Numbers > Number 19 > The communication of fear: media, manipulation and use of fear
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ISSN: 1885-365X

The communication of fear: media, manipulation and use of fear

1. Introduction

In order to mobilise millions of citizens around the world, governments and institutions have chosen to play the fear button.

Invasive daily information and death updates have been a constant dynamic in almost all media.

The widespread use of war terminology has further increased the unleashing of the human feeling of fear. Curiously, the image of death has not been personalized; the suffering has hardly been given a face. The images of the disinfectant spreaders showed unrecognisable human beings, without a face, under a diving mask, the anonymous coffins in the morgues, the nameless crosses in mass graves in the most deprived areas of the planet. Social alarm is created, a feeling of insecurity is produced, which is combined with fear and thus forces the communication of being and «being» of man, in the midst of an in-security (Rufino, 2017) that pushes the here and now, in the face of the hope of something that is threatened and in which one stops believing. The most globalised communication of this new century, of a human catastrophe, has been dehumanised. With the exception of some of the faces of the health workers showing their exhaustion and pleas for help, of some rare patient who had suffered, was suffering from the disease or was finally leaving the ICU with applause, the rest have been numbers: the terror of numbers. Fear has been instilled with a persuasive will through the number of deaths: in one year more than 2,600,000. It could not be otherwise: in the era of big data, of the quantitative, data is the best weapon for the communication of fear. Data that transfer aseptic numbers of victims of a common enemy, the Covid-19 virus, terribly terrifying, because nothing was known about it and it was out of control (Legrenzi, 2021). In the words of Callejo Gallego, citing a book by Calvo (2003), the society is a thriller starring public opinion; in a premonitory way, it reflects on a society adrift, pushed by one epidemic after another, submerged in the unapproachable globalisation, and the hyper-presence of the media with a climate of opinion that is frightened by uncertainty and that makes the message of fear its most effective propagandist. Callejo Gallego and Calvo sketch a political and social context in Spain in 2003 which, curiously, has been exacerbated in the media and in politics in 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic, in a supposedly very different social and political landscape.

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