Teacher's Ramblings

A potpourri of education, politics, family matters, and current events.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Safire-Democrats Trying To Scare Up the Votes

William Safire writes on what has been the trend, particulary in the last 2 weeks. Kids are coming into school talking about the flu and a return to the Civil Rights Movement. In many ways, it looks like they really don't care if they scare the country into another recession, especially if they are going to lose. My guess is this may help to reduce the Democratic Party to third party status-if they fail to win.


You an oldster? The fearmongers' pitch is that President Bush is plotting to snatch your Social Security check. Bush's sound idea of setting aside a small portion of your payroll tax as a personal nest egg for your retirement is twisted by the fearmongers into the dread word "privatization." Many older Americans safely covered by Social Security now needlessly worry about being thrust out into the snow.
You a youngster? The fearmongers noticed an urban legend floating around the Internet about a "January surprise" to bring back the draft and throw you into the first wave into Falluja. Never mind that it won't happen, because the military knows that a volunteer army works best; the scare tactic is sure to whip up the old fears in the young voters.
You got a cough? The Fear Room says it is probably the flu and that anti-health Bush stole your vaccine. With the shortage caused partly by drug companies' concern about punitive lawsuits, millions who never bothered with flu shots last year now have to have them. By pushing the panic button, the Fear Room pushes up demand and worsens the shortage.
The fearmongers used the death of Christopher Reeve as a news peg for its stem cell desk. Kerry had been gloomily denouncing Bush's "ban" on such embryonic research when there isn't a federal prohibition - indeed, some federal funding has begun, and Harvard is likely to compete with the State of California and others to develop new cell lines. Meanwhile, John Edwards outrageously used Reeve's death to offer false hope that paralyzed people like him would "get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."
After approving ads that strike fear into U.S. television viewers by exploiting terrorist beheadings of Americans, John Kerry had the chutzpah to say of Bush's reminders of 9/11: "He's scaring people." That was a classic Fear Room maneuver: as soon as editorial revulsion at scare tactics breaks into print, direct that reaction at the other side.
Ethicists, pundits and other goo-goos can all tut-tut about scare tactics, but the big question for political strategists is: do they work? We'll know in two weeks.
A similar question faces journalists and judges: will fear of jail force reporters to reveal their sources, and will such fear dry up leaks from whistle-blowers?


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