From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Bob Kerrey
I 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.
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"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)