Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream by Sasha Abramsky

Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream

Why is an unarmed young black woman who knocks on a stranger's front door to ask for help after her car breaks down perceived to be so threatening that he shoots her dead? Why do we fear infrequent acts of terrorism more far more common acts of violence? Why does a disease like Ebola, which killed only a handful of Americans, provoke panic, whereas the flu--which kills ten...

Title:Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream
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Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream Reviews

  • Venessa

    Watch for my review in an upcoming issue of

    .

  • Jennifer

    Although this supposedly looks at how we incorrectly calculate relative risk in our daily lives, the first chapter was a condemnation of Donald Trump as a demagogue and of his supporters as overly reactive to America's current cultural and political situation. The author then moved on to how the media prompts us to be psychologically predisposed to fear "the other." While he makes many valid points over the course of the book, especially, in my opinion, about parenting in modern America, I felt

    Although this supposedly looks at how we incorrectly calculate relative risk in our daily lives, the first chapter was a condemnation of Donald Trump as a demagogue and of his supporters as overly reactive to America's current cultural and political situation. The author then moved on to how the media prompts us to be psychologically predisposed to fear "the other." While he makes many valid points over the course of the book, especially, in my opinion, about parenting in modern America, I felt the volume as a whole to be too much a liberal condemnation of blue collar America, with too little discussion of why that group has come to their views. While the author does indicate that a great deal of our misplaced risk assessment comes from the mainstream media's "if it bleeds it leads" philosophy of news, the only media outlet he specifically calls out is Fox News. Further, there is no call for responsible journalism instead of the sensationalism that pervaids the media of all genres and networks. I'm increasingly frustrated by authors or speakers decrying what they view as racism and xenophobia without addressing WHY people feel this way and making some concrete suggestions for how we could all come together, idealistic as that may seem.

  • Matthew Royal

    Good points; I don't disagree, but not rigorous and less scientific than I expected. Many times, the narrative seemed to stray into purely partisan storytelling. It was more a partisan political rant with a couple nonpolitical anecdotes. No historical comparisons with other periods overridden with fear. No projections of where our fear culture will take us. No possible remedies to fear were presented. I feel like I didn't learn anything, and I felt like the author was lazy in his research.

  • Robert S

    tackles the important topic of fear in the American psyche and its impact on our everyday lives.

    Abramsky tries to dive into why Americans fear terrorism or plane crashes more than car crashes even though the latter kills far more in any given year among other topics.

    The author has some really good points in this book but I would have appreciated some more analytics and less personal opinions. I also think the book would have benefitted more with conversations from average ever

    tackles the important topic of fear in the American psyche and its impact on our everyday lives.

    Abramsky tries to dive into why Americans fear terrorism or plane crashes more than car crashes even though the latter kills far more in any given year among other topics.

    The author has some really good points in this book but I would have appreciated some more analytics and less personal opinions. I also think the book would have benefitted more with conversations from average everyday people who feel this way.

  • Rick Conti

    A wise and in depth report on the state of a nation that is arguably the strongest, richest, and most secure in world history yet suffers chronic and traumatic dread of imagined dangers on all fronts. Abramsky shows just how bad off we are and the mess our fears have put us in. We cower in the face of non-threats, all the while dismissing real problems that endanger our very existence. In the process, we've put our very freedoms at risk. Now that's something to be afraid of.

  • Sascha Cohen

    This is less a critical analysis than a discursive review of the topic at hand. That said, Abramsky deftly sifts through his topic with clarity and accuracy, uncovering some of what drives the destructive valorization of our culture around fear, violence, and reactionary progress. This is not a "fun" read. But it is a very valuable one. Recommended.

  • Amy

    Parts of this book illuminated our country's current situation and even shed light on the irrational and paranoid behavior I see in some of my own relatives--who are ruled by fear which is fed by right wing propaganda and social media.

    But Abramsky rambles. And the rambling made this hard to read at times.

  • David Becker

    A solid, interesting and very timely premise — the exploitation of fear to advance political and business agendas. And the sections that deal with that are great, explaining a lot about how our discourse sunk to where it is.

    The problem is the author often goes off on tangents to put a face on issues related to the central premise. Which he’s not terribly good at — visual descriptions are particularly clunky.

    Also, yes, the author’s viewpoint is staunchly leftie. If that’s likely to trigger you,

    A solid, interesting and very timely premise — the exploitation of fear to advance political and business agendas. And the sections that deal with that are great, explaining a lot about how our discourse sunk to where it is.

    The problem is the author often goes off on tangents to put a face on issues related to the central premise. Which he’s not terribly good at — visual descriptions are particularly clunky.

    Also, yes, the author’s viewpoint is staunchly leftie. If that’s likely to trigger you, go to your safe space and blame it all on Hillary.

  • Jason Rosenstock

    Loved the parts about risk assessment, and why we struggle so much with that. Loved the reporting on specific individuals and places, and how fear has affected behavior. Did a nice job explaining the rise of Trumpism as well. However, it was a bit repetitive and uneven for my tastes, with surprisingly little examination of how and why the media plays a role in the formation of our fears.

  • Greg

    Mr. Abamsky, as so others have also noted, observes how much post-9-11 America is awash with "things to be afraid of": terrorists, immigrants, jihadists, etc.

    The book is useful in documenting how so much of this fear is both based upon relatively few instances -- and, upon ignoring the more real causes of fear represented by nut-jobs in this country possessing far too many firearms -- and upon the skillful and intentional utilization of the Right in pushing those hot buttons that trigger fear, f

    Mr. Abamsky, as so others have also noted, observes how much post-9-11 America is awash with "things to be afraid of": terrorists, immigrants, jihadists, etc.

    The book is useful in documenting how so much of this fear is both based upon relatively few instances -- and, upon ignoring the more real causes of fear represented by nut-jobs in this country possessing far too many firearms -- and upon the skillful and intentional utilization of the Right in pushing those hot buttons that trigger fear, flight, and anger.

    This is, he argues, and I fully concur, a key reason why our civic discourse has so badly deteriorated in recent years into one of tribal partisanship and ridiculous stereotyping. We, in effect, are no longer considering each other fellow citizens but, rather, increasingly as members of a hostile "other" that must be resisted -- at all costs!

    He also emphasizes how "words have consequences," that the deliberate harshening of language that began with Newt Gingrich in order to seize Congressional power back in the '90s has steadily morphed into more vicious means to "take down the other side" by any means possible. The significant rise in hate speech and hate crimes we have experienced since the election of Despoiler in Chief he finds as the best proof that the old adage that "words have consequences" is true. Now the head of our country is visibly giving permission to others to unleash their hidden "ugly selves." It is OK to discriminate, to disparage, to ridicule, to hate!

    In addition, he significantly notes a tie-in between this increasing atmosphere of fear and alienation with the existence of a "grossly unequal society."

    "The United States in the early twenty-first century is a place of stark inequities...One of the consequences of that inequality is a maldistribution not just of income and of opportunity, but also of perceptions of risk and fear. Increasingly, those without are seen as representing danger, risk, as being worthy of fearing. They are, in many ways, the Great Unwashed of our age, perceived to be as dirty and as germy, as violent and as unstable as were their antecedents in Victorian London. Thus the poor, the addicted, the undocumented, the homeless, the mentally ill -- as well as the communities disproportionately lived in by the poor -- all are seen as potentially destructive of the broader social order."

    We are increasingly a "limbic society... we tend to judge people either as members of our group -- the in-group -- or as outsiders, potentially threatening, rapacious members of an out-group. We start thinking tribally. And we become easy fodder for demagogues."

    Our culture is in deep trouble. We had better -- and very soon -- begin taking those steps to breathe deeply and see truly if we are to avert the worst outcomes our current paths will otherwise yield!

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