Fear is a core psychological and biological emotion that often overrules logic. That’s according to Arash Javanbakht, a neuroscientist who specializes in trauma. Fear is one of our most intimate feelings, which is why it can be so easily abused in tribal politics. The Republican Party learned this decades ago, and has mastered that abuse.
The Republican Party’s entire pitch for holding office rests on fear: fear of immigrants, fear of socialism, fear of protesters. Yet in reality, all of those fears stem from something more fundamental: fear of progress, fear of change, and fear of sharing privilege. Trump’s racist “law and order” trope, which is the exact same one Richard Nixon used 50 years ago, isn’t about law and order, but rather trying to maintain the status quo by curbing dissent. In fact, the 2020 Republican campaign comes down to “scary dark-skinned people coming for the suburbs … and there being no armed police left to protect the (white) people living there.
Fox News has been running headlines nonstop featuring buildings on fire and images of marauding mobs. When Fox couldn’t find any, they weren’t above using digitally manipulated images. I thought they would at least take a break with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a civil rights icon. Nope. They actually tried to tie RBG to their violence campaign. Their headline the day after her death was “SCOTUS battle prompts threats, calls for arson: 'Burn Congress down'.”
Yes, fear-mongering is disgusting, but very effective—once you understand the psychology behind it.