So I’m reading Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, by Jeffrey S. Victor. Excellent stuff. And I come across this paragraph:
In order to avoid vague notions of what constitutes a “rumor-panic,” in my research I defined a “rumor-panic” as a collective stress reaction in response to a belief in stories about immediately threatening circumstances. A rumor-panic in a community can be identified by the existence of widely occurring fear-provoked behavior. Examples of fear-provoked behavior include: 1) protective behavior, such as the widespread buying of guns or preventing children from being in public places; 2) aggressive behavior, such as group attacks on people perceived to be sources of threat, or the destruction of property; and 3) agitated information-seeking at community meetings for “news” about the threat and intensified surveillance of the community by police and vigilante groups of citizens.
So, yes or no discussion question: Does the Tea Party “movement” constitute a rumor-panic?
Widespread buying of guns? Check. And homeschooling could be another form of the protective behavior of keeping children sheltered.
Agitated information-seeking at community meetings? Oh, big check on that one. (Remember when the words “Town Hall” still had connotations of democracy and citizenship?)
That just leaves “2) aggressive behavior,” which certainly exists, but hasn’t yet risen/fallen to the point of “group attacks on people perceived to be sources of threat.” (We’ll set apart the Texas suicide pilot as — I hope — an anomaly.)
Overall, though, I’d have to say the Tea Party movement bears a striking resemblance to the classic rumor-panic and witchhunt. It’s driven by rumors to become fearful and driven by fear to believe rumors — really outlandish, unbelievable, weirdly nightmarish rumors at that.
Welcome to Salem, 21st-century style. Tune in to Fox News for the latest spectral evidence. …