Monday, September 26, 2016

The Political and Geopolitical Games of Fear and Anger: Do mass shootings increase Trump's election chances?

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"But there is a more sinister purpose to Trump’s political art: He validates deeply embedded fears and anger that many Americans feel, especially in this time of economic uncertainty, heightened geopolitical tensions and terrorist attacks in the United States and across the globe. He knows well that fear and anger are powerful emotions that can be manipulated beyond all rational thought.

Trump's television expertise has served him well in American politics, but it won't last.
Fear plus anger equals votes. Add in some screaming and shouting to win ratings, and Trump's popularity becomes quite simple. His television expertise has served him well in American politics." 

Trump's Popularity Reflects Fear, Anger and a Desire to Be Entertained

Q. What is the ideal emotional state for countries, and/or for the world, going forward?
A. If collective entities like cultures and nations can be analyzed through the prisms of psychology and emotions, is it possible to conceive of a prescription for the world analogous to the medical treatment that might be prescribed for an individual? In other words, what are the political strategies and institutional mechanisms necessary to reinforce hope and to contain or reduce fear and humiliation? I am afraid you will have to wait for an answer... 
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The Political and Geopolitical Games of Fear and Anger

Lewandowski: Clinton has to become human - POLITICO
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9.26.16 - M

Gunman injures several in Houston; suspect shot by police | Reuters
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FBI report expected to show violent crime rise in some U.S. cities | Reuters
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Russia’s Opposition, While Repressed, May Be Its Own Worst Enemy - The New York Times
Community theater actor sentenced to death for killing, dismembering Afghanistan vet to pay for wedding - The Washington Post
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9.25.16 - Su

Man, 20, in Custody After Fatal Shooting of 5 People at Mall Outside Seattle - The New York Times
Police search for motive in deadly Washington state mall shooting | Reuters
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Jordanian writer shot dead outside court before trial over cartoon | Reuters
Times Editor Dean Baquet on Calling Out Donald Trump’s Lies - The New York Times
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High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history | Books | The Guardian
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Washington mall shooting suspect is arrested after manhunt | Daily Mail Online
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Зачем власти Афганистана решили легализовать одного из главных исламских радикалов - Газета.Ru
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Posts - 9.25.16

News Reviews and Opinions: Man, 20, in Custody After Fatal Shooting of 5 People at Mall Outside Seattle - The New York Times | » U.S. intelligence probes ties between Russia and Trump 'foreign policy adviser' - Daily Mail 25/09/16 00:42 from Mike Nova's Shared Newslinks
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Trump tells Netanyahu he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Reuters
Washington State Mall Shooting Suspect’s Troubled Past Comes Into Focus - WSJ
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Russia, Jailer of Local Separatists, Welcomes Foreign Secessionists - The New York Times

9.24.16 - Sa

The problem with 'psychology experts' helping Clinton prep for Trump - Business Insider
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President Trump? There’s only one way to stop it happening | Jonathan Freedland | Opinion | The Guardian
How to Cover a Charlatan Like Trump - The New York Times
Donald Trump keeps his debate planning secret to build interest in voters and maybe get in Hillary Clinton's head | McClatchy DC
Cruz voting Trump - POLITICO
In Syrian War, Russia Has Yet to Fulfill Superpower Ambitions - The New York Times
US, Russia Fail to Renew Syria Ceasefire Deal |
Russia: Syrian Opposition Must Separate from Nusra
Investigators said they killed for ISIS. But were they different from ‘regular’ mass killers? - The Washington Post
Did Russia Hack The NSA? Maybe Not : Parallels : NPR
Russian secret service uses Wikileaks campaign - ABC Online
Focus: Вбросы компромата на WikiLeaks - дело рук «московской агентуры» / Baltnews - новостной портал на русском языке в Латвии, Прибалтика, сводки событий, мнения, комментарии.
China and Russia lead list of Yahoo hack suspects – but some doubt theory | Technology | The Guardian
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That brief U.S.-Russia strategic partnership 15 years ago? New interviews reveal why it derailed. - The Washington Post
Шанс на стратегическое партнерство с Россией был упущен при Буше, — Washington Post | Русская весна
Clinton's Russia Fiction | The Daily Caller
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Posts - 9.24.16

News Reviews and Opinions: Cascade Mall shooting
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9.23.16 - F

Oil slumps 4 percent as no output deal expected for OPEC | Reuters
Air Strikes Target Rebels in Aleppo
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Posts - 9.23.16

The U.S. and Global Security Review: Rahimi’s Al Qaeda handler is based in Quetta: "Ahmad Khan Rahimi who was born 28 years ago n Afghanistan made several trips to his home country and Pakistan between 2011 and 2014. During those trips, he secretly visited Quetta, the capital of Pakistani Baluchistan for covert meetings with Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders,debkafile’s exclusive counterterrorism sources reveal. They also disclose that Rahimi was taken under the wing of a regular Al Qaeda controller during those visits. He was in contact with this controller, who also runs a number of sleepers in America, when he executed his three bombing attacks over the weekend in New York City and New Jersey." - DebkaFile
The U.S. and Global Security Review: The Many Times Donald Trump Has Lied About His Mob Connections
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News Reviews and Opinions: » US|What Does the FBI Do to Prevent Terrorist Attacks? - New York Times 23/09/16 12:34 from Mike Nova's Shared Newslinks
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Behavior and Law: Trump team builds 'psychological profile' of Clinton for debate - Politico


Dominique Moïsi on The Geopolitics of Emotion - Chats, Foreign Policy

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Dominique Moïsi is founder of and senior adviser to the French Institute of International Affairs. A regular writer for the Financial Times and Foreign Affairs and a visiting professor at Harvard University, Moïsi talked with Zócalo about his latest book, The Geopolitics of Emotion, and why fear, humiliation, and hope are changing our world.
Q. What is the argument you make in your book?
A. The book’s main argument is that you cannot fully understand the world we live in without trying to integrate and understand its emotions, in particular three of them, fear, hope and humiliation. These three emotions are closely linked to the notion of confidence, which is the defining factor in how nations and people address the challenges they face as well as how they relate to one another.
If one wanted to summarize these three emotions with three formulas, one would say that hope is “I want to do it, I can do it, and I will do it”; humiliation is “I can never do it” and may lead to “I might try as well to destroy you since I cannot join you”; and fear is “Oh, my God, the world has become such a dangerous place; how can I be protected from it?” Fear, humiliation, and hope thus can be seen as just natural and vital ingredients in human beings as the three components of blood; red cells, white cells and plasma. Health depends on the right balance among them. To have too much or too little of any of these three components is dangerous for the balance of the body and for its long term health. The key point is that emotions are like cholesterol, both good and bad.
Q. Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis still holds much weight in the political world. Where do you think it falls short, and how does your analysis better capture the realities of today’s global conflicts?
A. In his famous 1993 essay in Foreign Affairs, which he later turned into a book, Samuel Huntington claimed that a clash of civilizations was about to dominate world politics, in which culture, alongside national interest and political ideology, was becoming a geopolitical fault line. I have always had serious reservations about Huntington’s theory. I think that in his search for a new enemy in order to focus the foreign policy of the United States after the demise of the Soviet empire, Huntington dangerously confused the notion of culture in general, including social and religious beliefs and behaviors, with that of political culture. Are not many in the Asian world also believers in the universal applicability of Western values and practices such as democracy? There also seems to be no sign of an alliance between Asia and the Islamic world against the West, as Huntington predicted. On the contrary, in the international arena, India and China behave more like satisfied status quo powers – with the exception of Taiwan and Tibet for China, and Kashmir for India – than irresponsible and dangerous revolutionaries.
Q. How do these emotions – fear, humiliation, hope – come to dominate a culture? What are the factors that determine them?
A. Like the seasons, emotions are cyclical. These cycles can be long or short, depending on the culture, on world events, on economic and political developments. In our modern world even a major sports victory can create a sense of elation that may be short lived but have serious immediate consequences. The Chinese banked on the 2008 Beijing Olympics to confirm the international status of their country, even if the Olympics are the result and not the cause of this status. Hope has not only moved east but has also taken on a materialist secular overtone. Hope today is about economic and social empowerment, and it is based on a sense of confidence which is the product of history. As long as the sense of progress among the rising millions transcends the despair, anger and hunger of the poor majority, then the culture of hope will prevail in China, India, and not only there.
If hope is confidence, humiliation is impotence, an emotion that stems above all from the feeling that you are no longer in control of your life either collectively as a people, a nation, or a religious community, or individually, as a single person. Humiliation peaks when you are convinced that the “Other” has intruded into the private realm of your own life and made you utterly dependent. Humiliation encapsulates a sense of dispossession toward the present and even more so towards the future. The dominance of humiliation in the Arab-Islamic world has many causes but the first and most important is a sense of historical decline, a fear of decay that can be traced back to the end of the 17th century, but which reached new depths in the last century.
Fear, the dominant emotion of the West, is above all a reaction to the events and feelings taking place elsewhere. The perception of our vulnerability and of our relative loss of centrality is at the very center of our identity crisis. But a single word may describe very different realities. The fear that dominates or dominated America is quite different than that which permeates Europe. The European culture of fear is dominated by the interrogation “Who are we?” Unlike Europeans, Americans are not preoccupied by the ghost of their past. America has always seen itself as a future, a project more than a history. Three key questions contribute to the current American identity crisis. Have we lost our soul – that is our ethical superiority? Have we lost our purpose – that is our sense of a unique national mission? Finally, have we lost our place in the world – that is, are we in decline? In other words, if Europeans are asking, “Who are we?” Americans are wondering, “What have we done to ourselves?”
The Geopolitics of EmotionQ. You open the book with a discussion of American hope, and you also discuss American fear within the book. How do these two emotions live side by side in America? What sort of country and conflict does that create?
A. Fear and hope coexist in America. One could say that there is one America united by fear and another united by the fear of fear and that the latter America has rallied under the banner of hope. Fear has always been present in American history. The free circulation of guns that remains characteristic of the United States to this day not only celebrates individualism and self-defense, but also represents the inheritance of a wild, violent, and dangerous past, where “man is wolf to man” and fear a natural part of life. But America is also the land of hope and dream. President Barack Obama has this on his side; he is striving not against but with the national grain, seeking not to innovate but rather to restore his country’s traditional view of itself, in which a strong belief in ethical values produces a healthy sense of optimism. One of the key reasons for optimism is that America, the quintessential nation of immigrants, will find new energies and transcend its fears thanks to the millions of new citizens arriving on its shores every year. No one in the world dreams of becoming Chinese; millions of people still dream of becoming American. As long as America keeps the power to attract and the power to integrate, she will be able to surmount the tension between fear and hope.
Q. You note that some countries exhibit a combination of the three emotions – Russia, Iran, Israel. What does this do to their country and their relationships with other countries? Are they uniquely conflict-prone, or unstable, or extreme, or something else?
A. Countries like Russia, Iran and Israel elude a simple classification because they contain all three emotions – fear, humiliation and hope – equally or in a deeply intermingled proportion.
They tend to be particularly difficult to deal with. Of course each country is a case in itself and their attitudes will vary with time depending upon their choices of leaders. Suffice it to say that the least at ease you are with yourself, the more difficult you tend to be in your relationships with others.
Q. How can the emotion of humiliation in the Arab-Islamic world be overcome, if at all?
A. Humiliation can be overcome. Flashes of hope do exist in the Arab world. Just consider the case of the Gulf emirates. They constitute a zone of prosperity and stability in an otherwise poor and turbulent environment and they are the proof that modernity and Islam are not incompatible.
Q. You note that some believe clash between the West and the East are inevitable. Are clashes between countries or cultures exhibiting different emotions inevitable?
A. Clashes between countries and cultures exhibiting different emotions are not inevitable. Knowledge is the answer to intolerance. Learning about the emotions of other cultures is crucial in a world where the “Other” becomes part of us in our multicultural societies. Self-knowledge is particularly important in the case of Islam, where ignorance of one’s own religion and culture constitutes the most fertile soil for the most extreme interpretations, radical perversions and the teaching of hatred.
Q. What is the ideal emotional state for countries, and/or for the world, going forward?
A. If collective entities like cultures and nations can be analyzed through the prisms of psychology and emotions, is it possible to conceive of a prescription for the world analogous to the medical treatment that might be prescribed for an individual? In other words, what are the political strategies and institutional mechanisms necessary to reinforce hope and to contain or reduce fear and humiliation? I am afraid you will have to wait for an answer; this is the subject of my next book.
*Photo of Mr. Moïsi courtesy Laurent Moïsi.
Read the whole story

· · · · · ·

Anger and fear dominate U.S. politics

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A common diagnosis of Jeb Bush's failed campaign is that the candidate was "out of touch." It's hard to argue otherwise; Bush himself admitted it. "I'm not a grievance candidate," he told NBC's Chuck Todd. Sure enough, Bush soon wasn't a candidate at all.
There are no more happy warriors on the hustings, eager to lead the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. Well, there's Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "I want you to know I'm going to continue to run a positive campaign and not get down in the gutter and throw mud at anybody," Kasich said after his defeat — one of 30 out of 30 Republican contests — in Michigan. "So I think the people are beginning to reward a positive campaign."
Good luck, Mr. Kasich.
It has been 22 years since "angry white men" powered the Republican takeover of Congress. Over the decades their anger and alienation have only intensified as their dissatisfaction has spread across the land.
More than twice as many Americans believe the country is on the wrong track as on the right track. That's a subjective judgment, but it rests on facts people often get wrong. The 2015 American Values Survey found: "The number of Americans citing crime, racial tensions, and illegal immigration as major problems increased substantially between 2012 and 2015."
Actually, crime, including violent crime, is mostly down in that period, continuing a spectacularly positive trend that is two decades long. Illegal immigration is down substantially from its 2007 peak. Racial "tensions," which are a product of perception, may well be "up" for some Americans. But since 2012, jobs, GDP growth and the number of Americans with health insurance are all up despite many perceptions that they're not.
In a world increasingly driven and navigated by data, American politics appears increasingly immune to its charms. Donald Trump's voluminous lies have been repeatedly documented and refuted, yet he leads the Republican nomination race. Demonology and nonsense reign.
"What most Republicans know about the society and the economy comes from cable news, talk radio, right-wing blogs and the amplification from emails and other social media shared by close friends and relatives," political scientist Norman Ornstein said via email. "What is the most prevalent commercial they see? For gold! Why gold? That is what you buy when the Apocalypse is coming."
On the Democratic side, life ought to be relatively cool and bright. The Democratic Party has its problems, but it's not a steaming existential mess like the GOP. Hillary Clinton is running for Obama's third term, promising both to preserve his accomplishments and, where possible, advance a similar agenda. Like Obama campaigning in 2012, when he had the delicate task of taking credit for an economic rebound while acknowledging that many skiffs had failed to rise with the tide, Clinton is constantly reminding audiences that she knows things should be better.
But to keep pace with Bernie Sanders, her Democratic rival, she's also had to get acquainted with the gloom. The essence of the Sanders campaign is that the economy is "rigged" by those at the very top who are keeping everyone else down. Politics in his view is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate elites. "The real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do," Sanders said.
Sanders doesn't consider Obama's presidency a liberal success under extraordinarily adverse economic and political conditions. He thinks it's a lost opportunity. He and his supporters see a bleak landscape raked over by corporations and their political enablers in pursuit of dominance and profits. They want more jobs and less trade, more health insurance and less Obamacare, more equality and less equivocating.
Sanders' list of bad guys (the rich) is short. Republicans, by contrast, offer a smorgasbord of enemies, including Mexicans and Muslims, Obama and liberals, "political correctness," China, Japan, Europe and, of course, that locus of taxes, regulation and irredeemable evil, the U.S. Government, aka "Washington."
There are serious problems in the U.S., including a long, painful decline in incomes for high-school graduates and others in jobs that have been squeezed by globalization and automation. Millions of people have been left behind by a fast-moving, unstable economy.
But the general contours of the economy and the nation circa 2016 are insufficient to explain how so many Americans came to have faith in a narrative of doom. The resulting paralysis undermines the capacity of politics and policy to use traditional levers, including the tax code and the social safety net, to address the very problems bringing everyone down.
One of Americans' most telling anxieties is the pervasive fear that they or a loved one will fall victim to a terrorist attack. For the average American, the chances are smaller than minuscule. But we are a nation seemingly hooked on fear itself. Mexican or Muslim, overbearing rich or grasping poor, we'll get a fix wherever we can find it.
Bloomberg View
Francis Wilkinson writes on politics and domestic policy for Bloomberg View.

Albright: Trump's slogan should be 'Russia First'

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Speaking to reporters on a press call, Albright and former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, slammed the GOP presidential nominee for what they called a deep embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his agenda. 
"Maybe Trump should make his slogan 'Russia first,' " Albright said, playing off Trump's "America First" slogan.
"The president's first and only motivation should be advancing America's interests, not their for-profit interests," she added, raising questions about Trump's business ties to Russia. 
A Newsweek article published last week detailed the Trump Organization's dealings in several countries, including Russia, and argued his investments would be a conflict of interest if he becomes president.
Trump has said he would not participate in decisions about his businesses if elected.
But Morell, who served under President Obama, argued Trump should disclose his overseas business interests, a common refrain from the Clinton campaign. 
"It seems to me — I can't prove this — but ... the positions he's taken on Russia are motivated by a support for his business interests," he said. 
Morell made waves when he endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in his career in August, calling Trump too dangerous. 
"I truly believe that Donald Trump's lack of experience in foreign policy and national security and his lack of interest in learning about it and his temperament, his narcissism, his thin skin ... all of that said to me that this guy is not only incapable of being our commander in chief, he would actually be a danger to our national security," Morell said Thursday. 
Morell said his job at the CIA involved trying understand foreign leaders and their intentions.
"If I tuned that on Donald Trump, I would tell you that his No. 1 interest, the thing he cares about most, is not the United States of America. It is Donald Trump. He cares more about himself than he does about anything else, including his nation," he said.
Albright also said Trump has a "lack of knowledge about what is going on" in Russia and Ukraine. 
She said she wants the moderator at Monday's presidential debate to directly ask Trump about his business stakes in Russia and to explain the foreign policy issues there.
"I would also ask him to try to explain what he sees as Putin's role in terms of trying to figure out what's happening in Crimea. See if he can actually explain Ukraine's history and what has happened in Ukraine and America's interest in it," said Albright, who served under President Bill ClintonBill ClintonClinton announces guests for first debate Cuban will pose media distraction at debate, should be banned Trump must avoid an 'Aleppo moment' in first debate MOREin the '90s. 
"My sense is he can't answer anything longer than one sentence on these issues." 
Trump raised eyebrows in July for saying Putin wouldn't invade Ukraine, even though Russian forces have already seized the Crimean Peninsula.
Read the whole story

· · ·

Police say man opens fire, injuring two, near supermarket west of Paris

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PARIS (Reuters) - French police officials said on Monday a man had opened fire near a supermarket west of Paris and injured two people.

Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear

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People are scared,” Donald Trump said recently, and he was not wrong.
Fear is in the air, and fear is surging. Americans are more afraid today than they have been in a long time: Polls show majorities of Americans worried about being victims of terrorism and crime, numbers that have surged over the past year to highs not seen for more than a decade. Every week seems to bring a new large- or small-scale terrorist attack, at home or abroad. Mass shootings form a constant drumbeat. Protests have shut down large cities repeatedly, and some have turned violent. Overall crime rates may be down, but a sense of disorder is constant.
Fear pervades Americans’ lives—and American politics. Trump is a master of fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning and validating it. More than most politicians, he grasps and channels the fear coursing through the electorate. And if Trump still stands a chance to win in November, fear could be the key.
Fear and anger are often cited in tandem as the sources of Trump’s particular political appeal, so frequently paired that they become a refrain: fear-and-anger, anger-and-fear. But fear is not the same as anger; it is a unique political force. Its ebbs and flows through American political history have pulled on elections, reordering and destabilizing the electoral landscape.
This week, Trump delivered a speech on immigration that depicted outsiders as a frightening threat. “Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders,” he said. His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention similarly made clear the extent to which his message revolves around fear. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” Trump thundered. “Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims.”

Notes of uplift were few and far between in the convention speech, and commentators were duly shocked by its dark tone. (The conservative writer Reed Galen called Trump’s convention “a fear-fueled acid trip.”) Trump summons fear in the conventional way, by describing in concrete terms the threats Americans face. But he also, in a more unusual maneuver, summons fear in the abstract:There’s something going on, folks.
The critics who accuse Trump of cheap fear-mongering may be failing to recognize that the fear percolating in society is real, and somewhat justified; politicians who fail to validate it risk falling out of step with the zeitgeist. They are likely right, however, that ratcheting up fear helps Trump. This is the way fear works, according to social scientists: It makes people hold more tightly to what they have and regard the unfamiliar more warily. It makes them want to be protected. The fear reaction is a universal one to which everyone is susceptible. It might even be the only way Trump could win.
If the normal categories hold in this election—the patterns of turnout, the states in play, the partisan and demographic divides—it is almost impossible for Trump to prevail. The current polls show him losing in just such a predictable way, dogged by his offenses against various groups. But fear, history shows, has the power to jar voters out of their normal categories.
Trump paints a fearful picture, and events validate his vision. This is what happened in the Republican primary: When back-to-back terror attacks hit Paris in November and San Bernardino in December, he pointed to them as proof that his warnings about Muslims were justified, and voters flocked to him, boosting and solidifying his polling lead in the final stretch before primary voting began. Trump’s standing in the polls rose about 7 percentage points in the aftermath of the attacks, buoying him to the level it would take to win primary contests.
Now, Trump is again leaning into voters’ unease. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working, but events could yet change the equation; this is why many pundits and political scientists believe a large-scale terrorist attack on the eve of the election would redound to Trump’s electoral favor—by validating the fearful vision he has espoused.
Trump supporters, recent polling has shown, are disproportionately fearful. They fear crime and terror far more than other Americans; they are also disproportionately wary of foreign influence and social change. (They are not, however, any more likely than other Americans to express economic anxiety.)
“I used to fly a lot, but now I don’t get on an airplane unless I have to,” Pat Garverick, a retired tech worker, told me at a recent Trump rally in Northern Virginia. “There’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, ‘Is this safe?’ I try to stay away from crowds. There are so many people trying to hurt us or stir up violence.”
Not all the Trump supporters I have asked in recent months say they feel afraid. One woman told me, “I’m not scared; I’m pissed off.” Others cited less immediate fears: They say they are afraid for their country or their children’s future. But many cited a visceral sense of insecurity. “I am terrified,” confided Jonnianne Ridzelski, who I met at a Trump rally in Alabama in April. She had, she said, been making preparations for disaster, including stocking up on canned food.
What, exactly, was she afraid of? She couldn’t say, and that was perhaps the most frightening thing of all. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.
While anger makes people aggressive, prone to lash out, fear makes them cower from the unfamiliar and seek refuge and comfort. Trump channels people’s anger, but he salves their fear with promises of protection, toughness, strength. It is a feedback loop: He stirs up people’s latent fears, then offers himself as the only solution.
Frightened people come to Trump for reassurance, and he promises to make them feel safe. “I’m scared,” a 12-year-old girl told the candidate at a rally in North Carolina in December. “What are you going to do to protect this country?”
“You know what, darling?” Trump replied. “You’re not going to be scared anymore. They’re going to be scared.”
To the seasoned political practitioner, fear is a handy tool. “Fear is easy,” Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican ad maker, told me recently. “Fear is the simplest emotion to tweak in a campaign ad. You associate your opponent with terror, with fear, with crime, with causing pain and uncertainty.”
Wilson has plenty of experience. In 2002, he made a commercial that criticized Democratic Senator Max Cleland, who had lost three limbs in Vietnam, while showing images of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. In 2008, Wilson made ads attacking Barack Obama by showing the incendiary statements of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. “I wanted to scare the living shit out of white people in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Wilson said. “Today, they would all be Trump voters, I’m sure.”
Fear-based appeals hit people on a primitive level, Wilson said. “When people are under stress, the hind brain takes over,” he said. Trump, Wilson believes, has expertly manipulated many people’s latent fear of the other. “Fear of Mexicans, fear of the Chinese, fear of African Americans—Donald Trump has very deliberately stoked it and inflamed it and made it a centerpiece of his campaign,” he told me.
A majority of Americans now worry that they or their families will be victims of terrorism, up from a third less than two years ago, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Nearly two-thirds worry about being victims of violent crime. Another poll, by Gallup, found that concern about crime and violence is at its highest level in 15 years.
Trump supporters are more concerned than most. According to data provided by the Public Religion Research Institute, 65 percent of Trump supporters feared being victims of terrorism, versus 51 percent of all Americans. Three-fourths of Trump supporters feared being victims of crime, versus 63 percent overall. Trump supporters also disproportionately feared foreign influence: 83 percent said the American way of life needed to be protected from it, versus 55 percent overall. Two-thirds of Trump supporters also worried that they or a family member would become unemployed, but this was not much different than the 63 percent of non-Trump supporters who had the same concern. Economic anxiety, while widespread in America today, is not a distinguishing characteristic of Trump supporters; other anxieties are.
Trump’s audience of conservative-leaning voters may be particularly susceptible to fear-based appeals. Researchers have found that those who are more sensitive to threats and more wary of the unfamiliar tend to be more politically conservative. “The common basis for all the various components of the conservative attitude syndrome is a generalized susceptibility to experiencing threat or anxiety in the face of uncertainty,” the British psychologist G.D. Wilson wrote in his 1973 book, The Psychology of Conservatism. In other words, an innate fear of uncertainty tends to correlate to people’s level of conservatism.
Subsequent experiments have confirmed this idea. In a 2003 paper reviewing five decades of research across 12 different countries, the psychologist John Jost and his collaborators found “the psychological management of uncertainty and fear” to be strongly and consistently correlated with politically conservative attitudes. (This “fear of threat,” however, is not the same as anxiety in the sense of neuroticism, which correlates strongly with liberal political attitudes.)
In study after study, the characteristic most predictive of a person’s political leanings is his or her tolerance for ambiguity. “The more intolerant of ambiguity you are—the more you seek control over your surroundings, certainty, clear answers to things—the more you tend toward conservative preferences,” Anat Shenker, a liberal communications consultant and cognitive linguistics researcher, told me.
But it is not only conservatives who are susceptible to fear. Almost all of us exist somewhere on the continuum between the extremes of “totally averse to the unfamiliar” and “totally enthusiastic about the unknown.” Experiments find that everyone’s political views become more conservative when they are provoked to become more fearful. In one study, liberal subjects who had just been confronted with a threat immediately reported more conservative views on abortion, capital punishment, and gay rights.
If fear is strong enough, it can accomplish something exceedingly rare: It can override people’s preexisting partisan commitments. This happened in the wake of the September 11 attacks: Political scientists say Republicans’ success in the 2002 and 2004 elections can be largely attributed to Americans’ increased fear of terrorism. “There is evidence from 2002 and 2004 that people’s concern about terror was a very good predictor of their voting habits, even apart from partisanship,” Shana Gadarian, a political scientist at Syracuse University and the author of The Politics of Threat: How Terrorism News Shapes Foreign Policy Attitudes, told me. (Democrats, Gadarian notes, also use fear to push their agenda on issues with which they’re associated, like climate change and health care.)
Shenker makes the case that the world is changing these days more quickly than any of us are inherently equipped to handle. “The modern condition of life is pretty much an assault on our brains,” she told me. “We’re experiencing change and ambiguity at a rate unprecedented in human history. Think about how long it took to get from the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution. And now all of a sudden the climate is changing, women are becoming men, I’m talking to you on a little sliver of plastic and metal. We have change in every dimension faster than our brains have evolved to deal with it.” In studying Trump voters on behalf of <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, Shenker found that they responded strongly to the idea that he would bring order and control to a chaotic world.
Gadarian, the political scientist, said, “When people feel anxious, they want to be protected.” Trump’s policies, she pointed out, are a literal answer to this desire: protectionist economics; a wall that physically protects the country from outsiders. “How do you overcome the threat of terror, of crime, of immigration? You say, ‘We will protect the country by building a wall.’”
Here is a case study in the power of fear in politics. Immigration reform has seemed ripe for bipartisan compromise ever since George W. Bush tried to pass it in during his second term. Majorities of voters consistently say they support allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens and oppose mass deportation. Yet the policy has been derailed by intense, concentrated, visceral opposition. Meanwhile, the reaction to mass migration has upended the politics of virtually every European nation, from Brexit to France to Scandinavia.
Frank Sharry, a proponent of immigration reform who heads the group America’s Voice, has worked on the issue since the 1980s, but the rise of Trump forced him to revise his understanding. What had always seemed to him like a policy dispute now strikes him as something more profound and primal, he told me.
“Ten years ago, when [John] McCain and [Ted] Kennedy were working together on comprehensive immigration reform and George W. Bush supported it, I really thought this was a rational policy disagreement that was headed toward a logical compromise,” Sharry told me recently. “Now, I see it as deeply cultural. It’s racially charged, it’s tribalism, it’s us-vs.-them. It’s a referendum on the face of globalization, on a moment of demographic and cultural change.”
There are legitimate policy arguments against increasing immigration or legalizing the undocumented, but Sharry came to believe that they were not the drivers of opposition to the issue. Once you see fear as an axis, it resonates across any number of political debates. The fearful mind sees immigrants as an invasion force, refugees as terrorists, rising crime as a threat to one’s family, drugs as a threat to one’s children, and social change as a threat to one’s way of life. Almost everyone is somewhat susceptible to fear’s appeal; those naturally inclined to be conservative somewhat more so. But it takes a particular type of politician to push the buttons in human nature that activate these fears.
“Some people’s sense of who we are as a country is threatened to the core,” Sharry said. “Trump speaks to our id, something latent in all of us to different degrees. This is not a political campaign. It’s an identity campaign.”
Fear as a political force comes and goes, ebbing and flowing in American history. Politicians have always played to it: Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Daisy” ad envisioned a Barry Goldwater presidency leading to nuclear war; Richard Nixon emphasized “law and order” as a counterweight to the riots of 1968; fears of crime—with racial overtones—produced the “Willie Horton” ad in 1988 and the lock-’em-up mania of the 1990s. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Bear” ad—“There is a bear in the woods … Isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear?”—was echoed by a 2004 George W. Bush ad featuring prowling wolves.
“Fear is present constantly in American politics,” David Bennett, a historian and the author of The Party of Fear: The American Far Right From Nativism to the Militia Movement, told me. The most persistent fear in American life, he said, has been fear of outsiders.
“People need to displace and project their anxieties, their concerns about their own lives and the lives of people they care about, onto some other,” he said. Often they are susceptible to politicians who tell them that “the wrong kinds of people are responsible for threatening them or their loved ones.”
From colonial times to the early 19th century, the pervasive, virulent fear was of Catholics, who were seen as inferior, unassimilable, and in thrall to a foreign dictator (the Pope). The mass immigration of Irish Catholics in the 1830s and 1840s ratcheted up the panic and convulsed American politics, with the Whig Party collapsing and the anti-Catholic nativist Know-Nothing Party briefly becoming America’s second-largest political party.
After the Civil War, a new influx of Italians, Slavs, and Jews from Southern and Eastern Europe prompted a new nativist upsurge. By the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan had millions of members. But in the 1930s and 1940s, this wave of nativism largely subsided. What happened? “I argue that the nativists won,” Bennett told me. New federal legislation in the early 1920s closed the “golden door” and shut off the spigot of migrants.
Many have argued that fear and nativism in politics are driven by people’s economic insecurity, as struggling members of the majority find themselves in competition with immigrants for jobs and wages. But Bennett does not believe that to be the case. Nativism, he notes, was relatively low during the Great Depression, and rises in nativist sentiment haven’t generally correlated with periods of economic strain. Rather, they have correlated with large-scale increases in foreign immigration, which natives tend to view as a threat to the nation’s safety and culture. (Recent studies have also found a strong correlation between increases in anti-immigrant sentiment and increases in immigration.) It’s not desperation that makes people turn on the other—it’s diversity.
Right now, America’s foreign-born population is at a historically high level due largely to the surge in Latin American immigration of the last couple of decades. But as some conservative writers have noted, with both the Republican and Democratic establishments officially pro-immigration and pro-diversity, people’s anxieties about this fact had little expression in mainstream political discourse—until Trump came along.
Another form of fear also runs through American politics in the 20th century: the fear of foreign ideology, from anarchism to fascism to Marxism, that solidified into the Cold War fear of communism. Bennett believes that Trump has combined the fear of foreign ideology with fear of foreign immigration in a novel way, with his twin emphases on Islamist terror and Mexican migrants. This, he says, may be why Trump has done better than many fear-fueled politicians.
I asked Bennett if he believed appeals to fear had the power to realign American politics. “These fear-based movements have tended to be confined to the fringe, not take over major political parties,” he said. But the fact that Trump is the Republican nominee makes him wonder whether that historical pattern still holds. “This is what’s making me so nervous,” he said. “I don’t think we know.”
There is a final punch line to the analysis of Trump as the candidate of fear. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, is now campaigning on a fear-based appeal of her own—the fear of Trump.
Clinton’s speech accepting her party’s nomination presented her as the candidate of hopefulness and pluralism, a contrast to Trump’s gloom and doom. But it also sought to sow alarm about the prospect of a Trump presidency, depicting him as erratic and thin-skinned, apt to start a war on a whim. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” she said. At every turn, she and her aides have portrayed Trump as a “risky” choice with a “temperament” that could lead to dire consequences. It would not be surprising to see her campaign cut an updated version of the “Daisy” ad.
In research conducted for MoveOn, Shenker, the linguistics consultant, found that the idea of Trump as a threat was the most persuasive case against him among swing voters. “The single most damning case against Trump, across the various measurements and using his own words and actions as evidence, is that as President he would escalate the likelihood of catastrophic violent conflict from without and within, posing a serious threat to the future of the United States,” her team wrote in a memo outlining their findings. This message, they noted, was far more effective than emphasizing Trump’s “misogyny” or depicting his economic record as bad for working people.
But Shenker told me that she worries that the Clinton campaign has not done enough to offer a positive vision as an alternative to Trump’s alarmism. “Every time Clinton says, ‘Trump is dangerous,’ what people are hearing is, ‘The world is dangerous, it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous,’” she told me. “It just plays into the message of chaos.” And the more chaotic the world feels, the more people may look to Trump for comfort.
Read the whole story

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