Inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt
(Photo by National Archive/Getty Images)Getty Images

Those are the famous words of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt (above) in my title. Here is the exact quote from Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address.

“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 every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Fast Forward to 2017

During Roosevelt’s time there was a Great Depression, which he prolonged if you want to believe some university studies. But the fear of which Roosevelt spoke was the fear of poverty continuing, of jobs lost, and concern for family. Does any of that sound familiar? Does it translate to today?

Looking at 2017, what do we find? 24/7 cable news, social media, bloggers, talk radio - all trying to attract you (the reader, listener, viewer), looking for answers to relieve your fears.

Their goal is just to opposite.

Trump is psychotic — fear. The Russians are coming — fear. Got a health issue, we have a pill, shot, or procedure —fear. GMO’s will poison our food —fear. Climate change will destroy the planet —fear. Millions will be left without healthcare — fear. War on drugs — fear. War on women — fear. Illegal immigration — fear. Sanctuary cities — fear. Not raising the minimum wage — fear. Corporate greed — fear. Fossil fuels — fear. Pipeline leaks — fear. Do I need to go to chem trails?

Some Final Thoughts

The only tried and true, ironclad rule has to be that the fear you promote must have legs. In other words, it has to last a long time and it has to have a long-lasting emotional hook.

If you can add in off the charts guilt -- rich vs. poor, black vs white, old vs young, gay vs straight — then you've really got something. Guilt, even if unjustified, still works.

After all, who wants to be branded homophobic, a bigot, racist, xenophobe, Islamophobe? The list of guilt-laden adjectives is endless.

Fear with a quick turnaround has little power or any long term effect on society.

Save the whales worked for a short time. Occupy Wall Street worked for a short time. Even the most vocal will only have 15 minutes of fame if their cause doesn’t have legs.

By contrast, climate change could work forever, GMO’s – you have to eat. Pills and potions — people get sick. Raising minimum wage — worker’s fear of poverty.

The news media, bloggers, social media aficionados, know that keeping you in fear with the right emotional cause will sell papers, put eyeballs on cable news, ears on talk radio or increase the readership and traffic to your blog or website.

How many positive messages do you hear each day? Now compare those to the negatives. Which wins out?

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