Westminster: PRoaden your mind – the second

It is time for the next blog article that is showing you what we are experiencing here in London and even more important what we are learning here in PR and Advertising at the University of Westminster.

In the light of recent events I am going to focus on the question ‘Are we living in a society of fear?’ today.

Terrorist attacks in Paris and related actual events did change a lot – not only in politics but also in our society. Everyday life in Europe is not the same anymore. Especially in big cities like London the worry about further attacks in Europe characterizes the general emotional state. The fact that ISIS has claimed the UK as its next main target even intensifies this feeling of fear among the British population. People in London seem to be both nervous and restless. Driving with a full underground line even strengthens this impression of insecurity. Everybody is checking their smartphones even if the train is just stopping for a few seconds, a underground line station is closed or a road is blocked. This unknown atmosphere even changed our behaviour here in London. Especially in the first week after the Paris attacks we tried to avoid big events or big crowds. Thus, we rescheduled our everyday lives in order to avoid rush hours and the busiest days. Of course there are certain reasons to be careful! However, is it really reasonable to let these current events influence our lives in such an extent? Is terrorism indeed such a great threat?  Or isn’t what media coverage makes out of these events the real problem? Is the anxiety of terrorism in Europe an entitled and real fear or a created and unknowingly media-caused fear?

Fear has always been part of human life due to the fact of our bodies’ vulnerability and thus to the fundamental fear of death. Some experts even claim fear as the leading motive of any social action. Anxiety is seen as a strong driving force of our society. As in earlier ages people feared the plague, the devil or war, nowadays society fears a large amount of threats for instance terrorism, climate change, refugee crisis or nuclear power. This massive growth of fear is directly proportional to the advancement of technology, therefore the development of mass media. Or in Bourke’s (the author of ‘Fear: A Cultural History’) words “mass media take a prominent role in inciting panic”. Today it is possible to experience terrible scenes over and over again, especially through the evolution of mass media. Our everyday life is full of repeating (terrible or shocking) scenes. Decades ago you could only imagine them. Today, besides economic struggling and the fear of what is to come, the rising effect of mass media, makes causing fear even easier, as the presentation of bad news becomes continuingly more realistic. The modern society is surrounded by bad news, scandals of disaster and death. People are “overdosed on reality”. On the one hand this fact causes fearful or depressing emotions, on the other hand makes it people aware of what is going on around them, makes them even feel responsible for things that are happening to their fellow humans, makes them feel sympathy. Of course media are manipulating society’s experience of reality and make bad news even worse with the aim shocking the public. Otherwise mass media give their audiences the opportunity to share feelings and opinions on a frightening event and helps them handling fearing situations. It gives people the feeling of not being alone. Highly optimistic seen one can say: as a consequence mass media make our society to a caring society.

To conclude this article nothing else remains to be done than to outline that we should see current on-goings as a chance of forming a new European wide society of solidarity and charity, in order to counter terrorists together and with strength. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by current threats.

From London with Love,
Helena

©LSC©Hawkins/Brown