Surveys creating fear?

I’m on the search for “fissures” and ruptures in hegemonic formations at the moment – especially in the news media. And they’re not that difficult to find, for instance tonight at about 7.45pm on the RBB’s Abendschau (evening news on the regional tv for Berlin and Brandenburg). The news reader reported on a recent survey of what Berliners are afread of. Near the top, we have overburdened politicians and natural catastrophes.

Apparently 38 % are afraid of “tensions with foreigners”. (Again, I should recall that “foreigners” [Ausländer] refers in Germany to ethnic minorities or people with migration backgrounds, rather than, say, tourists.)

Watching this, the Berliner discoursologists started to gripe about surveys which include that sort of question, thereby suggesting to respondents that they should prioritize “tensions with foreigners” as one possible thing to fear.

But then, the newsreader moved on to the next question and made precisely the same point himself. A following story was about fatal accidents involving trams. The newsreaders lead into the story, linking it to the last one by saying:

We mentioned Berliners’ fears earlier. Maybe fear of the trams should have been included in the list. Because if we were afraid of them, then perhaps we would pay more attention to them and we here in the Abendschau wouldn’t have to report so often about tragic accidents.

(Von den Ängsten der Berliner war vorhin bei uns die Rede. Vielleicht sollte auf die Liste auch die Angst vor der Straßenbahn. Weil wenn wir Angst vor ihr hätten, dann würden wir vielleicht besser auf sie aufpassen und dann müssten wir in der Abendschau nicht immer wieder über tragische Unfälle berichten. [listen here)

So, meta-reflection on the constitutive function of survey questions which create fear. On RBB’s Abendschau. If that’s not a fissure in prevailing common-sense…


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