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[Opinion] An Election of Fear

Posted November. 02, 2004 23:15,   


There is a dark shadow in the bushes. A sinister sound rings out as a wolf pack prowls around. “Weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.” This scene is from a campaign advertisement of President George W. Bush against Democratic Party candidate Senator John Kerry. Kerry has one of his own. A fearful advertisement shows Iraqi insurgents dragging away an injured U.S. soldier among the wild shooting of machine guns. The narration states “Even now, Americans are being abducted, held hostage, and beheaded.” It is no exaggeration to say that the underlying theme of the 2004 U.S. elections is fear.

Harvard neuroscience professor Daniel Siegel said that fear paralyzes reason. In other words, when we are afraid, less attention is paid to left-brain signals, and we stop logical thinking. The brain has already found something else to depend on. It cares more about the tone of voice rather than what the voice is saying. This is why many regular Americans cheer at stuttering, spittle-flying Bush’s words than the logical Kerry’s. He provides emotional comfort as if to say “Your father is here. I am here, so do not worry.”

Before Osama bin Laden sent his fearful message on videotape, it was actually the Bush camp that used bin Laden in campaign advertisements. Progress for America, a pro-Republican group, released an advertisement with pictures of bin Laden and other terrorists threatening “Do you believe (weak) Kerry can go against these lunatic murderers?” Legendary anchorman Walter Cronkite mentioned on CNN, “The smart White House political advisor Karl Rove could be behind this ad.” There are conspiracy theories that by stressing the current war on terror, the advertisement aims to highlight Bush, the Commander in Chief.

Michigan professor Ted Brader says that the swing voters are less affected by political advertisements playing up fear factors. Unexpectedly, it is the “smart voters” who have firm party preferences and know well about candidates that are influenced. This is a finding in contrast with common belief. Regardless of the influence of the advertisements on voters, the problem is that people worldwide, who have not seen the fearful ads, come to feel fear regarding the post-elections U.S. No matter who becomes the next president of the United States, people are afraid that fearful times will come forth.

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com