Fearmongering (noun): the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue.
Last Wednesday evening, our class had an in-depth question and answer session regarding the inner workings of ISIS and Syrian refugees in Europe. It was an incredibly intriguing conversation; I left class that night with even more questions and opinions swirling around in my head. So like any person nowadays does, I went to the Internet. One of the first things to appear after my “migrant crisis in Europe” Google search was a YouTube video from Last Week with Tonight with John Oliver (if you are unfamiliar, he’s an intelligent British import whose satire on everything politics, news and current event related lights up social media the day after it airs. It’s hilarious.) I forced myself to sit through the nearly 18 minute video, which should be illegal in terms of YouTube standards. But boy, it was worth it.
What I took away most from the video was Oliver’s harsh critique of the rhetoric used when we speak about Syrian refugees. I’m guilty of it: even my use of the word “crisis” in my Google search is an example of the stigma that Syrians are facing. Oliver showed various news clips that have aired since the refugees started entering Europe at a rapid rate. For example, a Fox News clip that was heavily suggestive of refugees becoming terrorists. TERRORISTS INBOUND? sat underneath a video of refugees chanting while on a European train. Upon further inspection, we come to learn that the video was uploaded in 2010, years before any type of “crisis” entered our stream of consciousness. Another example was British Prime Minister David Cameron using the word “swarm” when discussing the influx of refugees to Europe. Oliver was sure to point out that the word swarm can make anything sound terrifying, such as a swarm of kittens.
This type of language is being used everywhere lately, from the news to political debates. Fearmongering has become such a prominent tactic that it’s almost impossible to watch refugee coverage that’s portrayed in a positive light. It’s being used to pass political agendas and to frighten large populations into thinking they are doing the right thing by refusing to help these people. We need to be more aware of how we are being influenced. It’s easy to gain a distorted view, but it’s even easier to keep ourselves educated and prevent ourselves from falling too deep into the rabbit-hole of media influence.