Why does a disease that killed only a handful of Americans like ebola provoke panic, but the flu-which kills tens of thousands each year-is dismissed with a yawn? Why is an unarmed young black woman who knocks on a stranger’s front door to ask for help after her car breaks down perceived to be so threatening that the stranger shoots her dead? In Jumping at Shadows, Sasha Abramsky sets his sights on America’s most dangerous epidemic: irrational fear.
In this meditation on the paralyzing terror Americans feel when confronted with something they don’t understand-from foreigners to tropical viruses to universal health care-Abramsky delivers an eye-opening analysis of our misconceptions about risk and threats, and how our brains interpret them, both at a neurological level and at a conscious one. What emerges is a journey through a political and cultural landscape that is defined by our fears, which are often misplaced. Ultimately, Abramsky shows that our fears can teach us a great deal about our society, exposing our deeply ingrained racism, classism, xenophobia, and susceptibility to the toxic messages of demagogues.