Social Question

ETpro's avatar

Why are Americans becoming such unmitigated cowards?

Asked by ETpro (34436points) July 19th, 2012

Did it all start with the nuclear age and fear of the mushroom cloud, translating into fear of hidden communists under every rock and even commies occupying some of the top offices of our land. We were the home of the proud and the brave up through WWII. Ever since the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy, fear has been a growing and lucrative cottage industry, providing fertile ground for politicians to plow. What happened to us? What will it take for America to cast off its fear, and to begin standing up to the hair-on-fire conspiracy theorists?

We let fear drag us into an unnecessary war in Iraq. Politicians on both sides were too afraid of the fear factor to stand up and say a looming threat of an Iraqi invasion of the USA or a sneak attack was absurd. We let fear prevail on the Guantanamo prison closure. Millions of Americans fell for the absurd lie that the detainees there are so incredibly dangerous that they couldn’t safely be housed on US soil, even in a Federal Supermax prison where no inmate has ever escaped.

Michelle Bachmann’s recent conspiracy theories of a hidden Muslim Brotherhood power base within the US Government set me to thinking about the power of Islamophobia since 9/11. I’ve heard otherwise intelligent Americans expound at length on the vast, pervasive threat that the US is becoming a new Muslim Caliphate and that Sharia Law is just around the corner. Are our days of prominence over for good? Will we slowly succumb to the fear industry, slipping into the muck of constant terror of our own shadows? What can those who aren’t living in constant terror do to pull their fearful fellow citizens out of their self-imposed darkness?

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35 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Closing or not closing Guantanamo had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with the rights afforded terrorists once they set foot in a jail on US Soil. Thank God cooler heads prevailed on that one.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Because your boy Eric Holder said we are.

athenasgriffin's avatar

I’ve read this book that theorized that because we don’t have as many intense, life threatening every day fears as we did when we might have been killed by Woolly Mammoths and hoards of infidels that we find different things to fear. But our fear has transformed from a boon that saved our lives to a debilitating condition that finds footholds in every aspect of our lives.

In other words, people need to be afraid of something, they just have chosen illogical things to fear based on inaccurate ideas of other cultures.

wundayatta's avatar

Because the armament industry makes its money off of fear. It’s that simple, in one way. People who want unfettered capitalism believe there is nothing wrong with a little false advertising in order to drum up extra demand. And who knows, there may be enough there that you don’t even have to stretch the truth much to create the level of fear you need.

I wonder if there is some connection between the arms industry and the Republican Party. The party for a “strong” defense. Which isn’t necessary unless you have big fears. Hmm. Are there any Democratic arms manufacturers? Any, at all? Curiouser and curiouser.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Ummm, I don’t know. <bows head and tucks tail between legs>

Crashsequence2012's avatar

For a liberal to ask this constitutes trolling.

As we would not seem so cowardly were it not for the left.

Jaxk's avatar

Wow, that’s quite a conspiracy theory you have there. So if you lock your car, it must be unmitigated fear that made you do it. If you lock your front door, you must be shivering in a closet.

It is this kind of inflammatory rhetoric that makes look weak and disjointed. Good luck with your crusade.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

IF you are responding to me:

I don’t consider it a true conspiracy but rather the Liberal mentality as it is manifest individually (in individuals).

Jeez. And who said anything about a crusade?

It’s your kind of avatar makes you appear irascible and defensive.

flutherother's avatar

Why should a country that is very right wing fear Communism? Why should a country that was founded upon freedom of worship fear Islam? Why should the people with the best hospitals in the world be so afraid of falling ill? Why should the safest country in the world feel so threatened? How does the greatest country in the world come to fear its own citizens so much that it locks up 2.5 million of them? How is it that the country which had a President who said ‘the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself’ come to be so afraid?

Great question, sorry I haven’t an answer.

filmfann's avatar

If you are talking about normal Americans, you shouldn’t cite Michelle Bachmann or Joe McCarthy or Rush Limbaugh or George Bush. They are all idiots, and extremists.
They don’t speak for me.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

The 10 week Spanish–American War in 1898 was just as much of a farce as the second Iraq war, just far more successful. Many Americans also felt the Mexican American war of 1846 was completely trumped up.

Americans seem to me to have acted pretty consistently since our founding. They have just been spectacularly successful until recently, which is breeding insecurity. I see the second Iraq war farce as substantially similar to our invasion of Russia early in the 20th century, while we were in the grip of the red scare.

We are just screwing up a lot lately, which happens. People tend to get insecure when we screw up, and start imaging that things used to be better. Stress makes people see phantom enemies, always has.

jrpowell's avatar

“As we would not seem so cowardly were it not for the left.”

The left are the people that are not afraid. We didn’t want to go into Iraq. We don’t feel the need to have a gun in McDonalds. The right are the cowards that live in fear.

Crashsequence2012's avatar


This member of the right is not a coward.

I stood in front of my television in a state of shock as Attorney General “elect” called me a coward when it comes to discussing “issues of race” during the Obama inauguration.

Trust me Holder, I have no fear of relating my observations on the subject.

Be careful what you wish for Holder as there is no guarantee that you will like what you hear.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

A lot of people have lost their balls and when some idiot like Bachman spews unmitigated bullshit few people stand up and say “Okay, where’s your proof.?” Call out an idiot and when they spout crap tell them to prove it. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the right or the left, bullshit is always bullshit. That’s what ended McCarthy’s crap. Demand proof and if they don’t have it call them liars and idiots.

Jaxk's avatar


I was responding to the question. Are we a little sensitive?

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Well, that’s why I covered my ass by starting my reply with “IF.”

Pandora's avatar

The real culprit is media propaganda. The media shovels out fear to the public as if we are a bunch of 5 year olds and they come to a channel near you in an icecream truck. Fear sells and it sells very well. It’s not to say that every once in a while they don’t hit the nail on the head but its everywhere 24, 7. And after a while you’re bound to create mass hysteria.
They learned that little trick on October 30th 1938 from HG. Wells, War of the Worlds.
From there it was a hop and a skip to where we stand today. Shaking in the dark!

WestRiverrat's avatar

I blame product liability lawyers that blame everything on someone else when some idiot misuses a product and injures himself.

ETpro's avatar

@Cruiser The rights to a trial in Federal Court? We have an amazing record of convictions. Granted you wouldn’t be allowed to use “evidence” coerced by torture, but the very fact we wanted to resort to Hitler and Stalin’s methods of concocting show trials is proof of cowardice. Perhaps you are just afraid to admit how far we have fallen, but we won WWII without having to resort to torturing prisoners of war.

@Crashsequence2012 Shame on you. Answer the question instead of changing the subject and resorting to dog-whistle racism if you want a reasoned response. And I see we have a few Jellies that answer to your racist dog-whistle. Shame on them as well.

@athenasgriffin That’s an interesting theory. But how does it account for the sudden shift after WWII? The Greatest Generation were not a bunch of cowards afraid of every conspiracy theory known to man. Ah, wait. They did go kind of loony when Orson Wells broadcast the War of the Worlds didn’t they? Maybe you’re on to something.

@wundayatta I bet that’s it. Eisenhower warned of it. The arms industry has enormous resources that they can bend towards propaganda and lobbying to boost their profits. “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizen, can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense, with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” An “Alert and knowledgeable citizen?..” They are few and far between today.

@Crashsequence2012 I take that as a personal attack as well as a failure to address the OP and flagged it as such.

@Jaxk I am glad to see that you followed your usual routine to refuse to address the question and instead try to make it about the personal character of the OP and about car locks (Way Off Topic). If you want to argue that the question has no merit, that Senator McCarthy and Michelle Bachmann and the rest of the right-wing conspiracy theorist are on target—knock yourself out. If you don’t believe that, then explain why they do what they do.

@flutherother It isn’t possible to solve a problem till you admit that it exists. Thanks for doing that.

@filmfann True, but they speak to and for a growing segment ot the US electorate. Just look at the harm to the country that each has managed to do.

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I hope for our sake you are right, and it’s just a stage.

@johnpowell How true. In my experience the most bellicose breast-beaters are the biggest babies out there. All their bluster is nothing but a defense mechanism. Their bellowing is aimed at frightening away the specters that inhabit their own subconscious minds. Many are children of authoritarian parents who brutalized them and constantly warned them to fear “otherness” and keep to their own kind.

@Crashsequence2012 I am definitely not saying that everyone on the right is a coward, even though you seem quite happy claiming the opposite. My liberal dad served in WWII. I served in the US Navy after WWII. Both my sons served in the Army, and my youngest is a combat veteran back from a tour in Afghanistan. So I take your claims of superior patriotism by right of your political affiliation ad not just a lie, but a damned lie.

@Adirondackwannabe Nothing demolishes blowhards faster than ridicule.

@Pandora I reckon that does have a large part to play. It attracts eyeballs, which is the product their sponsors pay them for.

@WestRiverrat All those adds about the poor people with mesothelioma or what-have-you can’t help. It contributes to a false sense that we’re living in a much more dangerous world, when the truth is that average life expectancy has never been higher.

downtide's avatar

I don’t think it’s “becoming”, I think it always was. From the Salem witch hunts, through the Indian wars, the McCarthy anti-Communist era, and now Islamophobia. Only the scapegoat changes.

Cruiser's avatar

@ETpro these “detainees” were obtained during an armed conflict with our country and AFAICT there are specific rules concerning the detention and prosecution of suspected war criminals. I did not make these rules but they are there for a reason. The second these “terrorists” set foot on American soil they are eligible for civil legal representation that could allow for release on bail while they await trial. I am not fond of the idea of suspected terrorist war criminals out on bail roaming our streets.

Ron_C's avatar

Fear gets more people to the voting booth than does prosperity. The tea party and other right winger dispense fear on a regular basis We are supposed to be afraid of our neighbor, especially if he is brown or black, we need to fear homosexual couples, kids with attention disorders, drunk drivers, driving without seatbelts, and truck drivers taking drugs.

We should fear teachers that teach evolution, and the unprepared for Christ’s return. We need to be afraid of policemen with guns and students without them and be really careful around people that wear funny hats!

Jaxk's avatar


I’m not buying into your conspiracy theory not matter how much you try to paint it otherwise. You want to say that Americans are sniveling cowards drenched in fear and that the Republicans are doing this. You don’t like this country, I get that. It doesn’t mean I’ll buy into the blatant manipulation and distortion you create in your question. @Cruiser has made some good points on the Gitmo issue but I’ll make a few more. Prisoners of war (POWs) don’t get Miranda rights. POWs don’t get brought to the US for trial, in fact they don’t get a trial at all. POWs are incarcerated for the duration of the conflict. It has always been this way in every country. And that’s assuming they were POWs which doesn’t really apply given the definition of POWs. I might also add that it was a Democrat that incarcerated thousands of Japanese and others without trial or Habeas Corpus. Call it fear or an abundance of caution, your pick.

Communists stated goals are to take over the world. Islams goal is to take over the world. I’m not sure either one strikes fear in the hearts of Americans but it’s wise to be aware of the goals. The only one living in a self imposed darkness, is yourself. I won’t fall into your ‘When did you stop beating your wife’ trap with a question designed to have only one conclusion.

The premise of your question is ridiculous. Americans are not living in constant fear, you made that up.

ETpro's avatar

@Jaxk Thanks for yet another attempt to take this off track. It seems your only weapon. I decidedly did not say that Republicans are solely responsible Democrats were just as terrified of bucking the rush to the Iraq war and the Gitmo shutdown. But the GOP is clearly trafficking in fear far more often than Democrats or Libertarians.

Your closing thoughts are a perfect example. There may be a few communists still dreaming of taking over the world, but what chance do they stand of succeeding? Isn’t it unbridled, free-market capitalism that’s poised to take over the world? I suppose every religion wants to take over the world. Christians outnumber Muslims by 3 to 2. Are Christians trying to take over the world. Yes.

I did not make up the idea Americans are fearful. Why would we tolerate the suspension of habeas corpus, warrant-less wiretaps, an ever growing police state and the mammoth new Homeland Security apparatus if it were not so. As an American, your chances of dying due to an allergic reaction to peanuts are greater than they are you’ll be killed by a terrorist, but we have spent trillions since 9/11 on wars and overblown security to save us from the looming threat that is all but nonexistent. Seems pretty much like a fraidy cat to me.

Cruiser's avatar

@ETpro Americans are fearful?? Really?? What are you afraid of? I am not afraid of anything other than Obama maybe getting re-elected.

Jaxk's avatar

Oh great, now I’m afraid of peanut butter and I don’t even have any allergies. Wake up and smell the coffee. If your afraid of capitalism, don’t try to project your fears on the rest of us. We’re not buying it.

ETpro's avatar

@Jaxk I am afraid of people that don’t know the difference between your, you’re and yore and yet are convinced they are brilliant beyond measure and should determine the future for all of us.

Jaxk's avatar


So we’re down to correcting my grammar/spelling. I’m devastated. I did find an article that compares the present situation with the mass hysteria of the witch craze in the middle ages. See if you can find the grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

By Matt Patterson (columnist – Washington Post, New York Post, San Francisco Examiner)

Government & Society:

Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, the result of a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages. How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world’s largest economy, direct the world’s most powerful military, execute the world’s most consequential job? Imagine a future historian examining Obama’s pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League despite unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a “community organizer”; a brief career as a state legislator devoid of legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so often did he vote “present”); and finally an unaccomplished single term in the United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his presidential ambitions.

He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature legislation as a legislator. And then there is the matter of his troubling associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades served as Obama’s “spiritual mentor”; a real-life, actual terrorist who served as Obama’s colleague and political sponsor. It is easy to imagine a future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man elected president?

Not content to wait for history, the incomparable Norman Podhoretz addressed the question recently in the Wall Street Journal: To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers, would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. Let that sink in: Obama was given a pass – held to a lower standard – because of the color of his skin.

Podhoretz continues: And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also so articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest? Podhoretz puts his finger, I think, on the animating pulse of the Obama phenomenon -affirmative action. Not in the legal sense, of course. But certainly in the motivating sentiment behind all affirmative action laws and regulations, which are designed primarily to make white people, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, minorities often suffer so that whites can pat themselves on the back. Liberals routinely admit minorities to schools for which they are not qualified, yet take no responsibility for the inevitable poor performance and high drop-out rates which follow. Liberals don’t care if these minority students fail; liberals aren’t around to witness the emotional devastation and deflated self esteem resulting from the racist policy that is affirmative action. Yes, racist. Holding someone to a separate standard merely because of the color of his skin – that’s affirmative action in a nutshell, and if that isn’t racism, then nothing is.

And that is what America did to Obama. True, Obama himself was never troubled by his lack of achievements, but why would he be? As many have noted, Obama was told he was good enough for Columbia despite undistinguished grades at Occidental; he was told he was good enough for the US Senate despite a mediocre record in Illinois ; he was told he was good enough to be president despite no record at all in the Senate. All his life, every step of the way, Obama was told he was good enough for the next step, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

What could this breed if not the sort of empty narcissism on display every time Obama speaks? In 2008, many who agreed that he lacked executive qualifications nonetheless raved about Obama’s oratory skills, intellect, and cool character. Those people – conservatives included – ought now to be deeply embarrassed.

The man thinks and speaks in the hoariest of cliches, and that’s when he has his Teleprompters in front of him; when the prompter is absent he can barely think or speak at all.

Not one original idea has ever issued from his mouth – it’s all warmed-over Marxism of the kind that has faileed over and over again for 100 years.

And what about his character? Obama is constantly blaming anything and everything else for his troubles. Bush did it; it was bad luck; I inherited this mess. It is embarrassing to see a president so willing to advertise his own powerlessness, so comfortable with his own incompetence.

But really, what were we to expect? The man has never been responsible for anything, so how do we expect him to act responsibly?

In short: our president is a small and small-minded man, with neither the temperament nor the intellect to handle his job.

When you understand that, and only when you understand that, will the current erosion of liberty and prosperity make sense. It could not have gone otherwise with such a man in the Oval Office.

Ron_C's avatar

@Jaxk I don’t see the problem when the alternative was heroic but tragically aging former POW and a near illiterate that couldn’t survive a full term as the governor of a state with a vast social system supported by petroleum profits. The real tragedy would have been the election of that pair.

Ron_C's avatar

@Jaxk you might be interested in the Post’s reply:“The mysterious Matt Patterson might be the Matt Patterson who contributes to the Examiner newspaper here in D.C. and who works for the conservative Capital Research Center. His work has appeared in The Post, but not this work.

His article starts with the old saw, “Historians will look back in awe at…” In this case they’ll wonder if the election of Obama was “a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages.”

I always thought the witch craze was in Salem, Mass. Never mind.

The last one of these that made the rounds was an anti-Obama piece supposedly by a nonexistent Post reporter by the name of Dale Lindsborg about why the president never puts his hand on his heart when the national anthem plays and why he doesn’t wear the flag lapel pin. This, too, was fiction, debunked by several urban legend sites.

When I get these, I usually check right away, find out that the reporter is fictitious or working somewhere else, and write back to the e-mail correspondents.

Jaxk's avatar


Good retort but I’m having trouble deciphering what you object to. Witches have been feared for centuries, not just Salem. I think you need to expend your horizons. Other than that Matt Patterson is a contributor to those publications and he wrote the article. What’s your beef?

Ron_C's avatar

@Jaxk first of all I don’t believe in witchcraft. I do believe in malfeasance in office and the unprecedented harm that Bush and company have done to our country. He had the gall to have two major wars off the books, spent the surplus he inherited from Clinton, was complicate in two stolen presidential elections (yes I still believe that he was appointed by the supreme court), and protected his friends in oil and banking causing great harm to the citizens of the U.S. and probably got many spies for the U.S. killed out of spite for a former ambassador for telling the truth.

It is amazing what Bush accomplished during his 8 years in office. Oh, did I forget to mention that he presided over the Patriot Act which had gone far into dismantling the Bill of Rights?

Jaxk's avatar


I’m beginning to suspect you don’t like Bush. With that in mind, I have some good news for you. He’s retired. He isn’t running and hasn’t been in office for almost four years now. It’s time to focus on the guy that is in office.

Ron_C's avatar

@Jaxk very perceptive. The real problem is there seems to be no punishment, no matter what a person does, as long as he/she is powerful or rich enough. Hell, they even pardoned Oliver North! The only people that actually get punished are poor or middle class. It is really strange that they actually punished Bernie Madoff.

The poor kid that may have tipped off Wikileaks is still in the brig. I just want to see a little justice. If necessary, punish Obama for his drone attacks!

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C Bernie Madoff got punished because he stole from the rich.

@Jaxk Bush is retired, but Romney is running on a platform that amounts to George W. Bush on steroids. As Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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