Ralph Benko

H.L. Mencken, in 1918, observed that “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

Much of politics is made up of what is called, in popular slang, “scarelore.” Among those currently being circulated by the Svengalis who guide (and exploit) politicians appear:

Climate Change; the “Sixth Extinction”; GMO foods; an asteroid impact; an (overdue) super volcanic eruption of Yellowstone National Park; Cold War II; a Weimar-style dollar apocalypse; and imminent threat of American bankruptcy.

(This columnist considers the possibility of massive solar flare that could wipe out our electrical grid and seriously damage us possibly well grounded, and, if so, strikingly inexpensive to ameliorate and thus worthy of further investigation. Even Mencken considered most, not all, hobgoblins imaginary.)

As for imaginary goblins amplified by a circulation-desperate infotainment industry? Not too long ago we were threatened with the Y2K bug. It supposedly would, or at least could, shut down all the world’s computers and servers and, with them, everything else. (Just in case you didn’t get the word … it’s safe to come out of your bunker now.)

A few years later several concerned citizens thoughtfully, albeit unsuccessfully, brought well publicized lawsuits to avert the starting of the Large Hadron Collider. They were consumed with, reported by MSNBC: “fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet.”

And here we still are.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.