Culture of Fear
An Interview with Barry Glassner
contrarian traveler I get deals by visiting places others avoid, like
the Caribbean in summer or Europe in winter. Tourists also often avoid
destinations they consider tainted -- even if the rap isn't deserved.
Take Bali, Indonesia for example -- lots of tourists have stayed away
from that island paradise because of demonstrations in distant Jakarta
-- which would be like not visiting Burlington, Vermont because of rioting
in Washington DC. So I talked with Barry Glassner, author of a new book
-- The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Worry About the Wrong Things
and asked him, why are Americans afraid to visit Greece or cruise the
Adriatic when the conflict is hundreds of miles away in Yugoslavia.
"One factor is that Americans have a very poor sense of geography.
We are very nototious for that. So I think we think in terms of parts
of the world so that when we hear about a problem somoewhere we think
that the whole region must be infected it's sort of like if you think
about a disease as if the disease could somehow be spreading throughout
the whole body through the whole continent."
certainly are places I wouldn't visit like Algeria or Kosovo where they've
actually been fighting. But Glassner says worrying too much about paper
tigers can actually hurt us.
"The great irony is that by paying attention to isolated incidents
and scares that get... blown way out of proportion we don't pay attention
to what are much more proximate and serious dangers and therefore
put ourselves at greater risk. I like to talk about the fact that
if you are in an airplane you are infinitely safer than if you are
in a car but it's very hard to keep that in mind."
after that crash in Little Rock where nine people lost their lives. But
Glassner says the images of bodies and wreckage that frighten us just
obscure the fact that flying is safe.
"I had a tremendous fear of flying before I did the research for the
chapter in this book and then I spent a year really researching airline
safety and it had a phenomenal effect on me I'm no longer afraid
of flying and the reason is because I know that this is the safest
place I can be. I know airline safety is so extraordinary because
we have invested in this as a nation in a way we have not in any other
area. We don't invest this way to make highways safe, schools safe,
food safe, workplaces safe to the same degree by a long shot."
not telling you to ignore danger. It's up to you to decide what your
comfortable with, but I'd hate to think any of my listeners would pass
up a potentially great trip because of unfounded fears.