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Lecture addresses the politics of fear

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Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, explains the idea of security using a poster produced by the British Ministry of Information during World War II in his lecture on Tuesday. In the lecture “The Politics of Fear: Balancing Liberty and Security at Home and Abroad” Neidleman spoke of American suspicion toward Muslim communities but also expressed optimism about the place of the United States as a leader in cultural acceptance. / photo by Warren Bessant

Sarah Sleeger
Staff Writer

Jason Neidleman, professor of political science, and Gitty Amini, associate professor of political science, discussed the effects of 9/11 on the liberty and security of society in their lecture on Tuesday.

The lecture, titled “9/11 and the Politics of Fear: Balancing Liberty and Security at Home and Abroad,” was part of the One Book, One University series.

More than 30 people attended the afternoon lecture in the President’s Dining Room.

“It’s fairly easy to convince people to give up liberty, for the sake of security,” Neidleman said.

Much of his lecture was based around the politics of fear and how fear can overwhelm reason.

“When we are afraid, we prize security above all else,” Neidleman said.

“The reason its possible to convince people to give up liberty for security is because all you have to do is scare them, and then they would be willing to give up liberty for the sake of security.”

Neidleman continued to explain that this concept is not necessarily negative all the time, but ultimately can be a downfall to society.

“Fear can compromise reason,” Neidleman said.

In his PowerPoint, Neidleman pointed out that without law enforcement, society would have too much liberty resulting in anarchy.

However, with too much law enforcement we would have very little liberty resulting in tyranny.

“When we are afraid we are susceptible, however, to manipulation,” Neidleman said.

The conversation continued by discussing the difficulty of responding to terrorist attacks in a moderate way without reacting by lashing out or appearing cowardly.

“The reality is, we are probably compromising both liberty and security,” Neidleman said.

Many important figures from the past were cited throughout his lecture, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Paine.

“The attacks of 9/11 were unfathomable and in many ways they continue to be unfathomable,” Neidleman said.

“What I tried to explain in my remarks was how we have responded to that fear over the last 10 years and how we might do better going into the future.”

Amini discussed the same issues as Neidleman but from the point of other countries around the world.

“The United States is not the only one that reacted that way after Sept. 11,” Amini said about a growing anti-Muslim sentiment.

Amini discussed the laws that countries like France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, England and Israel have created since Sept. 11 or the acts of violence that have been committed against them.

“We were the main victim of those attacks, but there was a common feature across the Western world,” Amini said.

Amini’s lecture expressed how each country deals with terrorism and what they have done in the years since 9/11 in order to be secure.

“Its difficult to figure out who the enemy is,” Amini said when discussing terrorism.

“A generic fear of Muslims is misplaced in response to the world trade center attacks,” Neidleman said. “It’s Muslims who are a solution to that kind of extremism.”

“There is so much focus on the U.S. taking away values of human rights against Muslim-Americans but in reality we are too much focused on how we are discriminating rather than how it was a global act in the Western world,” freshman psychology and economics major Matthew Valencia said.

“We just really need to be careful, when we are told to fear something, we can’t just listen to what people are telling us and just take their reasons and explanations at face value,” junior philosophy and liberal arts major Andra North said.

“We really have to understand what is going on.”

Sarah Sleeger can be reached at

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