While the Dead Kennedys lamented, in the first flush of the punk era, that they were too drunk to fuck, we say that the country, high and low, has now become too scared to think. It writhes in the grip of a collective panic attack, a case of the sweaty palms, a crack-up of faith in the future—a claustral terror that our bipolar political system cannot hope to allay, but can only stoke to greater furies.
Scapegoating, xenophobia, and demagogic posturing afflict our body politic, especially in a presidential campaign year. But as fear brews in our culture, there are other ailments too. Please hold our hand as Angela Nagle takes the temperature of the sex hysteria within the 4chan Internet enclave, Corey Pein examines the craze for cryonics, David Graeber diagnoses “despair fatigue” in austerity Britain, Kade Crockford nurses the terminally sick idea of a free and peaceful country, Cosmo Garvin scans the municipal corruption in California’s state capital, and Tom Frank holidays in Martha’s Vineyard.
Sober pundits intone, how do we balance liberty and security, freedom and security? We? Balance? The bywords of America in 2016 are more like plutocrats and jittery. Not since the late 1950s has a sense of impending doom so twisted the nation’s mood. Welcome to the panic room.