The Panic du Jour

Pandemics, terrorism, energy shortages, cancer risks, corporate scandals, second-hand smoke, AIDS, famine, killer bees, deadly nanoparticles. . . and if that’s not enough, it’s likely that another fear-inducing threat will emerge before the week ends. It seems that as soon as one “reason to panic” subsides, another one bursts into the headlines. What’s going on? Since at least the middle of the last century, a whole ecosystem has emerged that feeds on our uncertainty, anxiety, and aversion to risk. When all but a few of these “crises” have passed, there is a small number of winners and a large number of losers. And, because of human nature, we don’t seem to learn much each time the cycle is repeated. We’ll explain why this “culture of fear” pervades our society, and how you can become immune to it.

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