May 11, 2016



I have written this column for 43 years, and I have never done a book review. My job is not to analyze somebody else's analysis.

However, as the 2016 political season progressed, I was motivated to re-read Michael Crichton's profoundly insightful and politically incorrect 2004 novel "State of Fear." It describes the reasons why, 12 years later, the "Fear Factor" is making Donald Trump such a political factor.

Crichton's premise is that people are timid, nervous, fretful and depressed. They are afraid of disease, crime, murder, terrorist attacks, school massacres, strangers, drive-by shootings, tainted food and water, product defects, weather anomalies, pollution, government insolvency, pension defaults, benefit reductions or terminations, cancer, personal injury, foreclosure, lawsuits, inflation, a stock market collapse, losing their job, pedophiles, drug availability, environmental warming and dying. From the moment of waking, they think, "What kind of bad (blank) will happen to me or my family today?"

Fear is an effective method of social control. It keeps people docile, suppresses unruly behavior and maintains societal order. It has been used throughout world history by governments, dictators, demagogues, kings, popes and organized religion to quell dissent and compel compliance. From the Inquisition in about 1200 A.D. through the 1700s in America, an unknown number of women were killed after being branded as witches. They were either drowned or burned at the stake. Their crime was religious incorrectness: They questioned or did not accept church doctrine. Fear of evil witchcraft was the justification. They were doing the devil's work.

Fear, as Crichton points out, also is good for business and a profit enhancer, all ostensibly under the guise of safety. The media, lawyers, environmentalists and those in academia make money by exploiting and enhancing fear. Television and the print media need fear to attract viewers and readers. Scare stories, whether about crime, weather, product recalls or government incompetence, attract viewers. Lawyers need fear to create danger and a justification for litigation. Universities and academicians need fear to get government grants to study problems, and then manipulate the laboratory or clinical data to get more research grants.

The U.S. military needs fear to justify its $800 billion budget. Defense contractors need fear to justify an endless supply of military weaponry and technology. Religion needs fear of dying to financially sustain a vast bureaucracy and keep the flock in line. So-called environmentalists need fear, of climate change, species extinction, etc., to keep the endowments and donations flowing.

Since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, fear gripped the world and guided U.S. foreign policy. "Revolution" was everywhere, threatening to destroy the American way of life, trumpeted the government and the media. After World War II, there was born what President Dwight Eisenhower later called the military-industrial complex, dedicated to the proposition that whatever weaponry the Soviets had, we had to have better, whatever the cost.

I remember, as a kid in Chicago, air raid sirens blaring every Tuesday, fallout shelters being created in large buildings and stocked with supplies, school air raid alerts, in which the window shades would be drawn and everybody would crawl under their desks, and the famous Doomsday Clock, set at two minutes to midnight, at which time the whole world would be incinerated. Then there was the Cuban missile crisis. America, during the 1950s and 1960s, was in a "State of Fear." There also was the Vietnam War, a huge financial bonanza for American business, wherein the country was peddled the "Domino Theory," positing the fear that if Southeast Asian fell to the communists, Japan and the Philippines would be next. That fear cost 50,000 men their lives.

So was the Soviet Union, the so-called "workers' paradise," built on the absurd Marxist premise of "to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability." Human nature rebels at that concept. "I want" and "me first" will always prevail, but the communist elite, the 1 percent living in dachas with unlimited quantities of vodka and caviar while everybody else lived in squalor, needed fear to maintain social control, to convince citizens that their poverty was a sacrifice for the Motherland. It's the Americans' fault, they said through their propaganda machine.

After the Soviet Union experienced invasion by Germany, American warmongering was believable, and the KGB made sure that dissidents were shot. Of course, by the 1950s, there weren't many dissidents left, as almost all had been liquidated by Lenin and Stalin. Instead of using their rubles to improve their citizens' quality of life, the elite spent the money on missiles, ships and the military, until Ronald Reagan spent them into collapse.

There are two magical dates -- Nov. 9, 1989, and Sept. 11, 2001. The first was when the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union crumbled, and the Cold War ended. The fear of nuclear Armageddon evaporated. The "Evil Empire" was no longer to be feared, replaced by global warming and "environmental cataclysm" as a danger. The second was when the World Trade Center was obliterated. "Radical fundamentalism," also known as Muslim terrorism, became a second danger. Fear was resurrected.

Crichton's novel is especially biting on the issues of global warming and creationism. He cites numerous statistics and authorities. He cites this timeline:

The Earth is a piece of molten rock which formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago and which is held in orbit, along with other planets, by gravitational pull. Our Sun is probably one of a billion in the universe. The plant has had three atmospheres. First, because of the rock's heat, there was helium and hydrogen. Second, due to underground volcanic activity, there was steam and carbon dioxide emitted. Then the water vapor condensed, creating worldwide oceans. The process took 2 billion years.

Then, about 3 billion years ago, single-cell bacteria emerged, consuming carbon dioxide and excreting oxygen and nitrogen, which altered the atmosphere, and land masses were being created by undersea volcanic eruptions. During that billion-year period, the tectonic plates began shifting, elevating and broadening the land masses and disrupting the ocean's currents. That, about 2 billion years ago, brought on an Ice Age, which lasted for 700 million years, covering the globe's land masses.

About 600 million years ago, the bacteria evolved into life forms, constituting primitive forms of fish and fauna. About 500 million years ago, the seas were teeming with predatory life, some of which crawled onto land. Dinosaurs reigned for 165 million years, becoming extinct 65 million years ago. Mammals survived, and homo sapiens emerged 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. I asked one paleontologist how one reconciles those scientific facts with the dogma of the Bible, the Koran and the Torah. "You don't," he replied.

He's right. One either believes or disbelieves. Such verities as God making the world in seven days, the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, heaven and hell, the Virgin Mary and the resurrection of Christ have no historical verification; they are accepted on faith, as are the teachings of Allah, Abraham, Buddha, Confucius and a hundred other prophets. Fear of death gives rise to faith.

Now the media have discovered a new "disaster" and "catastrophe." Its name is Donald Trump.
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