Profits don’t justify fear

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

There it is, big as life and twice as ugly, on my daily blurb from an organization called Beliefnet. Beliefnet, in general, caters via email announcements to the broad Christian community, and even to those who are seeking a spiritual center and exploring Christianity — in other words, those who have not definitively made up their minds.

It came as a surprise, then, when the subject line read something like “Terrorist Alert High.” We all know, in this post 9-11 world, that terrorism is a reality, and most of those with military experience (which includes a great many in Clovis) know that terrrorist activities define, in part, the way in which military missions must be viewed.

Nonetheless, this sort of alarmist subject line is not what one usually expects from the Beliefnet people.

Especially not when the subject line is nothing more than a sleazy way of introducing a radio that is designed to function if, as I understand it, your power goes off or some catastrophe knocks out the electric grids.

I could alternatively title this column: The selling of terrorism. Without downplaying the real threat of actions against our nation — the military knew who Bin Laden was long before Sept 2001— we can’t really sanction or applaud the use of, and playing on, peoples’ fears to sell anything- whether it is a radio, home security system, or political viewpoint.

In college, I often had to ride the bus. I remember one time, in the bus station,a strange looking lady came up to me and whispered “They’ll rob ya and kill ya here.” Being the polite young man I’d been trained to be, I leaned over and whispered “ “Pardon me, Ma’am?” She jumped back and said. “Fyaaahhh ! Get away from me!”

The encounter, as chance encounters sometimes do, has become embedded in my mind as a paradigm — in this case, for paranoid behavior.

What I am talking about, then, might be defined as the selling of paranoia.

One of the true joys in teaching the class I sometimes instruct on logic and rhetoric is the section on propaganda. Since the usual class group is largely Air Force, and frequently weighted with NCOs, I can count on a high population of students with some developed critical thinking skills.

A piece that we quickly become aware of, and sometimes build entire assignments around, is the way in which we are inundated with propaganda- advertising, subliminal suggestion, slanted reporting, etc. Often enough,the primary or secondeary goal is to sell one something.

Certainly, there is no easy answer. However, awareness at least makes you less of a target. It might truly be said that you are not likely to put a stop to terrorism by having a radio that works without electricity.

It might, however, make you feel more secure during the approaching tornado season.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at: