Terror vs. danger

published Nov 10, 2016

The election is over, and people are terrified. I teach you how to manage that terror.

Terror vs. danger

A friend of mine shared this article with me.

I Am a Gay Jew in Trump’s America. And I Am Afraid for My Life.

I am a gay Jewish journalist who loathes Trump with a very public passion. Every week, I receive the emails, the tweets, the private messages: Kike. Faggot. Fucking Jew. Their leader deploys anti-Semitism as a dog whistle, but they hear it as loud as can be. I get death threats. They want to kill me, they explain; they have a plan. And not just me, but people like me. The Jews who want to ruin this country. The gays who defiled it. The journalists who committed treason. All of us will soon get what we deserve, they tell me. They have guns. They have a plan.

When you read the article, the implication becomes clear: Trump's elected, therefore there will be a deadly anti-semitic Trumpenreich.

I don't have to tell you how terrifying that sounds.

Whenever I talk to people who are afraid of what has happened during the election, I ask one question:

How much of that terror is something you have been told to fear?


Because I argue that, if you consume media, a lot of your own terror comes from that media.

Is there some actual danger?

Yes, there is.

The actual danger is minuscule, compared to the grotesquely exaggerated perceptions that mass media instill into people, day in and day out.

Here is the truth: America has never been safer for minorities as it is today.  Never.

Room for improvement?  Certainly.

Things worsening?  Nope.

A quick reality check suggests that Trump getting elected doesn't change that in any way, shape or form.  People aren't suddenly going to go "oh, well, now it's totally time to Kristallnacht all these undesirables".  There aren't and there won't be any SS or SA troops, walking the streets with baseball bats, ready to bash some skulls in.

Yet, despite that obvious reality that everybody's lying eyes can see, I have had multiple people — invariable people whose diet of intellectual cognition is high on mainstream media and low on data — tell me in no uncertain terms that they are convinced such things are going to happen.

And why wouldn't they believe that?  They consume horror stories, like the article in Slate linked above, which literally tells people to be in terror of the coming of the Fourth Reich.  Of course they are going to be convinced those nightmares are real and impending.

No one doubts these folks are living in terror.  The terror is actual, and very real to them.

But the danger?  Not so much.  There is certainly no chance of their nightmares (that they have been told to imagine) from actually coming to pass.

Heck, even that guy who wrote the article doesn't believe the scenario he suggests is certain.  We can infer this trivially, because he makes no mention of having moved, or called the police, or doing anything in the realm of physical safety — which is the first thing one would do if one were to be concerned with actual death threats.  Hey, I got credible and persistent death threats once, with my home address and everything.  I immediately moved to another city for months, after filing a police report.  You know what I did not do?  Write a terror-mongering Slate piece.

Now, maybe that article writer's experience is not a hoax.

Does it follow, as he insinuates, that there'll be a Trumpenreich?  No, of course not.  All he can prove is that he has acquired some perverse loudmouth fans in 4chan's /pol/ or some other seedy board in the underbelly of the Internet.  I give that explanation a high likelihood of being correct.

OK, so, having established that terror is not tantamount to danger, how can we manage both?

You can't change the danger.  Not meaningfully.  Not even electing a president can change that.  There are things you can do to reduce actual danger — move, arm yourself, get a security alarm system, avoid shady places — but the base rate will stay essentially unchanged.

However, you can change how afraid you are of the danger.

So what would be the most effective way to end that terror?

The first step to take to reduce the terror, is to stop listening to fearmongerers who profit from keeping people fed with a steady diet of lies.

  1. Shut off your TV, or switch to entertainment 100%.
  2. Fold your newspaper.  Toss it in the trash
  3. Close your opinion magazine.

We can watch what we put in our brain, and that is a direct improvement in our lives, regardless of what actual dangers there are.

Best of luck.