Posted tagged ‘fear’

The Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Tea Partiers: What are they really trying to do?

April 3, 2010

In Science News last week, there was a fascinating article, Titanic Study: It Takes Time To Do The Right Thing, that compared the behaviour of people who were on two passenger ships: the Titanic and the Lusitania.

These two ships both sank in the northern Atlantic, the Titanic in 1912, the Lusitania in 1915.  In the case of the Titanic, “women and children first” principle was observed fairly well.  In the case of the Lusitania, it was not.

Researchers determined that the key difference was how fast the ships sank.  The Titanic took more than two hours.  The Lusitania, less than 20 minutes.

“Under extreme time pressures, it’s everybody for themselves. Coordinating and respecting norms takes time,”

“When people have time to deliberate, you see pro-social behavior.”

(behavioral economist Colin Camerer of Caltech University)

Which brings us the Tea Partiers, and other right-wing groups/people who are trying to whip up hysteria about Healthcare Reform, Financial Regulations, et al.

I think we have all had times when we are scared.  What I noticed a number of years ago was that the only time my fear or panic actually was beneficial was when there was imminent physical danger.  When the perceived threat was social, emotional, or financial, I almost never made a good decision while actively scared.  From this I concluded that being actively scared limits my ability to think well.

Lately, I realized that there are people and organizations that deliberately use this to try to control other people.

Historically, fear of the foreigner, the stranger, the person or people who are “different” has been a favorite tool of certain political/social groups.  While the Nazi focus on European Jewry is the best known example, in the U.S., we have own history of fear-whipped actions against the “Yellow Peril” (anti-Chinese/Japanese), “dirty Irishmen”, “Papists” (anti-Catholic), and so on.  We continue to have certain people who wants us to fear African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and “Socialists”.  Recently, we have added “Radical Muslims.”

Now, a group of people are basically trying to make us afraid of everyone who is not one of them.  And they are trying to do this by trying to frighten us.

“Beware,” they say, “of the Socialist Nazi Communists who are trying to impose radical tyranny on us.  They are lead by a secret muslim who wasn’t even born here.  They want to impose death panels, tax only whites, round us up into concentration camps, cripple our businesses, and destroy America!”


When you sit down and examine their rhetoric (after you either finishing laughing, crying, or shaking your head at the non-sequiturs) you realize what they are really trying to do: Scare us silly.

In short, they want to stop us from thinking and so stop us from acting in a socially-responsible, moral manner.

Another time, I will look at why I think they want this.  For now, here is the Lesson:

If someone is trying to get you to very scared, he or she is really trying to get you to stop acting rationally!

So don’t get scared…get smart instead, and THINK!