Whenever I consume news, I feel like everything is going to attack me. If not ISIS, then Ebola. If not Ebola, then nuclear weapons, immigrants and gypsies. It makes me feel like locking the door and never going out again. So is this true? Are all these things a direct threat to our lives? According to the chief executive of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, “The likelihood of (Ebola) causing a major epidemic in Europe or the US is very, very low” (Michael Brooks). Furthermore, last year, an Ipsos MORI poll discovered that the public thinks that 31 per cent of the population comprises of immigrants, however the true number is 13 per cent (New Statesman). These statements show the strong impact that the media has on public opinion and also that the world may not be as scary and disease-riddled as the media may want us to believe. Never mind watching a horror film, let’s all just log onto MailOnline.
Just imagine that these fear-provoking headlines are accurate. If these things are directly threatening our existence, surely the most logical thing to do would be to keep people calm and find a rational, mutually beneficial solution for everyone? Of course not, as it seems like the people that drum up and sensationalise this fear only care about solutions that benefit them, advance their ulterior motives, and do not seem to have everyone’s best interests at heart. Either that, or I’m sorely mistaken and war is definitely a humanitarian action and is the best way to end war. Plus, keeping people calm wouldn’t sell newspapers or spread across social media. The only thing spreading faster than Ebola and ISIS is fear of them.
Fear-mongering also leaves people open to misunderstanding problems, and vulnerable to being fed misinformation and paranoia. It can also provoke us to behave or think about things differently to how we would otherwise. For example, a fear of immigrants could be very useful for say, political parties that promise to control immigration. Fear-mongering is the reason why some people feel paranoid about bearded brown men on public transport. Deadly-spiders-found-in-banana-crate stories are also the reason why I attempt to assess whether every spider I find in the house is a Black Widow spider and is going to kill me. We can easily see the consequences of this media fear frenzy in our everyday life.
So, before rushing out to buy a lifetime’s supply of food and hazmat suits, maybe it’s worth thinking about why the media would want to incite these kinds of emotions and reactions in readers and viewers, and who exactly this type of reporting is benefitting.