Culture of fear

For the Thievery Corporation album, see Culture of Fear.

Culture of fear (or climate of fear) is the concept that people may incite fear in the general public to achieve political goals through emotional bias.[1] It is also a term applied to the workplace.

In the workplace

Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants: leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace.[2] Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt.[3] When employees get the sense that bullies are tolerated, a climate of fear may be the result.[4] Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, with little or no room for dialogue and where complaining being considered futile.[5]

In a study of public-sector union members, approximately one in five workers reported having considered leaving the workplace as a result of witnessing bullying taking place. Rayner explained the figures by pointing to the presence of a climate of fear in which employees considered reporting to be unsafe, where bullies had been tolerated previously despite management knowing of the presence of bullying.[4]

Individual differences in sensitivity to reward, punishment, and motivation have been studied under the premises of reinforcement sensitivity theory and have also been applied to workplace performance.

A culture of fear at the workplace runs contrary to the "key principles" established by W. Edwards Deming for managers to transform business effectiveness. One of his fourteen principles is to drive out fear in order to allow everyone to work effectively for the company.

In politics

Main article: Fear mongering

Nazi leader Hermann Göring explains how people can be made fearful and to support a war they otherwise would oppose:

The people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.[6]

In her book "State and Opposition in Military Brazil," Maria Helena Moreira Alves found a "culture of fear" was implemented as part of political repression since 1964. She used the term to describe methods implemented by the national security apparatus of Brazil in its effort to equate political participation with risk of arrest and torture.[7]

Cassação (English: cassation) is one such mechanism used to punish members of the military by legally declaring them dead. This enhanced the potential for political control through intensifying the culture of fear as a deterrent to opposition.[8]

Alves found the changes of the National Security Law of 1969, as beginning the use of "economic exploitation, physical repression, political control, and strict censorship" to establish a "culture of fear" in Brazil.[9] The three psychological components of the culture of fear included silence through censorship, sense of isolation, and a "generalized belief that all channels of opposition were closed." A "feeling of complete hopelessness," prevailed, in addition to "withdrawal from opposition activity."[10]

Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argues that the use of the term War on Terror was intended to generate a culture of fear deliberately because it "obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue".[11][12]

Frank Furedi, a former professor of Sociology and writer for Spiked magazine, says that today's culture of fear did not begin with the collapse of the World Trade Center. Long before September 11, he argues, public panics were widespread – on everything from GM crops to mobile phones, from global warming to foot-and-mouth disease. Like Durodié, Furedi argues that perceptions of risk, ideas about safety and controversies over health, the environment and technology have little to do with science or empirical evidence. Rather, they are shaped by cultural assumptions about human vulnerability. Furedi say that "we need a grown-up discussion about our post-September 11 world, based on a reasoned evaluation of all the available evidence rather than on irrational fears for the future.[13]

British academics Gabe Mythen and Sandra Walklate argue that following terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon, Madrid, and London, government agencies developed a discourse of "new terrorism" in a cultural climate of fear and uncertainty. UK researchers argued that this processes reduced notion of public safety and created the simplistic image of a non-white "terroristic other" that has negative consequences for ethnic minority groups in the UK.[14]

In his 2004 BBC documentary film series, The Power of Nightmares, subtitled The Rise of the Politics of Fear, the journalist Adam Curtis argues that politicians have used our fears to increase their power and control over society. Though he does not use the term "culture of fear", what Curtis describes in his film is a reflection of this concept. He looks at the American neo-conservative movement and its depiction of the threat first from the Soviet Union and then from radical Islamists.[15] Curtis insists there has been a largely illusory fear of terrorism in the west since the September 11 attacks and that politicians such as George W Bush and Tony Blair had stumbled on a new force to restore their power and authority; using the fear of an organised "web of evil" from which they could protect their people.[16] Curtis's film castigated the media, security forces and the Bush administration for expanding their power in this way.[16] The film features Bill Durodié, then Director of the International Centre for Security Analysis, and Senior Research Fellow in the International Policy Institute, King's College London, saying that to call this network an "invention" would be too strong a term, but he asserts that it probably does not exist and is largely a "(projection) of our own worst fears, and that what we see is a fantasy that's been created."[17]

In a recent book, Maximiliano E Korstanje dangled the possibility the war on terror opens the doors for the upsurge of an old culture of fear, which though dormitant in American life, results from the Puritan cosmology. Far from being an external threat, Korstanje adds, terrorism represents a social phenomenon enrooted in the capacity of extortion and speculation, which nothing have to do with religion. This suggests that the main cultural values that determined terrorism are being created and disseminated through West.[18] In this vein, Geoffrey Skoll argues that fear is used by elite in order to maintain its legitimacy over workforce, though it varied from time to time into different shapes.[19] The meaning of fear not only is changing the tenets of democracy that characterized the life in America, as well as law-making, but also the ways judges understand the rights of workers.[20] In this respect, the Australian social scientist Luke Howie discusses the negative effects of terrorism on daily life. Far from what popular parlance precludes, terrorism does not look the total obliteration of a society, but instilling panic in order for their claims to be heard. At some extent, these tactics did not flourish in cultures which are insensitive to fear.[21]


Sorted upwards by date, most recent last.

See also


  1. Klaehn, Jeffery (2005). Filtering the news: essays on Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model. Black Rose Books. pp. 23–24.
  2. Petty tyranny in organizations, Ashforth, Blake, Human Relations, Vol. 47, No. 7, 755–778 (1994)
  3. Braiker, Harriet B. (2004). Who's Pulling Your Strings ? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation. ISBN 0-07-144672-9.
  4. 1 2 Helge H, Sheehan MJ, Cooper CL, Einarsen S "Organisational Effects of Workplace Bullying" in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  5. Salin D, Helge H "Organizational Causes of Workplace Bullying" in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  6. Gustave Gilbert (1947) Nuremberg Diary.
  7. Alves, Maria (1985). State and Opposition in Military Brazil. Brazil: University of Texas Press. p. 352.
  8. State and Opposition in Military Brazil. p. 43.
  9. State and Opposition in Military Brazil. p. 125.
  10. State and Opposition in Military Brazil. p. 126.
  11. "Terrorized by 'War on Terror' by Brzezinski". March 25, 2007. Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  12. Zbigniew Brzezinski While the true nature of the threat can't be established: it can be less it can be worse. (March 25, 2007). "Terrorized by 'War on Terror' How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-03. The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America ...
  13. Frank Furedi. "Epidemic of fear". Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  14. Communicating the terrorist risk: Harnessing a culture of fear? Gabe Mythen Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, Sandra Walklate University of Liverpool, UK
  15. "The Power of Nightmares: Your comments". BBC. London. August 3, 2005. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
  16. 1 2 Jeffries, Stuart (May 12, 2005). "The film US TV networks dare not show". The Guardian. London. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  18. Korstanje M (2015) A Difficult World, examining the Roots of Capitalism. New York, Nova Science Publishers.
  19. Skoll, G. R., & Korstanje, M. E. (2013). Constructing an American fear culture from red scares to terrorism. International Journal of Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, 1(4), 341–364.
  20. Skoll, G. R. (2007). Meanings of terrorism. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law-Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 20(2), 107–127.
  21. Howie, L. (2012). Witnesses to terror: Understanding the meanings and consequences of terrorism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/22/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.