tyrant of the 2020s wears a conservative suit or a white lab coat, and speaks in an outwardly reasonable style.

But style aside, they both understood what would induce people to give up their God-given rights and hand over all power to The Leader. They understood the value of fear. Fear of economic collapse. Fear of the Jews. Fear of a virus. Fear of illness and death. And naturally, fear of illness and death is strongest in people bereft of religion. If this world is all there is, then life and health are all we can hope for. So the thought of losing life or health becomes frightening indeed.

Are we there yet? Of course not. But after 1½ years of lockdowns, closed schools, closed churches, masking, and now forced vaccination, we are well on our way. Almost every day the media bring us a new supply of frightening news to keep our fear up to the proper level.

At some point, we will either get up off our sofas, put down our beer and snacks, and yell “Enough!” Or we will lapse into apathetic acceptance of whatever The Leader decides to do today. Tomorrow he may do something else. Who knows? The Leader may not always be right, but he is always The Leader.

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