The Politics of Fear
Niccolò Machiavelli, the famed Florentine political philosopher, once posed the question whether it is better to be feared than loved. It is well-remembered by every schoolboy that his reply was that, “it is better to be feared than loved,” with the provision that both fear and love must be unattainable.
But too often lost in the passage is the caveat that, “Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women.”
Suffice to say, we can temporarily be at ease that the ruling elites do not intend to seize upon our women, but the promulgation of like fear in the public mind has been sustained for so long that the two dominant parties, perpetually resorting to the contrivance of crisis to shore up their shortfalls and to mask their failures, are breaching upon new territory: abject hatred of both.
When Richard Hofstadter, the highly esteemed and most pre-eminent of political scientists, a card-carrying member of that sequestered class of lofty law-givers whose penchant for impartiality and altruistic distance from the statist program never ceases to astound, colored American politics as portraying a “paranoid style,” he was speaking, all winks and nods aside, particularly of right-wingers, and particularly of opposition to the amoral and gutless rule of the technocrats.
But all clear-sighted and wise politics stems from paranoia; in the sense that a free people is always watchful of the statist wolf in the proletarian henhouse. When men become distracted from fear of the government, that’s when the nation’s politics go awry.
What made Mr. Hofstadter, if one may characterize him as a mere man, “paranoid” is the idea that the unenlightened proles would seek a measure of self-rule without the meddling of utopian technocrats. After all, what mad world might result if the trend towards chaos and disorder was not reversed? What mad world if all individualism were not subjugated to the one cause, the elite-determined caused, which should triumph and reign for eternity?
Alas, the inextricable human condition of self-interest makes such fantasies as those possessing the global governance fetishists impossible to transfigure into reality. The inability to remove self-interest, this ineradicable barrier to unlimited manipulation of the human psyche, has turned the hatred of self-interest into the hatred of humankind: what else is the explanation for sacrificing man to mosquitoes, crushing his dreams to safeguard avian ova? Snatching him from the jaws of polar bears to drown him in a sea of regulatory red ink? Cutting down his habitations in order to preserve in tact sacred tree bark?
The fear of nature has been facetiously wielded against the unmoved masses for two decades; ever clamoring for the end times, ever clamoring for a bigger slice of the public dime, the eschatological guild of environmentalism has sought to profit from its dire prophecies; but it has become common knowledge that the apocalyptic utterance is a lie, if not through scientific exposition, then through the sheer elapse of time.
It would be remiss not to remind the reader that it is consensus within both political parties that manmade global warming (yes, you read that right, scientists of the future!) represents a grave threat to human civilization; and therefore, proceeding with airtight logic, all progress within human civilization, all accoutrements of industrial society making us safe from the vicissitudes of nature, along with the intellectual freedom that made those innovations possible, and along with the economic system that allowed invaluable goods to be so widely distributed – must be scuttled in order to prepare the way for a new man, a mediocre society, and a cowardly political order: one of blind irrationality within the public and calculating hyper-rationality within the political elite.
Such a schism results when one considers that rationality is the greatest enabler of freedom, so long as it is promulgated throughout the whole of society. But when state-controlled schools become a breeding ground for ignorance and irrationality, there must necessarily be a gaping chasm into which liberty falls. And when academia becomes a haven for a collectivist priest class, whose dichotomy in profession is the public pronouncement of teleological bromides like the inevitable triumph of socialism and the private hoarding of scientistic psycho-political manipulation, society falls prey to sundry schemes.
But only for so long. Despite the rantings of the lunatic leftists, the war-championing of the rabid right-wing, and the daily dissembling of the press, the American people have been fairly inoculated to the fear-mongering. Estimates of the drivers of political fear show “big government” far and away the leader, seconded by “big business,” and “big labor.” Big things are apparently scary.
Yet delving into what prevents citizens from focusing their rational fear of tyrannical government (to rephrase their perception more accurately), we find cross-cutting cleavages. Social conservatives fear a godless society, an understandable phobia from their perception, which is fueled by progressives. Those attending the public education system are forbidden the exercise of their free speech rights guaranteed by The Constitution, as the left-wing feigns that religious speech is somehow different from “ordinary speech.” Not to say that classes should devolve into a cacophony of chatter and noise, interrupting the nominal advancement of their intellects; it is to point out that religious persons are persona non grata and religious sentiments intrude upon the secular priest’s hallowed ground.
From the converse point of view, religious ideals frighten the wits out of progressives. The poor souls imagine a restoration of the Malleus Maleficarum, the Salem witch trials, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and the burnings of atheist heretics if not for the steady hand of opinion suppressors like themselves. Beyond this irrational fear of the innocuous nature of religion in our current political confines is the unmistakeably leftist program to extricate religion from the cultural conversation so that recognized morality can be wiped clean as a tabula rasa and our sentiments overwritten by unabashed statists.
But the division of Christianity in the United States is such that it is both flourishing in its abundance and brittle in its lack of cohesion and public eminence. This is the secret meaning behind the hysteria regarding the threat of radical Islam. Christians recognize the threat as metaphysical and disallow their fellow citizens the rational faculty of realizing the doctrine is not at all persuasive — perhaps to violent criminals who are a threat in any case.
With realistic appreciation of the enemy’s desire to commit mass murder within the nation, Christians brush by the implication that terrorism is a weapon of the weak; that America will not be laid low by such barbaric techniques of psychological intimidation so long as its society remains united, there is the will to triumph, and its military remains the most effective fighting force, backed by nuclear weapons to boot. So easily we are cowed by these liberty stealers, these faceless abetters of the unlimited state!
The moderates, for their part, fear disunity; and all incumbent accompaniments, such as fractiousness, and rough-and-tumble politics. And on their behalf those who rationally fear unchecked government are scolded to sacrifice the heat of their rhetoric, to tone down their verbal epithets, and to concede that the middle is comprised of the “reasonable” ones.
We the extremists are implored to revere the sagacity of the centrist, the wisdom of the pragmatist, and the far-sightedness of the know-nothing fool. In a climate of fear propagated by the government, we are meant to adore the calm hand of the cool-toned chameleon, who strokes our hair, reassures us the experiences of the past sundry years were all but nightmares, the government indeed means us no ill, and the bitter acridity of our tea would best be replaced by the somnolescence of warm chamomile.
But we are mutually afraid. Fear of death, war, terrorism, tyranny, atheism, heresy, pollution, disease, natural disaster, cataclysm, the end times, extinction, makes us vulnerable to the depredations of politicians, who shamelessly redirect our imagination from the rational fear of government towards numerous irrational fears.
And under guise of protecting us from the realization of these fears, the government robs us. Donning the face of the friend, it constantly stabs us in the back.
In some ways, the original party of government-fear, the former Republican Party, was put in an impossible position. Charged with representing people who were both apathetic and hostile to government, Republican politicians were put in the position of self-loathing; implored to hate the very power it was entrusted to wield. The Democrat Party suffered a psychical break during the era of radical politics; its Alinskyite doctrine taught that power is neither good nor evil, and the all-too-eager converted then shamelessly and guiltlessly grasped the reigns and never looked back. Over time, the Republican Party was bullied into recognizing its public pretensions were unreal; that power was a cudgel to wield against its adversaries lest it be bludgeoned to death.
The Republican Party developed two enemies: the Democrat Party and the freedom-loving American people. And just as voters have had to do over countless years, it chose what it viewed as the lesser of two evils: the Democrat Party.
Both loving power, fame, influence, and wealth, the parties have made a tacit peace; and both have turned against the citizenry, which had been the assumed source of constitutional authority. Sacrificing esteem for material benefit, glory for mundane comfort, and to wit, love for fear, the elites fancy themselves princes ruling over a populace made too ignorant, too distracted, too divided, and too preoccupied by fear to act in defense of self-interest.
And those still unpersuaded to abnegate their self-interest, in a word, those who value freedom, are tempted by the fiat-and-debt conjured welfare that is precisely the perversion of enlightened self-interest. What is meant by that potentially mischievous phrase is that the public life continually lived at the expense of the future eventually compresses the opportunity of the present until the economy, the society, borders upon crisis.
The rational in society, those who are able to perceive, to predict, to feel this malevolent mechanism in process, are chided to hold their peace, to cease ruminating about their “paranoia,” and to allow the managers to do their magic. All of human history points otherwise – not that we should believe history or our lying eyes, say the fork-tongued technocrats.
Once Americans revered their government as an entrusted protector of their freedoms. That time is no more. Endless deception, calumny, scandal, and crisis has propelled the entity that was to remain in the backdrop of our lives to the forefront. And until the beast is tamed, that inevitable circumstance is here to stay.
Fear is healthy when roused and applied to the rationally recognized fountainhead of our problems. But chasing phantoms of the imagination, chimeras born of demonization, and irrelevant scapegoats leads us into the empty desert. The solutions to our problems begin and end with us, and begin and end with the mind. Mastering our fears is the key to mastering our political future; with reinvigorated courage and steely rationality we can decide our own fates.
Kyle Becker blogs at RogueGovernment, and can be followed on Twitter as @RogueOperator1. He writes freelance for several publications, including American Thinker, Misfit Politics, Independent Journal Review and OwntheNarrative, and is a regular commentator on the late night talk shows at OTNN. He holds an M.A. in International Studies with emphasis on Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies and is an advanced PhD. student in Political Science.