Vulnerability: Are We Safe?
Our concerns about vulnerability are central to how we see the world around us. When our security is in jeopardy, nothing else matters as much. The mere prospect of danger can consume all of our focus and energy. Not surprisingly, then, the desire to ensure our own safety—and that of people we care about—is a powerful force in determining the policies we support and the actions we take.
That’s why today’s plutocrats work so hard to shape our perceptions of vulnerability for their own ends. The psychological mind games they employ for this purpose are often effective, even when the underlying arguments they offer have little merit. Although it’s human nature to be attentive to possible threats, we’re not very good at judging peril. As a result, we’re susceptible to manipulation by those who skillfully misrepresent the dangers we face.
A memorable example of this gullibility was the panic that ensued when some listeners mistook an Orson Welles radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds for the real thing: a live account of Martian invaders landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Fooled by the broadcast’s air of authenticity, complete with “We interrupt our program” news bulletins, some frantically called the local police, others fled from their homes near the reported invasion site, and still others apparently fainted beside their radios. Within hours the hoax was revealed. But that autumn night in 1938 still stands as a reminder of just how impressionable—and off-target—we can be when it comes to figuring out whether or not we’re safe. Of course the 1% don’t try to frighten us with warnings of invaders from outer space. Rather, they manipulate our concerns about potential threats much closer to home.
In POLITICAL MIND GAMES: How the 1% Manipulate Our Understanding of What’s Happening, What’s Right, and What’s Possible, I take a close look at four of the vulnerability mind games they use to shape our perceptions to their advantage: It’s a Dangerous World, Change Is Dangerous, It’s a False Alarm, and We’ll Make You Sorry.