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Fear: What is it Good For?

I am not a purveyor of FEAR. Fear and anxiety will not help solve problems. On the contrary, they waste time and hinder clear thinking and, therefore, forward movement. Some unscrupulous and unprofessional tax preparers utilize fear as part of their sales pitch. By scaring the clients, they try to artificially increase the need for their services, and justify high fees at the same time. The IRS uses fear in its public relations program to increase 'voluntary compliance.' I prefer to give my clients honest understanding about their situation. I believe that clients need a clear understanding of the problem, a picture of the solution, and a step-by-step roadmap of how to get from here to there. Many problems are not as big as people believe they are. Many solutions are actually easier than people expect. Forward progress can be achieved one logical step at a time.

The Culture of Fear

Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things
by Barry Glassner, Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California

The murder rate in this country is down 20 percent over the past ten years while media coverage of murders and other violence is up 600 percent over the same period. This is a major disconnect, and an assault on peaceful living. Fred Greene, CPA, CISSP

Barry Glassner compellingly debunks many of the pervasive fears and prevailing myths of our time. Gulf War Syndrome? Road rage? A crime wave? Ritual child abuse? An epidemic of youth suicide? Widespread violence in the work place? All nonsense, Glassner argues, and he provides persuasive evidence and thoughtful insights to show why we are so often afraid of the wrong things-and how these misplaced fears undermine attempts to address our real problems.' David Shaw, Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic for the Los Angeles Times:

'Marshalling an impressive and bracing array of evidence, Barry Glassner offers compelling insights into why so many Americans persist in seeing increased rates of death, disease and despair wherever they look and whatever the facts.' John Allen Paulos, author of Once Upon a Number and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper

'The Culture of Fear uses strong data and careful reasoning to calm everybody down.' Amitai Etzioni, author of The Limits of Privacy


There has never been another era in modern history, even during wartime or the Great Depression, when so many people have feared so much. Three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today then they did twenty years ago. The Culture of Fear describes the high costs of living in a fear-ridden environment where realism has become rarer than doors without deadbolts. Why do we have so many fears these days? Are we living in exceptionally dangerous times? To watch the news, you'd certainly think so, but Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. The Culture of Fear is an expose of the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as rates for both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; and TV newsmagazines that monger a new scare every week to garner ratings. Glassner spells out the prices we pay for social panics: the huge sums of money that go to waste on unnecessary programs and products as well as time and energy spent worrying about our fears.


Barry Glassner is Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. He is the author of seven books, including Career Crash and Bodies. He has been quoted extensively or profiled in articles in dozens of newspapers and magazines. His own articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The London Review of Books.

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