Chicken Little is not a reliable source

A very interesting report this morning. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing here. There is no way to tell if fear will once again swallow reason in its white noise and strobe light, but maybe this will be the moment when we figure a few things out. Maybe we ought to act like humans and not like threatened lionesses who cannot understand that everything is okay. Maybe. So far, we aren't doing too well. So far, we have let fear keep us from reason.

"It's really a case of deja vu," he says. "You hear in today's debate echoes of the past that extend all the way to the early part of the 20th century. And I think the reason that people use fear again and again is that it's effective. It's worked to stop health reform in the past. And so they're going to try and use it in the present."

History Of Scare Tactics

Oberlander says opponents used scare tactics the very first time the idea of national health insurance was broached — around 1915 — by tying would-be reformers to the nation's then-greatest international threat.

"They said that national health insurance was a plot by the German emperor to take over the United States," he says.

The next effort to remake the health system came during the late 1940s. This time the opposition, led by the American Medical Association, exploited the newest fears. "They said if we adopted national health insurance, the Red army would be marching through the streets of the U.S.; they said this was the first step toward communism," Oberlander says.

By the time the Clinton administration took on the health effort, the power of the American Medical Association was fading. But now a new opponent took its place — the health insurance industry. It ran ads using an ordinary looking couple, named Harry and Louise, to raise doubts among middle-class Americans about how the Clinton plan might hurt rather than help them.

Says Oberlander, "The opponents have changed over time; the tactic of relying on fear and scaring Americans has not."

The Science Of Fear

But exactly why is fear such an effective tactic? Simple biology, says Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University.

It turns out that fear is a very primitive response, and "once fear is aroused in your brain, it tends to take over and dominate," LeDoux says. A brain paralyzed by fear is unable to think other things through.

Chicken Little was invested in his viewpoint too. He was just wrong, that's all. The sky wasn't really falling. But a whole bunch of others believed him.

Chicken Little was in the woods.
A seed fell on his tail.

He met Henny Penny and said,
"The sky is falling.
I saw it with my eyes.
I heard it with my ears.
Some of it fell on my tail."

He met Turkey Lurkey, Ducky Lucky,
and Goosey Loosey.
They ran to tell the king.

They met Foxy Loxy.

They ran into his den,
And they did not come out again.

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