What if fearmongering was a crime?

This is really just a sketch of an idea, but it rang so many different bells the moment it came to me, I thought I should share it…

I won’t turn this into a linkfest. If you want to see the kind of fearmongering I’m talking about, google anti-terrorism campaigns, anti-photography hysteria and anti-vaccination freaking action groups. Harder to search for, you could look at race/class/religious-hate baiting, since time immemorial. Look at the most vacuous pure-negative elements of every political campaign. Look at advertising of all kinds, bent on instilling, for example, a Howard-Hughes-esque obsession with hygiene.

As matters stand, we have legal barriers to false advertising. Advertisers do their best to leak around the edges, but the most blatant kinds of falsehood can be met with a legal rebuff.

Suppose, in the same vein, we could take legal action against someone who made a sustained effort to provoke a fearful reaction, without being able to substantiate their claims? Suppose there was a government body whose role was to pursue this kind of crime, warn people, and take action against the heedless.

Would this be a good thing? It seems to me that this would fix a huge number of problems, while being a relatively easy thing to measure and police. I’m sure there must be a catch… or why aren’t we already doing it?

One thought on “What if fearmongering was a crime?

  1. Probably the main reason it doesn’t happen is that most fear mongering is generated, and is beneficial to, the governments or government supports. False advertising in made illegal by the government bodies to prevent one company having an ethically unfair advantage. A government body is going to prevent itself or one of its support enterprises from having an unfair advantage?

    Also, most of the fear mongering is started by the media, and laws of free speech and media distribution mean so long as you dont definitvly lie you can put any spin onto information you want. Again, major media giant support governments.

    Maybe the better question would be why we cant shine brighter lights on the links between major corporations and political representatives.

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