Michael Crichton: State of Fear

by Rachel Baker on September 4, 2015

Two days ago, I was putting the finishing touches on the warm fuzzy feelings I had about the book stack I’d just plowed through, when I decided I’d look through what Kindle had in the cheap book recommendations for me. I was surprised when I found a Crichton novel for $0.99; I was even more surprised when it was one I hadn’t previously read.

Crichton has always made me think about the possibilities of “what if”. I love the contemplation of technology or medical breakthroughs going bad and how they might cause more harm than good to not just a few people, but a whole society, and maybe the world. Frankly, its the same reason why Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus written by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is at the top of any favorite story list I will ever make.

My experience in reading State of Fear was exciting. I read all 641 pages in a span of a few hours, and I truly didn’t want to put it down at any time. I was engrossed. Now, its incredibly important for me to note, I didn’t really care about the environmental and global warming statistics that were riddled throughout the book. The book is fiction, and I assumed all the technical blathering was too – on both sides of the argument for global warming. I say that with the full knowledge the author included footnotes and listings to the articles which informed the science and tech in the book. However, what I do care about was an idea in the book that still resonates today, 11 years after this book was published.

The idea that we live in a state of fear is still apropos and all one has to do is watch the evening news (on any of the channels) to hear (and see) it. How many times a day is there Breaking News that isn’t really breaking news? How many times a week is there some Crisis or other being scrolled across the bottom of the screen? How many times do we hear news anchors and pundits talking about how ‘this’ will cause a crisis of magnanimous proportions, because experts have deemed it so. We have a financial crisis every other week, a stock market plunging every few months (as I write this, “the stocks are plunging on new jobs report”), and “this year’s hurricane season might be yet the worst ever”…only its not. Has anyone else noticed the padding of the numbers they will be able to accomplish starting this year since they are now calling major storms in the Pacific ‘hurricanes’?

Last night, I heard one of the candidates pontificate how the Iran deal is going to lead to nuclear proliferation, and this politician isn’t the first to predict this or worse about the Iran Deal. It doesn’t matter the topic, our politicians know if they make their dire prediction and use rhetoric which leaves their constituents in a state of fear, the odds are people will get scared enough to think the “other side” is trying to kill them…or grandma. Frankly, no one knows. No one can predict the future. Sure, one can make a slightly educated guess, but the truth is, no one can predict the future and thus, no one knows what will happen if this treaty is signed or that law is enacted. Its all posturing to garnish support – the more scared you are, the more you will want the “right leader” for the job; and well, the right leader for the job is the one that recognizes your fears and understands you…right? (please note the dripping sarcasm).

The Crichton book may or may not have gotten it right depending on what side you fall under in the global warming debate; and he may or may not have gotten the details right or wrong regarding the history of our use of state of fear rhetoric coinciding with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. However, if he were still alive today, he’d recognize the same state of fear he was describing in this book. And frankly, I believe he might say it had gotten worse.

In this insanely long political season, its vitally important to our collective mental state to recognize the rhetoric when it is used. I believe we as a nation might actual become a bit less anxious and angry if we demand better from our politicians and our media outlets.

The book, State of Fear, is a good read. Its long, though, for the most part, not a difficult read. There are some long explanations about global warming and the way we use language; and while interesting, its vitally important to remember this book is fiction. If you get caught up in the global warming debate going on in the book, you will probably not enjoy the journey. However, if you remember global warming is the catalyst used to take a look at how language is used to get people to believe all kinds of things, right or wrong, you may enjoy the experience a whole lot more.

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to follow on Twitter; or you can follow her at The Crafty Veteran on Bloglovin. You can also follow her writing about women veteran interests at Shield Sisters

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