America the Fearful

Media and the Marketing of National Panics

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About the Book

National panics about crime, immigrants, police, and societal degradation have been pervasive in the United States of the 21st century. Many of these fears begin as mere phantom fears, but are systematically amplified by social media, news media, bad actors and even well-intentioned activists. There are numerous challenges facing the U.S., but Americans must sort through which fears are legitimate threats and which are amplified exaggerations.

This book examines the role of fear in national panics and addresses why many Americans believe the country is in horrible shape and will continue to deteriorate (despite contradictory evidence). Political polarization, racism, sexism, economic inequality, and other social issues are examined. Combining media literacy, folklore, investigative journalism, psychology, neuroscience, and critical thinking approaches, this book reveals the powerful role that fear plays in clouding perceptions about the U.S. It not only records the repercussions of this toxic phenomenon, but also offers evidence-based solutions.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of the science magazine The Skeptical Inquirer. The author of a dozen books and numerous articles on urban legends, the paranormal, critical thinking, films, and media literacy. He has appeared on CNN, the History Channel, and the National Geographic Channel. He lives in Corrales, New Mexico.

Bibliographic Details

Benjamin Radford
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 234
Bibliographic Info: 14 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8772-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4574-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi
Introduction  1
Chapter 1
News Versus Noise  9
Chapter 2
Half Empty  24
Chapter 3
How Media Mangle, Mislead and Magnify  65
Chapter 4
Phantom Activism and Social Sabotage: Why Things Don’t Seem to Improve  101
Chapter 5
Them and Us, Straw Men and Boogeymen  150
Chapter 6
­Science-Based Solutions  192
References  215
Index  223