Perpetuating The Culture Of Fear Essay, Research Paper
Barry Glassner’s book The Culture of Fear demonstrates how people manipulate our understanding and profit from our anxieties; and how the media gather scares to get ratings. I will demonstrate how Glassner’s theory proves how forms of inequality perpetuate the “culture of fear” and in turn, how the “culture of fear perpetuates forms of inequality. Poverty is a major problem in the world today. Glassner’s theory demonstrates how the lower class continues to put out a bad image which is in turn labeled by the media and upper classes, causing the poor to stay poor. I will show why people from higher status backgrounds have a better chance of becoming wealthy than those from lower status backgrounds. The essays; “The Positive Functions of poverty” by Herbert Gans, “The Saints and Roughnecks” by William Chambliss, “Masculinity’s and Athletic Careers” by Michael Messner, and excerpts from Glassner’s book will present why this is true and how it can be reversed.
Slum lords and loan Sharks are infamous for profiting from the existence of poverty. But they are not the only ones who take advantage of the poor; society does as well-often times not knowing that it is. The existence of poverty makes sure that societies’ “dirty work” is done. The dirty work is all of the jobs that no “respectable person” would want. These are usually underpaid, hazardous, and often dead-end jobs. Poverty also creates jobs that serve the poor and jobs that protect the rest of the population from the poor. Jobs like the police for instance are in existence to protect the haves from the have-nots. The crimes that are committed are released to the press who over exagerate what happened in order to scare the public. People catch on to the fears of society and profit off of them by selling things like insurance. They know that not everyone needs it, but make it sound like people should have it. Another function of poverty is to provide a low wage labor force that is unable to be unwilling to carry out unwanted jobs. TH Marshall said, “To assure and maintain the properties of our industries, it is necessary that the workers should never acquire wealth.” This quote emphasizes how the poor assist the upward mobility of the non-poor and in return fall deeper into poverty. By working for the haves, the have nots make a profit for the haves, and do this for extremely low wages which make sure they remain have-nots. Politicians claim that the poor “live off of the taxpayer’s hard earned money” in order to justify tax cuts and welfare which in turn reiterates poverty over and over again. When the politicians are elected they ignore the poor, who because they lack political power cannot reverse the stereotypes that wealthy people hold of them and the injustices continue.
A good example of how society perceives and perpetuates the growing gap between the wealthy and poor is William Chambliss’ essay “The Saints and Roughnecks.” In this essay he describes two groups of teenage boys in the same grade at the same high school. One group, called the “saints”, came from affluent families, wore nice clothes, and drove nice cars. The other group, distinguished as the “roughnecks” came from lower class backgrounds, did not have nice clothes and hardly ever had use of a car. In school everybody thought of the saints as good kids. Their teachers often gave them the benefit of the doubt on tests, regularly giving them higher grades than they deserved. The roughnecks on the other hand were thought of as bad kids who had no direction in life. Goode put it well when he said; “the privileged?try systematically to prevent the talent of the underprivileged from being recognized or developed.” The saints were given the benefit of the doubt most of the time because of their high-income backgrounds. The roughnecks on the other hand were never given a chance because they were from low economic backgrounds. They were monitored closely by the faculty at the school and were in trouble more because of this. The same is the situation between the wealthy and the poor. The poor are watched closer by authorities and therefore get arrested more often than wealthy people. These are the same crimes that the wealthy participate in but are not caught for. This injustice again perpetuates the culture of fear in society. News programs often report the criminal acts of the poor because they are the ones who get caught the most. In turn, the public stereotypes poor people as being criminals when this is not true for the majority of them. These emotions evoke more policies to keep the lower class poor. Different treatment of the two gangs in Chambliss’ essay was the outcome of one gang being more visible than the other. The Saints had access to cars and were often able to get away from the sights of the community. Whereas the roughnecks who did not have access to cars, could in turn not remove themselves from the sight of the community. The community responded to the roughnecks as boys in trouble, and the gang accepted that perception. This acceptance of the community’s opinion gave way to them reinforcing their deviance. The disrespect and hostility that the gang constantly portrayed increased the community’s negativism towards them, eternalizing the entire situation.
Another good example of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is shown in Michael Messner’s essay entitled “Masculinity’s and Athletic careers. In this essay Messner shows how men from higher status backgrounds have more opportunities than men from lower status backgrounds. The middle class holds great emphasis on education and income. This shows men that there are choices to become successful other than by pursuing athletic careers. Men from lower income backgrounds often find it hard to fit in because they do not have many status symbols such as nice clothing or nice cars. Since these status symbols were unavailable to them they look for status in sports, wanting to earn recognition through public achievement. To these young men from lower class backgrounds, pursuing sports seems to be the most rational decision for a career. For nearly all of the men from lower class backgrounds, the status and respect that sports gave them was only temporary, and almost never translates into upward mobility in the class structure. A lot of the time, men from lower status backgrounds put all their eggs in one basket, whereas young men from middle or upper class backgrounds give themselves more options in pursuing academics and eventually a career in something other than sports. The options that the wealthy appear to have is a direct result of their economic backgrounds and their class expectations, which as have been shown, perpetuate the poor to become poorer and the rich richer.
Richard Nixon once said, “People react to fear, not love.” This is very true, especially in our society today. People and the media focus on the negatives of our society and attempt to scare us by over embellishing the truths of the matter at hand. These over embellishments perpetuate the topic and make it seem larger than life. In the case of poverty, a few lower class people make the entire upper classes scared of the lower class. This fear is then turned into looking down at poor people, which gives them, lower self esteem and hope for the future. In turn the poor go out and again perpetuate the situation even further by committing crimes, and working for the upper class in low paying, hazardous, and dead-end jobs. This manipulation of a manipulation is a vicious cycle, which makes sure that the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.