Fear leads to manipulation

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Emotions are a curious thing. While they can create an artistic masterpiece, or provide strength in a crisis situation, emotions can also allow for easy manipulation.

Certain collection agents will purposely threaten in order to extract an emotional response, even if that response is anger directed at them. In such an emotive state, the person on the other end of the phone can be manipulated by a “cooler head” into a bad decision.

This practice is deceitful, and in many instances, illegal. However, this same practice is being played out each day in our political society, preying on young and old alike.

While not as brazen as underhanded collection agents, those seeking political gain will often use a tragedy to force through a predetermined agenda. The aftermath of recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. is evidence of this.

One the one side, you have the anti-gun advocates. They have taken this tragedy and politicized it to further their agenda. Sadly, it is working. Both government and corporations are backing away from the gun industry. Sporting goods stores are dropping the sale of assault-style weapons, and government entities are looking at banning them altogether.

On the other side are the pro-gun advocates. In their usual fashion, they look at all forms of gun control as an affront to the Second Amendment of the Constitution. They rattle their sabers and use propaganda to convince people that their gun ownership is in jeopardy.

Caught in the middle of this whirlwind of accusations is the American citizenry. Just like the victims of unscrupulous collection agents, Americans are responding to the rhetoric emotionally, often ignoring the facts.

One such American is high school student Sophie Pearson, a senior at Pompano Beach High School in Broward County, Florida. Her high school is near Marjory Stoneman Douglas and she “personally knew people who were affected by this great tragedy.”

She penned an op-ed piece that will probably appear in many newspapers and websites throughout the nation.

“Last Wednesday, as the school day came to a close, 17 new ripples tore into the tide of our community in the form of bullets,” The Op-Ed said. “The effects of these actions not only gripped Stoneman Douglas High School, but our community and our country. It affected everyone who heard the story. The epicenter of this tragedy was so great that it shook us to the core. All because of the actions of one person and 17 ripples.”

Pearson eloquently spoke of the events of that day, but then the piece took a strange turn.

“My intent is not to be political. But I will say this: The moment you accepted money from the National Rifle Assn., you put the value of money over the value of people. Your people. The people you promised to represent and take care of. That is unacceptable,” she said.

The preceding paragraph, obviously aimed at elected officials, shows an emotional response borne out of propaganda and misinformation.

While Nikolas Cruz, the alleged perpetrator of this great tragedy, was a former member of a Jr. ROTC team that received some form of grant from the NRA, he wasn’t a member of the organization. But somehow, the NRA has been made the “faceless villain” in all this.

What Cruz allegedly did was an evil act, pure and simple. He will face justice. That’s what we do in the United States.

However, thanks to propaganda from both sides of the gun control debate, the focus of the anger in this tragedy hasn’t been Nikolas Cruz.

The issue of gun control is complex, and cannot be handled emotionally. A fearful people will give up their rights far too quickly in the interest of safety.

If tighter gun restrictions are needed, then enact the legislation. If current law is good enough, then so be it.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of all the violent acts of my lifetime. However, we must acknowledge that we cannot legislate our way to peace. We also must recognize there are those that will take any opportunity to push their agenda, preying on the fears of others.

At a time when our nation was suffering at the hands of The Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

So true are those words. We must not let fear cause us to make decisions that are not in our best interest as individuals, as communities, or a nation.

David Specht is CEO of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and editor and publisher of the Minden Press-Herald. He can be reached at dspecht@press-herald.com.