Home Features Columnists Shedding some light on: the politics of fear

Shedding some light on: the politics of fear


In his last column for Exepose Features, Theo Stone considers the use of fear by Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s General Election and by political parties within the UK.

For those who read this column, you may have noticed that I discussed, among other things, the Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, in my previous column. Seeing as how the Israel General Election has just concluded, with Netanyahu’s party Likud emerging once again as the dominant political organisation, and with the UK General Election imminent, I feel as if it might be suitable to allow him to make another appearance.

The reasoning behind this is that Netanyahu’s victory marks a notable demonstration of the effectiveness of the politics of fear.

Netanyahu played on the fear of Arab invasion and the destruction of Israel – Image: The National Student

The fear that was present within the confines of the Israeli election was that of invasion and destruction. Netanyahu’s last minute speech to Israeli voters warned of “masses of Arabs” congregating at voting stations to cast a vote to destroy Israel from the centre. Though this was critically dismissed by many in the UK and the United States, it was met with acclaim by many Likud supporters in Israel due to the fact that it catered towards the necessary targets to drive figures up, that being, a fear of an Arab invasion and the destruction of the Israeli way of life, despite the fact that the claim had little to no logical basis, due to the fact that the Arab population in Israel is by no means large enough, or coordinated enough, to hold the key to power.

Israel’s position within the Middle East is one that is marked by a lack of trust from its neighbours, and its short and bloody history does little to alleviate this. The Israeli population is seen as being constantly under the threat of invasion by one of the surrounding nations, and, as such, they believe that the best line of defence is the most aggressive. This works perfectly for those in the right-wing echelons of the Israeli government, who are more than willing to play this card in order to get support.

Indeed, those who fear events such as these quickly become more susceptible to the parties with the more extreme options. Therefore, engaging the fear of the audience has always been a strategy that successful parties have preyed on in the past. They want us to think that the opposing parties are incapable of reacting to and dealing with this fear, and they will instead cause said fear to be realised. For example, Netanyahu used the fear of the destruction of Israel to play to his advantage and weaken the support for the opposition, since they are now seen as ignoring the apparent fear, and thus unable to deal with it.

However, this is not simply limited to Israeli politics. This has occurred in Britain a number of times. You only have to look at this year’s run-up to the election to see how fear is being played on a UK platform. Last year, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, used the now well-worn statement ‘Vote UKIP, get Labour’, to play to his core supporters worst fears, that being, a government that prides itself as being on the other side of the political spectrum. David Cameron wants his supporters to fear the installation of a Labour government, and as such we should consider the Conservative Party as the only viable option.

However, the problem with playing to these fears is that it is almost always entirely fallacious. It is a cheap emotional cop-out designed to do nothing more but further define party lines in order to ensure a few extra votes.

UKIP play on the fear of increased immigration – Image: Ian Burt via Flickr cc

However, this is not limited to only the Conservative Party. UKIP prey on fears of immigration and European Federalism, Labour prey on the idea of a return to the notion of privilege equalling power, the Green Party plays on the fear that other parties have failed the UK, and the Liberal Democrats play on the fear that every other party is too ideologically obsessed to focus upon any respectable forms of policy-making. The system is universal; all that changes is who it targets. Alongside this, you only need to look at the 2010 General Election to recall the two ‘Ashes to Ashes’-style posters that both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party used to instil fear into their supporters that the other party would take Britain ‘back to the ‘80s’. What is most unfortunate, however, is the fact that this is only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

The problem with this is that it that the subject being made to fear accepts it at face value. Unfortunately however, this strategy appears to constantly work. The possibility here is that their worst fears may in fact be irrational, unfounded, and based upon bad or no evidence. In other words, they may in fact not need to fear it at all.

So how do we stop it? The answer is simple. We simply make sure that we know where to look in order to combat it. If we successfully recognise where the party or the politician is using a policy of fear-mongering over real ideas and policies, then we must learn to recognise this, and pass over the former and force the focus back onto the latter. To grovel in fear at a possible ‘catastrophe’ without actually knowing what the true causes are, and what the true effects might be is something that we need to stop doing. We cannot hope to truly commit to a political system if we still accept everything that a politician who lies within a wing that we are sympathetic to says.

However, that means that we must also ensure that we talk about these fear-based attacks, as opposed to simply recognising it. We need to tell the parties we stand beside that we will no longer put up to shoddy attempts at fear-mongering. It is essential that we engage in dialogue, and through our rhetoric, force policies back into the primary spotlight of the political stage.

It’s time that we go out there and make a change.

Theo Stone, Online Features Columnist

If you missed Theo Stone’s last column on the Israel, American, Iran and the bomb, you can find it here. You can also find all our other Features columns here.

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