Are we a nation of paranoid fraidy cats?

Are we a nation of paranoid fraidy cats?

Summary: Paranoia and fear drive a lot of people mad. For those who don't go so far, the paranoia and fear can be nearly debilitating. A bit of healthy fear and a small amount of paranoia is good but how much is too much?


Sometimes I wonder how some people make it out of bed in the morning when I consider how paranoid and afraid they are. It's crazy. I just don't get some of it. For example, when I write an article, I post it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and a few other places around for visibility. The onslaught of extraordinarily paranoid commentary still always surprises me. It's shocking to note how many presumably intelligent people are so gripped with fear and paranoia that they can barely make it through a day. I'm not sure what has caused this level of crippling paranoia but I think it's time to investigate it. I think we've become a nation of "fraidy cats" and that worries me.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to investigate this phenomenon by interviewing some Psychologists, security professionals, and just regular folks to bring you a broad view of this new paranoia.

What I'm most afraid of is the people who are afraid.

The last gun show I went to a few years ago here in Tulsa really scared me. It wasn't the guns, ammo, Ninja weapons, or the fact that someone crazy could buy a gun and some ammo and then shoot the place up—that I can deal with. Instead, it's the weird paranoia that exists there. I remember going to one particular show ten or so years ago and seeing all the "survivalists" promoting their survival kits and home protection apparati. But their dialog was very troubling.

They feared the government, the police, and even regular citizens. It was weird. I blew it off and just assumed it is kind of a local thing. But after posting on LinkedIn, I realize that paranoia and this weird fear of the government is everywhere.

I told one guy that I was totally prepared with my 55 gallon drum full of dehydrated water. I've never had to use it but I still have it. I hope there's no expiration date on dehydrated water.

I don't want to launch this as a political discussion but this is America, after all. You know, "We the People," democracy, freedom, liberty and justice for all—you know, all the stuff we believed as children. And now we've evolved into this weird, empassioned, fervent nation of eccentrics who fear that "the government" is going to kick down our doors at 3am demanding our guns, your money, and our first born.

Get real folks. It ain't happening.

For one, there are too many of us who would never let it happen. Second, our government is made up of people we elect. We can get rid of them or we can choose to re-elect them at will. Heck, we can even recall them and elect someone new if we want to.

The latest paranoid dialog, especially from certain LinkedIn groups, was sparked by my recent, "Through a glass starkly: PRISM and BLARNEY are good things." You'd think I'd sworn allegiance to the Taliban or something from some of the reactions I got.

My point there was that it rains on the just as well as on the unjust. In other words, if my privacy (whatever that means in Internet browsing history terms) is compromised so that criminals may be caught or terrorism deflected, then so be it. I don't care.

I'm not paranoid enough to think that someone from "the government" is going to break down my door because I've looked up how to cook Methamphetamine or how to build a Diesel/Fertilizer bomb*. But there are patterns that I want someone to watch for to help protect me, my wife, and my children from would-be terrorists—both domestic and foreign.

I'm sorry if that disturbs you but it's necessary. It's almost like saying, "OK, police, I want you to catch criminals but you can't fly your helicopter over my house, chase a criminal through my yard, or fire your weapon within the city limits." And yes, it's the same thing.

Do I believe that there are bad cops? Yes. Do I believe that there are bad people in government? Yes. But I don't believe that it is a majority of either. There are many people in government who are just as paranoid as you and me. Maybe even more so.

So, please allay your extreme fears and paranoia and replace them with something more constructive like a hobby. A little healthy suspicion is good but don't let it control your life. Don't get carried away on it. It's good to cover your hand when entering a PIN at the bank or at the gas pump but buying 10,000 rounds of ammo in case of an invasion or government attack is, well,...kind of crazy.

I don't want to live in a nation of fraidy cats. I want to live in a safe, secure nation where people are pursuing life, liberty, and happiness. Be a little paranoid about your passwords. Be wary of racial profiling. Be cautious about your surroundings. Be vigilant with your government. Be discerning with your votes and your voices. And live long and prosper.

What do you think? Have we become a nation of paranoids? Do we fear too much or not enough? Talk back and let me know.

*I have never looked up those things.

Topics: Security, Government, Tech Industry


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • The government is not really filled with people we elect

    it is filled with people who paid exorbitant amounts of campaign money to beat other (usually also heavily fund-raised) nominees. We then get to choose between a small number of party-ticketed candidates with heavily privately funded campaigns.

    Money produces 90% of the result.... our votes provide the small afterthought.
    • And then after all the money was spent...

      ...we elected them. Sorry, but no matter how you cut it, and no matter how flawed the system is (and it definitely is), the buck still stops with us voters.

      The question is, what are we going to do about it?
      John L. Ries
      • Eh...

        Unless there is a huge campaign that costs nothing to do a huge write-in effort, 90% of people are voting for someone that's on the ballot. Getting your name on the ballot means there is a good chance you are already bought and paid for by someone with more money than they can ever spend as a normal person. While I agree with you that ultimately we decide who gets into office, the problem is with system and the way things work.
        • You might have to persuade your fellow citizens to change their behavior?

          Instead of deriding them as "sheep"? How horrible!

          But all change starts with oneself.
          John L. Ries
  • I don't think you are Satan for your position on this

    No, you're the guy that runs into the 7-11 to get satan a pack of cigarettes.
    • @Jean-Pierre

      Nah, I say, "Satan, you shouldn't smoke. Let me buy you a 40 instead. We'll sit on the sidewalk with the paper sack twisted up on them, drinking, hanging out, yelling at passersby. But no smoking."
  • Sounds paranoid until it happens...

    "I'm not paranoid enough to think that someone from "the government" is going to break down my door because I've looked up how to cook Methamphetamine or how to build a Diesel/Fertilizer bomb*."
    Are you sure about that? See the following:
    • @windews

      Really? You think that's the same thing? Saying things like that kid did should get him arrested.
      • Ken...

        I give you so much credit for many of your articles, particularly this one. The US is too populated and too geographically large for a government that is our size to actually do anything in real time or close to real time that would invade the privacy of the average person doing average thing. Of course, the media spins everything the same one 90% of the bloggers on this site to get more views. Is it invading your privacy to have the government have faster access to documents that can catch real bad guys? Seriously?! Considering the government could have gotten access to phone records after a long legal process with warrants, I don't see how this is any different than getting something before it's needed... kind of like grocery shopping.

        I would like to think, as stupid as people are, that we have enough common sense NOT to go doing stupid things online with the data we are looking for. Sure, idiots exist and do amazingly stupid things. The reality is that the average person is never arrested once for anything and only deals with police for the occasional traffic ticket (speeding/parking) or due to a car accident. Otherwise, I really don't think most people are having run in's with the cops. If you look at the size of law enforcement and then the size of the general population, it just isn't possible.
      • Re: "Saying things like that kid did should get him arrested."

        Perhaps you are Satan.
  • Some truth to this

    My concern is that there are very good reasons why certain rights are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. They must be taken seriously if we are to have a government of laws, instead of a government of men.

    But (and I'm sure I'm going to offend some people by saying it), I think my chances of being hauled away in the middle of the night (never to be seen again) by a private militia are greater than the chances I'm going to be hauled away by federal agents (and both are very small).
    John L. Ries
    • Is Governmental Unconstitutional Behavior Permissible?

      "The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence"
      -Justice Tom C. Clark,
      Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961)
      • I've long agreed

        It's the height of idiocy for public officials to disobey the law because it is the law that gives them their legitimacy.
        John L. Ries
  • I found an example

    I found an example of the same type of philosophy only you substitute the word government with a four letter word called win8. Technically not a four letter word, but neither is the guy that wrote the other article, but I can think of some choice four letter words that describe him.

    I enjoyed your article khess an I'm waiting for more comments to roll in before I can go troll hunting. I in particular thought your illustration of you an satan on the corner was interesting. Anything more you want to tell us about that experience.
    • @donaldfiander

      I have a lot of funny stories -- one even related to a guy and a 40. Just an inside FYI, my wife got really mad at me over the whole incident so, as you know, it was totally worth it. ;-)
  • Bottom line ... The Responsibility Lies With The Voters ...

    Come no people. I've seen it happen over and over. People are planning to vote for a candidate or an issue and then the big money comes in with high powered advertising and they "change their minds". A populace that can not distinguish political ads from objective facts doesn't deserve better government. An issue can be as clear as night and day as to which is morally correct and which is morally wrong. Yet all it takes is an advertising campaign alleging that a morally correct vote will increase the voter's taxes and 90% of them will KNOWINGLY vote in the direction of morally wrong. It happens over and over and over. Votes are bought and manipulated and the guiltiest of all are those who knowingly allow themselves to be bought and manipulated. "Unless you vote for the devil, you will lose your job!" ... I tell you, the devil will get elected every time. Its disgusting.
    George Mitchell
    • hate to burst your bubble

      Those same ads that bought and paid for an election win also decide more or less what that politician will be doing, saying, etc. Bribery is legal so long as it's a special interest group.
  • I suggest . . .

    If you want more information on our rather whacky elections, and why there seems to always be only two political parties, I suggest watching "The Problems with First Past the Post Voting Explained" by CGPGrey on YouTube.
    • Absolutely agreed

      The most important electoral reform we can possibly enact is to abolish plurality voting. In most circumstances, it should be replaced with majority voting, as party list proportional representation makes elected officials more accountable to their parties than they are to their constituents (other forms of proportional representation are acceptable, but they do make the system more complicated).
      John L. Ries
      • There's a bit more to it.

        It's not quite so simple - I suggest watching the videos. It's more about how the voting is done and how the votes are counted, rather than whether it's a majority or minority.

        "(other forms of proportional representation are acceptable, but they do make the system more complicated)"

        Well, it's not the 1700s or 1800s anymore. We've got the technology to handle more complex voting.