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Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
January 4, 2008

Scared To Death

Anatomy Of The Neurotic Society

Never in history have people lived so safely and securely, enjoyed comparable health and access to regular and wholesome food, protection from the vicissitudes of nature, and enjoyed such access to virtually unlimited information as today's North Americans and Europeans. Yet, very probably, never has there been a people so fearful of just about eveything they eat and drink, the air they breathe, and the activities of all who share the planet with them. And most of the fears are unfounded. But scaring the public has become big business and and has always been an effective way of instilling subservience and obedience, rallying the credulous, and justifying sacrifice.

Christopher Booker and Richard North have written a book entitled Scared to Death that takes some revealing looks behind the scenes at some of the more notable instances that have characterized our times. The UK's John Brignell has a comprehensive review at Number Watch, November 2007, http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/scared.htm. Some excerpts from Brignell:
  • [T]he UN has finally admitted what the sceptics always knew, that it had grossly exaggerated the scale and nature of the [AIDS] epidemic. From that time on all hell broke loose, with an unending sequence of "disasters" - killer eggs, listeria hysteria, mad cows and human CJD, E. coli, The Millennium Bug, Satanic abuse, speed kills, lead, passive smoking, asbestos and finally the big one - Global Warming. This account spells out the progression, a lengthy tragicomedy of irony, incompetence and sheer perfidy.
  • There was draconian legislation, the mass closure of viable productive businesses, multiplication of officials supported by the taxpayer, the enrichment of lawyers, stepwise erosion of human liberty etc., all based on little or no evidence.
  • Beneath it all . . . is the matter of cost. A billion here, seven billion there, and they are only the direct costs; even more significant is the continual shift of labour and resources from the economically productive sector to the parasitic elements of the regulatory system and the compensation culture. Have no doubt about it: scares have robbed this generation of the age of prosperity and freedom that was their birthright, for which their forefathers fought and died.
  • Presiding are the international organisations, such as the UN and EU, riddled with fraud and corruption, unanswerable to democratic control or even the simple constraint of audited accounts, yet able to foist their policies on a world population who have no means of resistance. National parliaments are populated by a new generation of professional politicians, most of whom have never done a real job in their lives, hyperactively feathering their own nests, while indolently yielding to the most vocal pressure groups.
  • Many of us who were involved in the early days of environmentalism . . . became distressed when the movement was suddenly hijacked by a new force. It seemed to be motivated by a hatred of industry and economic progress. Instead of relying on actual measurements of pollution, it began to extrapolate by means of theories and models.
  • Global warming is the scare that is the climax of this book. It is both unique and typical. It is unique in that economic failure is not just a by-product of the scare, it is the whole raison d'ĂȘtre. It is promoted by interests who oppose everything that would enhance the economic well-being of mankind. . . . Scientifically this scare is dead in the water, even the measurement evidence of any warming occurring at all fades away on examination, but the weaker their case becomes the more fervently the faithful cling to their belief and the more bitter the bile they direct at infidels.

Scared to Death, Continuum International, UK, 2008, 256 pp., ISBN 0826486142

On a related issue, William Brunton has drawn my attention to a site called the National Anxiety Center, founded in 1990 by business and science writer Alan Caruba. Its introductory page states:

The original purpose was to debunk the many claims made by environmental and consumer organizations that were engaged in deliberately false, media-driven scare campaigns.

Since purposefully raising fear and anxiety over various issues is the main weapon used by various special interest groups, the Center was named for this practice and exists to refute it.

Some interesting reading

See also Christopher Booker's later book The Real Global Warming Disaster on the data falsification and political manipulations behind the IPCC scare campaign.

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