On This Day — John Keats : “When I Have Fears” (January 30 1818)

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. (…) In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things… Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for… We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well…”

Franklin D. Roosevelt — First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)

“The media is, of course, vital for a terrorist group as they provide the means of attracting attention and spreading its message. Considering terrorism as a communications strategy, the media have often been seen as the terrorist’s ‘accomplices’ or even their ‘best friend’ as they appear to provide the ‘oxygen of publicity’. Yet it has also been noted that terrorists provide the media with emotional, exciting and bloody news which helps them sell their product. There are, therefore, mutual benefits for both and the relationship could be described as symbiotic.”

Alexander Spencer — Terrorism and the media

FILE — President Franklin D. Roosevelt prepares to begin his first fireside chat to the American people in this March 12, 1933 file photo. Speaking to the nation on radio from the White House in Washington, Roosevelt explained in simple langauge the measures he was taking to solidify the nation’s shaky banking system. Roosevelt had been in office less than 100 days. (AP Photo/File)

During the last week of January 1818, John Keats composed his sonnet “When I Have Fears”. This seems to be a good opportunity to reflect on FDR’s first inauguration speech but also on the relationship between the media and the ‘fear business’. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“When I Have Fears” is an Elizabethan sonnet by the English Romantic poet John Keats. The 14-line poem is written in iambic pentameter and consists of three quatrains and a couplet.

Keats wrote the poem between January 22 and 31, 1818. It was published (posthumously) in 1848 in Life, Letters, and Literary Remains, of John Keats by Richard Monckton Milnes.

When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Are FDR’s words relevant today? Fear is everywhere in our societies. Fear of the future, fear of the others — the foreigners, the migrants, those with another religion, fear of the future… Basically fear of all that is unknown.

Today, fear is a business and the media are selling the product. News programming uses a hierarchy: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

“Fear-based news programming has two aims. The first is to grab the viewer’s attention. In the news media, this is called the teaser. The second aim is to persuade the viewer that the solution for reducing the identified fear will be in the news story.

If a teaser asks, “What’s in your tap water that YOU need to know about?” a viewer will likely tune in to get the up-to-date information to ensure safety. The success of fear-based news relies on presenting dramatic anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, promoting isolated events as trends, depicting categories of people as dangerous and replacing optimism with fatalistic thinking.

News conglomerates who want to achieve this use media logic, by tweaking the rhythm, grammar, and presentation format of news stories to elicit the greatest impact.

Did you know that some news stations work with consultants who offer fear-based topics that are pre-scripted, outlined with point-of-view shots, and have experts at-the-ready?

This practice is known as stunting or just-add-water reporting. Often, these practices present misleading information and promote anxiety in the viewer.” (Psychology Today)

It has long been known that media hype elevates perceptions of risk and fear of crime.

Research suggests that fear of crime is related to the overall amount of media consumption, resonance of news reports, how much attention the individual pays to the news, and how credible he or she believes it to be.

Recently, researchers have suggested that exposure to terrorism-related news is positively associated with perceived risk of terrorism to self and others.

Think about these things.

REFERENCES

Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself? — Psychology Today

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On This Day — John Keats : “When I Have Fears”  (January 30 1818)

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