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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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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