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False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear 1st Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471678694
ISBN-10: 0471678694
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by Bob KerreyI write these words on the very day that multiple bombings occurred on London's transit system. It is hard not to feel personally threatened, particularly when the aftermath becomes the focus of worldwide attention and nonstop media coverage. And therein, unfortunately, lies the power of such destruction, as the terrorists well know.After such news, we are reminded yet again of the fragility of life and the depth of love we feel for friends and family. We offer grave concern and heartfelt prayers for the dead and injured. We vow to find better ways to heighten security. We do what we can to calm ourselves and not be overtaken by fear physiology.In these days of great uncertainty, it is reassuring to learn that some of our worst-case scenarios will not necessarily come true. Such is the premise of Dr. Siegel's False Alarm.To put alarmist tendencies in perspective: over 58,000 soldiers died or were missing in action in Vietnam; on average over one million people are killed annually—and another 50 million injured—in traffic accidents around the world. In the United States, traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 35.Though it is little consolation to anyone understandably concerned about their loved ones in today's climate, it is nonetheless true that the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist incident is remarkably low. One is more likely to get killed crossing the street.Affected as we all were by the events of September 11, and subsequently inspired to study "the process by which dangers were manufactured and provoked," Siegel has compiled a remarkable response to what he calls our "newfound vulnerability" and the "ongoing doom-and-gloom of the daily news."The title of Siegel's exploration, False Alarm, is a powerful, provocative and well-chosen oxymoron. Highly qualified and deeply motivated, Siegel has conducted an intensive and much needed study of the ramifications of living in a time of pervasive fear, when we are constantly threatened with the prospect of biological and/or nuclear warfare.With so much attention paid to that which we cannot control, it is easy to lose sight of, and neglect, behavioral and lifestyle choices that clearly impact the quality of our lives. In addition, important, global health issues tend to get swept under the rug, while hysteria multiplies. Legitimate concerns go unaddressed, and valuable resources are wasted.Siegel has done us a great service. His thorough research illuminates the biological, political, psychological and sociological facets of this important topic, and offers an alternative to the current landscape of perpetual high drama and pathological fear. I enthusiastically endorse his efforts, and urge readers to take his message to heart. This is a terrific and groundbreaking book. (Aug. 26)Bob Kerrey is president of The New School, a former governor and senator from Nebraska, and member of the 9/11 Commission.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Anthrax, vaccine shortages, and SARS, oh my! Americans have been pummeled with an endless series of apparent threats. Siegel makes a passionate argument that the only thing we have to fear is, indeed, our own paranoia. Reason, he says, is the best vaccination for this epidemic." (Psychology Today, September/October 2005)

"Marc Siegel tries to reduce the hysteria quotient with a straightforward recitation of facts and statistics. Recalling the famous Orson Welles broadcast of "The War of the Worlds," Siegel tries all too sensibly (and one suspects futilely) to assess risk accurately and respond only to "plausible" threats such as the vulnerability of our container ships or "loose nukes" in former Soviet republics." (Benamin Barber, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2005)


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471678694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471678694
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,564,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We live in a media-saturated culture, and that media is increasingly given to exploiting the most fantastic, the most gruesome, and the most dire in an effort to get ratings. If it bleeds, it leads. Similar impulses tend to dominate political speech - rhetoric for calling people to war on terrorism, war on drugs, war on whatever the 'glamour' issue is can tend toward the worst-case scenario being heightened as the most likely occurrence. However, the truth is that the worst case scenario rarely happens, and even when it does, it pales by a realistic comparison to the way the world is as a whole.

For example, author Marc Siegel discusses the media and popular panic over the outbreak of SARS - one would think that this is the next worldwide pandemic just waiting to break, and public and governmental pressure was brought to bear to deal with this. In reality, few people died from SARS, it turned out that SARS was not that infectious, and in fact more people die of the regular flu virus annually than did of SARS. This is but one example of how we as a culture tend to get distracted by a high-profile issue.

The fear of people in the West about terrorism is a similar false alarm, in Siegel's estimation. It is still true that one is far more likely to get killed or injured in traffic accidents or workplace accidents than by any terrorism related; to devote one's resources (physical and psychological) toward an event unlikely to happen to the exclusion of dealing with the likely events is a problem our society increasingly faces.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By mwest on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yea, we're all afraid of terrorism, diseases, death, and violence... but who would have guessed that the real threat to our health was the fear impulse spurred on by these nebulous and rare events? This book introduces us to the real stories behind the terrors - a welcome message in the midst of alarmist media and drug company marketing ploys. Siegel masterfully introduces us to the reality of the situation, and reminds us of the real issues that Americans face today - a message sorely missed and needed in our culture. An excellent read - and a welcome relief - for anyone living in today's culture of mass media sound bites and goverment issued terror alerts.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Kellemen on September 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Marc Siegel teaches us that something has gone wildly wrong with our national psyche when we begin to believe that if something could possibly happen, then it is likely to happen. This epidemic of fear, as Siegel exposes, is often market driven--if it bleeds it leads, if it smells it sells.

Two primary negative results flow from the false alarm syndrome. First, we place all our national energy, money, and resources into emotionally hyped issues that provide little bang for the buck. Second, the chicken little, the sky is falling phenomenon causes us to become cynical about real warnings. The tragedy of ten of thousands refusing to evacuate the gulf coast during Katrina is proof positive of this negative result.

Reading this book should alert all of us to our need to stay alert. We must think for ourselves, and not let politicians and the self-serving media drive us into overdrive. We need to bring rationality to our emotionality. "False Alarm" offers the intellectual medicine and emotional prescription necessary to return us to national mental health.

Reviewer: Dr. Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and the forthcoming, "Beyond the Suffering."
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Henry Michaels on August 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There is a lot to learn from historical perspective - if only we could learn it while the history is happening. This book helps accomplish exactly that. Siegel examines personal and societal fear through a physician's eye - first studying and understanding the mechanisms which we experience as fear, and then examining and diagnosing how we've been using those mechanisms. The perspective and lessons are insightful and useful, making this a worthwhile read. It is also an easy read, peppered with case studies and stories which make it enjoyable while addressing this serious subject.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JME on November 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With all the sensationalism and relentless obfuscation of the realities of life by the media I found this an exhillarating and thought provoking book. There's more..., but I'm sure you'll read and revisit this book again and again once it's prominently displayed on your bookshelf. Worth every penny....
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Destefano on November 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Siegel has performed a true service, not only to the people most susceptible to fear and hype, but the real culprits in this convoluted game of media hysteria, the fear mongers themselves. They have frightened scores of us with their hypothesis, calculations and scenarios. Then commensurate to dancing on the backs of the bruised, they offer no solace or guidance when questioned. This fatuous reporting serves only to heighten fears and creates fragmented and unconstructive reactions. In this thought provoking, calming and ultimately factual accountings of popular focal points of frenzy, he has systematically been able to present the "evidence" in a succinct, albeit realistic fashion. This book should be required reading for all, especially those who find themselves gripped with the purposeful sense of hopelessness ingrained by our media outlets. Thank you Doctor Siegel for your reassuring words and true accountings. Finally an outlet that champions the effort to once again breathe the sweet air stemming from peace of mind.
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