“When fear reigns in the hearts of men, laws are multiplied. Each law being human, and a fresh miscalculation, does no more than compound the problem.” – Kropotkin. He wasn’t right about everything, but he was right about that. Political fear in the populace is a powerful tool. Fear can be real, imagined or created. It can be created by artificial terrorist attacks, like the burning of Rome by Nero, and by false or overly zealous news coverage.

Fear can be used to divert attention away from events transpiring on the political stage that aren’t opaque enough for the players involved. Imminent danger of public revelation of wrongdoing, or even the actual revelation of wrongdoing can be quickly dispelled with a grand act of violence. In fact, if an attack perpetrated was to be revealed as conspiratorial, another act could be used to quickly change everyone’s focus.

If a movement were to develop as a result of a government act of brutality a similar act of brutality appearing to be perpetrated by that movement is created. This appearance of hypocrisy works to create disinterest in the movement by the press and public. Even the members of said movement lose heart. The original government brutality moves into the annals of history; rewritten and forgotten. The sheeple feel much better once those annoying people pointing out crimes by their government are silenced.

Fear can also be used to create a false sense of patriotism. These quasi-patriots quickly forget the ideals of Freedom of Speech and transparency in government. Conspiracy theorists are denounced as anti-democratic and unpatriotic when the opposite is quite obviously true.

Observing the rhetoric coming out of North Korea’s government can be confusing; it often makes no sense. When one realizes their speeches are not really aimed at the United States and her allies but at their own population the picture becomes clear. Kim Jong Un keeps fear of the US forefront in the minds of his people, thus keeping them loyal. Those who aren’t fooled by this are silenced by those who are. This strategy is used by the leaders of Iran, Syria, and many other nations.

Fear can also be used to undermine the democratic process, laws, restrictions on government agencies and freedom of speech. Declarations of emergencies are harmful to democracies. In this article from Foreign Policy entitled “Don’t Let Leaders Use the Coronavirus as an Excuse to Violate Civil Liberties” by Suzanne Nossel, the argument against allowing the government to continue evolving toward totalitarianism is made. If you give the devil and inch, he’ll take a mile.

It’s easy to see these things from the standpoint of an outside observer. It is not so easy to see from the viewpoint of one in the middle of such a manipulated population. From the inside, would any of us recognize what was happening all around us?