President Franklin Roosevelt said this when the country was mired in the darkest days of the Great Depression. Inspiring the nation to remain positive, persevere and help those in need, these words became an American mantra as the Depression lingered. FDR’s skill at communicating positive messages was more than good public relations; it helped Americans through a devastating crisis.
Today’s politicians and the media seem to be doing just the opposite. In the face of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, presidential candidates, members of Congress and others have not only been pushing fear but seem to be exploiting it. Politicians scream that we’re not being protected while the news cycle keeps danger in our faces 24/7. A Newsday editorial disputes this, noting, “The United States is in a much safer position than European countries when it comes to terrorism: We have oceans between us and the Islamic States. We have fewer borders to guard. We invest much more in our security and have better security apparatuses. We have better intelligence services…despite what some believe, the United States has extremely adequate vetting processes…”
Aside from the political rhetoric–and Congressional action–including trying to stop refugees from entering the U.S., a number of schools have cancelled excursions to Paris and other European cities. On Long Island, the Connetquot School District stopped trips to New York City through November and December including Radio City Music Hall and the 9/11 Museum “in the best interests of our school children,” a statement said. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton criticized the decision, saying, “What they’re doing is exactly what the terrorists want, so that is exactly what they should not be doing.”
So why are some pushing fear? It’s true that those in power gain even more authority when people are scared. The fear is real for some, partially because the media’s coverage of terror, while essential, heightens our sense of powerlessness. Students of communication understand this and are witnessing how fear can be exploited as a means to persuade.
When we huddle and hide as a result of terrorism acts, we’ve let the terrorists win. Your thoughts?