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“Fear is the mind-killer” – Frank Herbert, Dune
People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. As numerous studies have shown, fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. For people who have suffered trauma, fear messages can sometimes trigger uncontrollable flight-or-fight responses with dangerous ramifications.
Yet over time, many interlocking aspects of our society have become increasingly sophisticated at communicating messages and information that produce fear responses. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid—very afraid.
In addition, television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life, as researchers have pointed out. And more recently, we have witnessed the massive militarization of local police departments with equipment, gear and attitudes that treat citizens as if they were terrorists, as recently evidenced by events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Tag Archives | Fear
via Popular Science:
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Earlier this week, an organization called the Future of Life Institute issued an open letter on the subject of building safety measures into artificial intelligence systems (AI). The letter, and the research document that accompanies it, present a remarkably even-handed look at how AI researchers can maximize the potential of this technology. Here’s the letter at its most ominous, which is to say, not ominous at all:
Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.
And here was CNET’s headline, for its story about the letter:
Artificial intelligence experts sign open letter to protect mankind from machines
BBC News, meanwhile, ventured slightly further out of the panic room to deliver this falsehood:
Experts pledge to rein in AI research
I’d like to think that this is rock bottom.
Anxious people tend to perceive their world in a more threatening way. That is, the more anxious a person is, the more likely they are to notice threatening things around them. This is called the threat bias.
Some researchers believe that the threat bias makes it harder for people to get rid of anxiety disorders because they get stuck in a loop – they feel anxious, they start noticing threatening things in their environment, and this in turn makes them even more anxious.
However, the threat bias isn’t just something that people with anxiety disorders experience. Everyone can have trouble keeping worrying thoughts and feelings of anxiety out of their minds. And there are things you can do to make it easier for your brain to inhibit worrying thoughts.
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For my entire life, when I’ve met new people and arrived at the point in the relationship where we find ourselves talking about our fears, I’ve come away feeling disappointed. Why? Well, here is a list of legitimate fears: attack dogs, STD tests, that heartbeat moment when you Snapchat your junk to someone and their name begins with the same letter as someone in your family, your house burning down in the night.
Nowhere on that list is the word clowns, because for a long time, being scared of clowns has been the most bullshit fear on Earth. It’s a fear adopted by teenagers who don’t know any better to make them seem interesting by association. It’s a fear sprung from seeing a picture of Pennywise from Stephen King’s It and thinking, Yeah, that seems like a cool fear.
Benjamin Radford writes at Live Science:
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A public ceremony of Satanists planned in Oklahoma City this month has prompted protests, a lawsuit from the Catholic Church, talk of a “black mass,” and even the airing of laws against bloodletting. Such public images of fear are not uncommon when it comes to Satanist groups, though they may not be justified.
The ceremony for the Oklahoma City Satanists is slated for Sept. 21 in the city’s civic center and requires a ticket for admission. Officials from the city could not legally bar the group, as doing so would violate their First Amendment rights.
Officials did warn, however, that all laws must be followed, including fire codes and those involving public nudity; a spokeswoman for the parks and recreation department noted: “No bloodletting of any kind will be allowed.” (Though bloodletting and animal sacrifice are popularly associated with Satanism, they have historically been part of many religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.) [Tales of the Top 10 Craziest Cults]
The event has been described in the news media as a “black mass,” which, as James Lewis notes in his book “Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture” (ABC-CLIO, 2001), “refers to a blasphemous parody of a conventional [Catholic] Mass that was traditionally thought to be the central rite of Satanism.” This ritual was typically said to involve perverse orgies, a torrent of various bodily fluids, obscene gestures and even “a black candle made from the fat of unbaptized babies,” Lewis wrote.
Our reaction to the crisis in Fukushima Daiichi has been and continues to be generally irrational. Contrary to the assertions of some recent sensationalistic articles, there is no evident increase in thyroid health problems in Japanese children living in and around the Prefectures of Fukushima, and it is unlikely that there ever will be (UN Report; Nuclear News; J. of Am. Phys. and Surg.; CBCnews; Hiroshima Syndrome; National Geographic; Asahi Shimbun). This is because the only cause of thyroid risk during a nuclear disaster, iodine-131 which has a half-life of 8 days, was allowed to decay during evacuation and with restrictions on food and milk from the area. After 80–90 days had passed, released radioactive iodine-131 decays to less than 0.1% of its initial quantity, and therefore the danger is essentially over. (These precautions were not well followed near Chernobyl and thus resulted in many health problems in future years for the people of Ukraine.)
In fact, it has repeatedly been shown that the worst health effects from Fukushima have come not from any radioactive exposure, but from the the stress of evacuations and fear of radiation itself (Gaji 2013; Japan Daily Press; WHO Report; NYTimes). “The psychological stress…we should never underestimate that…it’s really what the big problem is, because there’s a lot of fear which might actually cause health effects,” says Kai Vetter of UC Berkley nuclear engineering department. In fact, not one person has yet died from exposure to Fukushima’s radiation, and it’s likely that no one ever will.… Read the rest
A few weeks ago we learned that Patriarchy Is Misandry, and that some men’s rights activists are horrible people. A friend shared this video with me and figured it’s worth sharing with you all. Please share your thoughts and opinions.
Understanding the realm of emotions is beset by an elemental difficulty: the meaning of words that refer to emotion are so ambiguous that we hardly know what we are talking about. Virginia Woolf stated it succinctly: “The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted” (1922). Compared to maps of the material world, and studies of behavior, thoughts, attitudes, perception, and beliefs, the realm of emotions is still terra incognita. One way of approaching this chaos is to examine one’s own emotions.
I became interested in studying emotion because of a series of unanticipated incidents in my own life. At the time my interests were focused on a more conventional topic in my discipline, the sociology of mental illness. When I was 40, I began exploring a new field because of experiences with my own emotions. I had just gotten divorced, and my ex had taken our children to Hawaii for a year.… Read the rest
Emotions are important, but there is the massive confusion in both popular and scientific conceptions of even what they are. There is also a sizable structure of erroneous assumptions, such as venting anger “gets it off your chest.”
There seem to be at least four defenses against confronting emotions directly:
2. Generalize (using only abstract terms: emotions, affect, arousal, etc.).
3. Disguise: use one of the vast number of alternative words that hide emotional content, such as “an awkward moment.”
4. Confuse: especially in English, the most important emotion terms are at least ambiguous and often misleading.
The elaborate hiding of shame studies by the use of alternative words is described in detail. Approaches to emotion that allow them to be noticed and discussed openly and directly are probably important us as individuals and for our whole civilization.
Understanding the realm of emotions is beset by an elemental difficulty: the meaning of words that refer to emotion are so ambiguous that we hardly know what we are talking about.… Read the rest
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What baffles the mind about the United States of America is that many of its citizens have been conditioned to fear shadows in the dark while ignoring the elephants in the room.
For example, in the last few years anti-homelessness laws have been passed across the United States, some going as far as making it illegal to feed the homeless. As if that wasn’t enough, to deal with America’s homelessness problem (2), some government representatives have turned to violence:
“Remarkably, this vigilante isn’t just some random Hawaiian, but five-term State Rep. Tom Brower (D).
“Noting that he’s ‘disgusted’ with homeless people, Brower told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about his own personal brand of ‘justice’: ‘If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.’ Brower has waged this campaign for two weeks, estimating that he’s smashed about 30 shopping carts in the process.