The Politics of Fear

Matthew Teutsch
6 min readOct 21, 2022

During my Fulbright a few years ago, I went to Paris to give a talk. While there, I took a ride on the metro, and a few seats over from me I saw a woman dressed in a niqab. Fear consumed me upon seeing her, sitting in her seat as the train sped along the tracks. When the fear hit me, I immediately knew the cause. The fear I felt didn’t stem from the woman. She had done nothing to me. She had done nothing to make me feel afraid. The fear arose from the inundation, over the past twenty years following 9–11, of anti-Islamic stories that circulated within the media and elsewhere. That fear arose individuals, who before I went to Paris, expressed concern and told me, basically, to be cautious. This was a few years after the November attacks in Paris and a couple of years after the attack in Nice. They, like me, had imbibed the narrative of terror, specifically Islamic terror that the woman sitting near me embodied, through no fault of her own.

Instantly, I caught myself. I knew I had no logical reason to fear the woman. I knew that my fear originated not from my own experiences but from stories that others told me. I knew that those stories contained truth because they spoke about attacks and actual events, but I also knew that those stories sensationalized and presented overblown rhetoric demonizing individuals. Fear is a powerful weapon. It’s used to control and to sway individuals, specifically in politics…

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Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.