Do We Panic Too Much? (Spoiler: Yes We Do)

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I’m not sure what brought this on—oh, who am I kidding? I know exactly what brought this on. Anyway, I was thinking about recent public panics and started listing a few of them in my mind. This is just off the top of my head:

  • Crack babies
  • Super predators
  • Lehmann/AIG/Countrywide etc.
  • Mad cow
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Daycare child molesters
  • Ebola
  • ISIS/Syrian refugees

I’m not saying that none of these were justified. Big oil spills are no joke. Ebola was certainly a big deal in Africa. The financial collapse of 2008 wasn’t mere panic.

And yet, generally speaking it seems as if public panics are either completely unjustified or else wildly overwrought. Am I missing any recent examples where there was a huge panic and it turned out to be wholly justified? HIV would have been justified in the early 80s, but of course we famously didn’t panic over that—other than to worry about getting AIDS from toilet seats. Help me out here, hive mind.

POSTSCRIPT: I should mention that despite my choice of illustration, I’ve never really blamed anyone for the tulip panic. Personally, I think tulips are worth going crazy over.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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