Scare tactics, by definition, are the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards a specific end. Throughout history, politicians and media outlets have wielded fear with such finesse any maestro would be envious. Lyndon B Johnson’s campaign used an ad featuring a little girl in a meadow, innocently counting flower petals, unaware her whole world is about to end in a mushroom-shape cloud, to propel their candidate to a landslide win over Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. Though only aired once, the ad is often cited as a major contributing factor to Johnson capturing 61% of the popular vote. Fear is a powerful tool, and 2012’s crop of candidates, supporters, analysts and commentators are not above muddying the issues with a little old-fashion terror.
In the race to exploit the uncertainty of the American people, both parties have launched volleys of propaganda designed to sway the undecided voter. The Democrats would have us believe Mitt Romney would enslave the poor for the financial benefit of his billionaire friends. The Republicans are quick to fire back with allegations of fascism and examples of President Obama’s “Un-Americaness”.
The mainstream media outlets have turned Decision 2012 into the ultimate race card. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pulls no punches when accusing the Republicans of dividing the country along racial lines, calling racism the “San Andres Fault of this country”. Vice President Joe Biden’s infamous “They’re going to put y’all back in chains” comment, made during a campaign rally in Danville, Virginia, is habitually played without the first part of the quote, where he is referring to Mitt Romney’s promise to unchain Wall Street. The comment was obviously made to garner support from African Americans voters by capitalizing on the fear and mistrust that exists between races in this country; but Biden’s words become a scare tactic for the Republicans when talk show hosts like Sean Hannity continually play an edited sound bite, focusing on the racist remark and not the point Biden was attempting to make.
Perhaps the one aspect of fear mongering both the Dems and the Repubs share is their unabashed contempt for anyone sifting through the political rubbish looking for truth. Protesters at the Republican National Convention were consistently portrayed as radicals and anarchists by the mainstream media outlets. The “Peanut Incidence”, where two attendees of the convention threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman, is the example mainstream media holds up for the American people. Sean Hannity posted an audio montage from “Romneyville”, the makeshift tent city erected by protesters, on his website. The listener is distracted from the messages being expressed by a picture of half-dressed people wallowing in the mud; and it would be safe to assume the interviews were edited to ensure the American people’s impression of the protesters was less than favorable. In reality, the majority of protesters were Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. School teachers, college students, truck drivers, pipe layers and other concerned citizens of this country speaking out about what they fear from both Romney and Obama. While some were colorful, they were not unwashed rabble or the dangerous, militant anarchists the media would have you believe.
As November approaches, both political parts will whip up a maelstrom of scare tactics to convince the American voter their cause is greater. In an age where the average American fears they will lose their job or their home, the politicians would add the anxiety of choosing between a racist and a fascist. In a country where the ability to feed your family or pay for desperately needed health care causes daily distress in its people, the media would have you focus on the skewed political views of whichever party the outlet supports; deeming anyone simply seeking the truth in all the fluff as dangerous or unstable. Voters must shield themselves from the rhetoric and listen to their inner conscious. They must become informed and base their decision on facts and the past actions of the candidates, not the fear being used against them by the people who would rule them.