i've been thinking a lot about the michael moore film, "bowling for columbine." he posits the concept of a "culture of fear" [introduced by a professor from UCLA wandering with him in south-central LA] as the basis for why americans kill each other more than any other country, despite the fact that there are others that have just as many guns... a friend of mine wrote in his blog the other day about being afraid to run over the brooklyn bridge due to paranoia regarding bombings, terrorist plots &c, and i immediately thought of the film...nice that he saw this as a function of the "culture of fear" as well [after seeing the film].
moore spends most of the film examining gun laws, racial tensions, & the presentation of "news" as cultivating this "fear..." but i've been thinking about it in a broader spectrum as well. that is... last saturday the new york times ran this article discussing how the political advertisement in South Dakota is so overbearing, in a race with few swing voters, that voters wonder incessantly _why_ the ads continue.
recently in new york, i find myself facing the same kind of problem - tom golisano, the independent candidate for governor, runs ads against his two candidates, Pataki & McCall. they in turn run ads against each other, & half the prime-time advertising spots are golisano v. pataki v. mccall v. pataki v. golisano. it's ridiculous, & the only issue that seems at this point to separate them is that of medical marijuana - and golisano is the only one to say "i'm for it."
at the same time, i'm watching buffy the vampire slayer on tv, where these political ads [which hold the most costly positions at the beginning of the commercial breaks] are back-to-back with Fisher Price spots & this one Mitsubishi ad which i think i liked for the music originally but saw a minimum of 10 times last night...
and i'm wondering to myself - what makes the south dakotans so different from any other battered television viewer? whether in a political race where moderate candidates [their "friends," regional & national parties not to be exempted] spend millions on ads saying what they did or didn't do in comparison to what their moderate competition did or didn't do, where automobiles are advertised by their fluency to move through various stages of life [all with a sexy techno underbeat] &/or save lives [new volvo commercial] while being "cool" & fun, [but still having side-impact protection airbags just in case you get drunk & stupid from watching too many coors light commercials], with news-updates regarding snipers & beatings & rapings & murders [oh my!] pushed in-between ever-shortening segments of hyper-real sit-coms & dramas, WHY WOULDN'T YOU BE AFRAID?! afraid of deamons or monsters, or their "real" incarnations, of shootings & muggings, why wouldn't my friend worry about getting blown up on the brooklyn bridge? why wouldn't i walk more quickly down a darkened street?
some people say "better safe than sorry." i agree wholeheartedly. but living your life like this is akin to what we used to say growing up about the risk of getting hurt doing some sort of stupid skiing or snowboarding or biking or sledding stunt - "yeah. and you could get hit by a meteor walking across the street." & i guess this whole little rant is more about how _angry_ i am that I AM AFRAID. that i have been subjected to this hyperactive fear, have embraced it and made it my own... but more than anything, it's about how the fear is EVERYWHERE. it's not just about watching the news, or watching television, or reading the paper, or reading a book, or seeing a movie. it's about recognizing that american culture is one of fear. and that has not just "appeared" but has been exacerbated by the events of 9/11 and what has happened since...in the same way that McCarthyism was based in fear, that the Japanese internment camps during WWII were based in fear, fuck it even killing the native americans...all fear. and the cultural imperialism that is america's global m.o. is about the fear of _difference_ [i could get all derridian and say "differance" but i'll refrain] & eliding that difference - here, there, and everywhere.
no wonder political campaigns are so boring & moderate & negative. no wonder advertising is so crisp & clean [& still focused on the fear of not fitting in, not taking the risk, having a pimple, or not having the right toy for your child to grow up smart & strong & afraid]. no fucking wonder.