The link between ignorance and fear is well documented in human history.
From ancient Rome. . .
“Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth.” Publius Cornelius Tacitus.
. . . .through The Enlightenment. . .
“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke.
“Fear always springs from ignorance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“The slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. " Thomas Paine.
. . .to modernity.
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” Bertrand Russell.
"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear." Bertrand Russell.
“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” Albert Camus.
“Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.” Lester B. Pearson.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Those who would seize and abuse power have always known that fear is a valuable tool in manipulating the ignorant masses. Mounting evidence suggests that the American far right has been more successful in exploiting ignorance and fear to its own ends than any political organization in human history, including the National Socialists of Germany in the 1930s.
Katie Couric (fear and ignorance among the town hall mobs) and Tom Ridge (Rumsfeld and others pressured him to ramp up the fear level) are only the latest messengers to remind us of this political phenomenon.
The optimists among us believed that the tactic peaked in the Bush administration and that the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled congress effectively brought it to an end. The optimists were wrong.
When the President sought to reverse the policies that had engendered incredible hatred of the United States in the Arab world, the far right told us to be very afraid because he had weakened our country, made it more vulnerable to another 9/11-like attack.
When the President sought to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and put us on a path to energy efficiency from renewable sources, a new industry that would provide new jobs, the far right told us to be very afraid because energy costs would skyrocket to the point that we couldn't afford to run our air-conditioners or drive our SUVs, and jobs would vanish.
Now the exploiters of fear and ignorance are telling us that a law to provide health insurance for all Americans would somehow euthanize Grandma.
Ignorance and fear have been called the twin pillars of bigotry. The bigotry that has lurked in the white American soul since slavery undoubtedly accounts for the sheer meanness, the ugly passion, with which Obama's critics have attacked his efforts to fulfill his campaign promises and electoral mandate. Ignorance, fear and low self-esteem fuel these passions -- and there'sa black man in the White House. A black man!
One progressive soul in Arizona wrote recently: "The key to removing discrimination is the banishment of bigotry and fear. And the only way to do this is to remove ignorance wherever it’s found."
Surely some right wingnut in his neighborhood said that he was advocating frontal lobotomies for those who disagreed with him, and that if he had his way we'd all become lobotomized zombies.
Then again, maybe "we" already are.