The Spoils of Fear
Fear is easily the most powerful motivating human emotion, and it is also the most profitable. This also means it is highly marketed in media throughout our society. Although it may be something a little more subtle than “YOU’RE GONNA DIE” (you are, it’s just a matter of how), here are just a few examples of how industries manipulate you to spend money that you might not spend if it weren’t based on fear.
- The Information Technology Industry –> We are constantly bombarded with ads and media about security for our gadgets. You should buy a Mac, you are told, because a Mac doesn’t get viruses. This is because Macintosh makes up about 6% of the personal computing market. Virus authors don’t typically bother with 6% of the market. You should buy our anti-virus software, you are told, because the internet is full of viruses and they could destroy your computer and steal your personal information. The truth is that most viruses are successfully executed as a result of social engineering. In other words, most viruses only get the opportunity to execute because its targets were persuaded to click on a link, enter personal information, or install this great new software that’s free and will allow you to listen to music for FREE! Most of these can be avoided by simply realizing the dangers. Also, Windows 7 has this feature called “System Restore” that will allow you to restore your computer to a previous configuration. Microsoft also offers free anti-virus software, named “Microsoft Security Essentials”. Yet, technology security is a $4 billion per year industry.
- The Gun Industry –> Who benefits from news media coverage of mass shootings more than gun manufacturers? The answer: Nobody. The FBI reported that background checks on gun purchases increased 17% almost immediately after the Aurora movie theater mass murders. Another factor is the overreaction of people who believe that when gun control legislation is introduced or considered, it must mean the government is coming to take our guns. Our country has an estimated 300 million legally owned guns, according to gunpolicy.org. In November and December alone, more than 2 million background checks were performed for gun sales, which set a record for the number of requests since they were first instituted. Coincidentally, these were the two months after the re-election of our current President, which can only signify an irrational fear of many who believe for no reason that the government is coming to take our guns.
- The Insurance Indsutry –> Pets lived long, fulfilling lives in society before Pet Insurance. Rental car collision insurance is very profitable for companies like Hertz, Avis, and U-Haul. However, most personal auto policies cover collision damage in a rental car, although some do have exclusions such as business and long-term rentals. Products like contact lens insurance, life insurance, cell phone insurance, and identity theft insurance serve one purpose: To get consumers to spend money instead of saving it. Saving money would actually prohibit most consumers’ needs for many of these types of insurance.
- The Pharmaceutical Industry –> This example is too easy and too obvious as an illustration of how fear controls our lives and our wallets. The National Institute of Health estimates that 20 percent of Americans abuse prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. These prescriptions include narcotic painkillers, anti-depressants, and sedatives/stimulants. Television is flooded by advertisements for prescriptions for male pattern baldness, erectile dysfunction, nail fungus, short eyelashes, acne, depression, and even Itchy Navel Syndrome. Many of these drugs have potentially serious side effects that are more scary than the original condition in the first place. This explains the irrationality of fear. It makes very little sense to take a medication for a toenail fungus that causes liver damage, unless you are afraid of having ugly feet.
- Prisons –> Yes, prisons. Our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world by a mile. In 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that 60% of prisons contained non-violent offenders. Who benefits from prisons? Namely, politicians for soothing our fears about crime because they “got tough on crime”. Also, many do not realize that there are more than 60 privately-operated prisons in the United States that house nearly 100,000 prisoners. Privately owned prisons are more than a $5 billion industry in the United States alone. Even government owned prisons have numerous private suppliers of good and services which also equates to a $75 billion annual industry. The bottom line? A profitable prison is a full prison.
- The Media –> Yes, the “liberal” media are the beneficiaries of fear. Not only are they beneficiaries of it, but they create it as a sense of entertainment. We no longer get news; we get drama and divisive commentary disguised as news. Every single news organization has one thing in common: They are in business to make a profit just like every other corporation in the country. They make profits by selling advertising to corporate sponsors. In truth, the media has no other agenda than to keep you watching. Whether it is a liberal or conservative point of view, they continuously sell fear and contention, because as pointed out above, both sell.
Still not convinced? This is an aerial shot of a beach in Florida on any given day:
The media hardly misses an opportunity to publicize a shark attack, yet this ordinary picture shows that we are swimming within a hundred feet of them every time we go to the beach. Shark attacks are rare, but they do happen. But who stands to benefit from a fear of the water? Sitting on the beach and swimming in the water is free. Most every other form of entertainment at the beach is not.
So please do not get in the water. Seventeen people were bitten by sharks in the United States last year. Instead, go order a juicy steak with gravy fries and increase the risk of heart disease. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries will be pleased because 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart disease every year.