In the age of Trump, our society is defined by fear. Indeed, three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did only a couple decades ago. But are we living in exceptionally perilous times? In his bestselling book The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as rates for both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV shows that create a new scare every week to garner ratings. Glassner spells out the prices we pay for social panics: the huge sums of money that go to waste on unnecessary programs and products as well as time and energy spent worrying about our fears.
All the while, we are distracted from the true threats, from climate change to worsening inequality. In this updated edition of a modern classic, Glassner examines the current panics over vaccination and "political correctness" and reveals why Donald Trump's fearmongering is so dangerously effective.
Barry Glassner is a professor of sociology at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Glassner previously held posts at Syracuse University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Southern California. He received his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis and is the author of The Gospel of Food. Glassner lives in Portland, Oregon.