Against Fearmongering

Today I am going to talk about a person who 99 percent of you have probably never heard of, but who I am going to say is perpetuating something very dangerous. To be fair, 99 percent of the people who perpetuate dangerous things are never heard of, but I am going to emphasize this person because she is particularly popular among these kinds of people: Sarah Kendzior is her name. She’s a professor at a college near St. Louis in Missouri, specializing in Uzbekistani history and dictators and she is selling fear.

After Trump was elected, a lot of us became terrified for very good reasons. I saw it happening live on Twitter, how people were panicking, and then, cutting through all of that was Kendzior, being retweeted, telling people to #resist, that dark times were coming and we had to prepare. And we did, and we have been fighting. That is not my problem. The problem is Kendzior has been, to put it as bluntly as I can, selling a narrative of fear in order to make herself popular. She has been getting published more and more lately and while she has not become as famous as someone like former Tory MP Louise Mensch (previously kicked out of Parliament for abusing hard drugs, now currently famous for being eerily accurate about Trump and Russia) or Eric Garland, who argued that Trump’s election was the culmination of a 25-year revenge plot by the KGB. Mensch and Garland, as much as they are selling stuff that seems really weird but is occasionally right, are not trafficking in fear. They are optimists in a way, but more importantly they are not downers.

Kendzior is not like that. Kendzior tweets about how Trump is inevitably going to get us into a nuclear war. Kendzior has concerns when her plane is being delayed that the FBI is going to take her away or the KGB is going to blow her up (neither has happened, obviously) and tells people not to make long term plans because the world is going to end.

This is irresponsible. This is an Internet famous person who a lot of scared and confused people are latching on to and she is giving them advice on how to run their lives that is almost certainly not good for them. Trump, rather than adopt any strategies tyrants usually do, has been an utter failure four months in. While the worst is likely still to come, we have gotten the sense that he is too lazy and unbelieving in the cause, not to mention incompetent, to kill America as we know it, not to mention his constant opposition. How can someone at this point be making ominous warnings? It is wrong.

I am not saying it is wrong to not be prepared. I am not even saying that it is wrong to encourage people to be prepared. But there is something fundamentally wrong about taking something which might happen or has not happened yet and acting as if it is inevitable. If Kendzior believes that a nuclear war is inevitable, then she should take the steps that someone who believes that would take. I do not know what exactly those steps would be, but I cannot imagine they would be pretty.

The fact of the matter is with all aspects of existence we should not act as if anything is inevitable. From the moment the Soviet Union revealed its own nuclear weapons, pretty much the entire world lived for fifty years thinking that the US and the USSR would inevitably use them against each other and kill all but the roaches. That did not happen. There are those who believe we will surpass 700ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and doom ourselves to a planet 10 degrees warmer, killing us all. That will not happen. Nothing is inevitable and if you hear anyone say that it is, they are lying to you, trying to buy into a fantasy they are selling, or at the very least peddling. If you are afraid, prepare yourself, or better yet act. Do not go on Twitter and say we are all going to die. You just come off as an asshole.