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Fear-less: Real Truth About Risk, Safety and Security in a Time of Terrorism [Hardcover]

Gavin De Becker
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 2002
Provides advice on overcoming the fear of terrorism by taking charge of personal security, and suggests ways for the United States to prevent and withstand terrorist attacks.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; New title edition (Dec 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316085960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316085960
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
For anyone who has read any of DeBecker's other writings (the excellent Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift) many of this book's themes will be familiar. For new readers who are concerned about travelling post-9/11 or want to know more about terrorism: its image and its reality.
DeBecker is one of the world's leading authorities on violent behaviour, security and, most importantly, what YOU can do to make things safer for yourself and those around you. Working from the premise that we all have extrememly finely tuned intuition but spend most of our time ignoring it, DeBecker explores the effects of terrorism as a weapon to induce fear - even when danger is not necessarily present.
With respect to 9/11 he explores a number of reports that came out following the disaster that showed that the terrorist cells had aroused suspicion during their preparation for the hijackings. Unfortunately these suspicions were often trivialised and discounted immediately or ignored because most people ignore or override their own in-built warning systems.
The book looks at a scale of warning signs and puts forward ideas and strategies for dealing with a number of issues from reporting suspicious behaviour to the authorities to addressing airline security. It also covers the media's role in driving up the fear factor on the issue of terrorism and especially biochem attacks. DeBecker offers a sober examination of the practicalities of biochem attacks, the risks and possible responses, drawing on expert consultants to debunk the melodrama that is used to sell papers and get ratings.
This is a fascinating book that tends to strip away a lot of the knee-jerk reaction to these dangers to public safety and works to put the security of the public back into the hands of the public.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The essence of this book's advice is in the title to my review.
There are two good parts of this book. First, the author points out in great detail all of the ways that television newscasters vastly overstate terrorist threats and events, and advises you to stop watching television news and read reliable sources instead. But hopefully, you knew that already. Second, airplanes would be safer from terrorists if the pilots had a solid, locked door and observed simple precautions when coming in and out to the rest rooms. Added together, you would have a reasonably interesting magazine article for an airline magazine.
The rest of the book is basically a waste of time from my point of view. It says not to fantasize about terrorists and terrorist acts. But if you notice something really suspicious, call the police. Terrorists almost always give themselves away during the preparations. Many, many examples are given. You get a list of strange things that terrorists might do (as well as how to avoid a charging kangaroo, which is a greater statistical risk than being harmed by a terrorist). If you find any of this enlightening, I wonder where you have been living since September 11th.
For someone with as much knowledge as Mr. De Becker is supposed to have about stopping violent acts, he certainly manages to share very little of it in this book. For example, his most specific advice is how to be safer on an airplane: don't sit near people who make you uncomfortable and try to sit near big, strong guys who will want to attack any potential terrorists. How can you know if your hulking potential seatmate wants to attack terrorists? Ask him. Okay . . . . .
I was pleased, however, that Mr.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  52 reviews
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that calms potential panic in the era of Terrorism 18 Jun 2002
By Joel L. Gandelman - Published on Amazon.com
Balance. Perspective. Common sense. Trusting your feelings. A reality check. Those are the watchwords of Gavin de Becker's highly informative, lively and supremely reassuring Fear Less. If I had the money I'd send this book to everyone I know...and especially to those who assign and edit terrorism stories in the broadcast/cable news media.
Touted as "real truth about risk, safety and security in a time of terrorism" his main message (in my words here) is essentially this:"Whooa! Wait a minute: look at the FACTS and take a deep breath." It's a message that needs to be delivered more than ever, after the recent announcement about a suspect's arrest for reportedly looking into making a "dirty bomb."
De Becker contends that in battling terrorism everyone -- citizens AND policy-makers -- can better contribute (and react) if they are more attuned to their intuition. Intuition is not only using common sense, but also being keenly aware of subtle bits of information that spark uneasy feelings. Still others believe intuition is a kind of spiritual voice. Whether it's about your neighbor, someone you see getting on a plane, someone leaving a package in a mall, etc. the author argues: TRUST and MONITOR these little intuitive alarm signals...and don't be afraid to ACT on them (tell authorities and risk being wrong).
This book starts out with a story about about a terrorist plot sound just like one in the year 2002...except that it was a Nazi terrorist plot against the U.S. foiled during WWII. He points to times in history when all seemed bleak...yet the U.S. always survived. And what was so shocking at the time quickly became the new reality: people accepted it and lived with it, and moved on...until the next horror topped the last (and then that was accepted, etc).
In a superb chapter titled Apocalpyse Not Now he debunks myths about biological, chemical and nonmilitary nuclear attack. His point: yes there are indeed WORST CASE scenarios but the realities of what would likely happen, the difficulty of making it happen, and the actual impact if it were to happen are not as simple or catastrophic as the news media may make them sound.
The best chapter isin which in No News At Eleven, he debunks many qualifying and hype phrases used by the news media, especially broadcast and cable networks. His advice: turn off the TV and READ MORE PRINT news. He spares no one (he especially feels Fox News tries to heighten drama) and notes that his criticism of broadcast and cable journalism is aimed mostly at those who make the CHOICES of what to put on and how to package it to attract maximum viewership.
"Every word you hear spoken is another choice, every image, every color -- all choices," he writes. "Combine the words, the graphics, the logos, the music, the urgency, and what you end up with is information hidden behind sensation -- and the sensation is fear."
PERSONAL NOTE: I worked in the news media for nearly 20 years, as a freelance journalist overseas (check my reviewer profile) and then as a newspaper staff writer. There is definitely a news cycle to stories. And fear often generates bigger stories than reassurance. So PLEASE take a deep breath and read Fear Less. These may be scary times but it's not the End of the World (yet).
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seems rushed... somewhat disappointing 1 Nov 2004
By L. A. Kane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some interesting new vignettes but lacks the power of the original Gift of Fear, a work I consider essential reading and a must own book. If you've already read that book, you really don't need this one. The essential points have already been covered. It's certainly not a bad book by any means, it's just doesn't hold its own against the extremely high standard of his first work. Seems like he rushed this one to press without giving it the full attention it deserves. It's probably worth buying used but I regret paying full price.

Lawrence Kane
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults, The Way of Kata, and Martial Arts Instruction
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Be Awake, But Not Afraid 12 Jan 2002
By William Holmes - Published on Amazon.com
"Fear Less" is worth reading, and it is written in a brisk, "self-help" style that makes it easy to digest in a few sittings.
Gavin de Becker's first step is to confront the reader's fears by putting terrorism into perspective. He explains that life is not risk free, terrorism is not new and Americans are much better at stopping terrorists than you might think. Even after September 11, you face a much higher risk of being killed or injured in your car than in a terrorist attack or a plane crash. Thousands of people will die this year from complications caused by the flu--yet many of those who hoarded Cipro probably did not get a flu shot. de Becker's point is that while we should be vigilant about terrorism, we should not stand around and quake in our collective boots.
To help the reader understand where the fear is coming from, de Becker carefully analyzes the endless hand wringing of television news reporters. In the months that followed September 11, I grew very impatient with the stories streaming in from CNN, Fox News, and even the BBC--they just didn't match reality. The war in Afghanistan was supposed to go on for years (wrong), the allied forces were supposed to lose countless aircraft to Stinger missiles (wrong), the fierce Afghan and Al Qaeda warriors were going to bloody our groundtroops (wrong), the terrorists were poised to blow up American bridges and poision "the nation's" water supply (wrong so far), and Americans were hiding under their beds in fear of the next terrorist attack (wrong--everyone I know took a deep breath and kept on flying and living).
Becker zeroes in on the "code words" that television journalists use to mask a weak but scary story. If you learn nothing else from "Fear Less," it will be that you can relax more if you turn off the television and read the newspaper instead.
Having confronted our fears, de Becker offers some helpful guidance about how we can cope with the latest terrorist warnings from the grim and humorless Attorney General Ashcroft. Most of us are not good at identifying suspicious behavior--we rationalize what we see and ignore our intuition. de Becker proposes some suggestions to help us separate the wheat from the chaff, though most of these are too general to be of much practical use.
More helpfully, de Becker describes who among us is in the best position to spot potential terrorist activity as well as what we should be looking for: the list includes the usual suspects (employees of truck rental businesses and sellers of fertiziler), as well as several that are a bit surprising (such as librarians and bookstore owners, who are in a position to observe people with an unhealthy interest in books or internet sites dealing with explosives). He also reviews September 11 and other attacks to explain how terrorist activities can be identified. If people read Chapter 5 of "Fear Less," we will all have a better chance of making sense of Ashcroft's endless warnings and actually spotting some of the terrorist activity we're all worried about.
My biggest criticism of the book is that it is too general, and it reads like a self-help book rather than an analysis of terrorism and what the average citizen can do to oppose it. In de Becker's defense, "Fear Less" was rushed into print to address the fears arising from September 11--it's intended to be, and is marketed as, "self-help/current affairs." The author's prompt response has done us all a service, but I hope that the future will bring us a more comprehensive book--with more concrete examples and advice.
For further reading: If you are interested in books that explain what the risks are (and aren't) in our modern world, try de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" and Glassner's "The Culture of Fear."
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting 9/11 in Perspective 25 Jan 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Having read "The Gift of Fear", I was really looking forward to this book. Don't worry if you haven't read "The Gift of Fear" though before you pick this up. Gavin de Becker does a good job of summarizing his points about fear- intuition and the feeling of true fear are gifts from nature, the survival instincts that help to keep us alive.
De Becker does a very good job of putting the tragedies of 9/11 into historical perspective. Today is a violent world, but so was yesterday AND tomorrow. Violence is a part of our nature. To accept that is actually an empowering thing. I think the author gives some very good advice to readers to help make you feel less paralyzed by the events we've seen this year and understand the difference between real risks and things we just worry about when we let our imagination run wild.
This brings me to one of the parts of the book I enjoyed the most- the chapter on the media and it's role in heightening our worries. De Becker gives good advice which I think many people did after the first week, post-9/11--- TURN OFF TV NEWS! They are in the business of getting you hooked with sensationistic stories. Part of this chapter contains a list of the most often used words/phrases/cliches news broadcasters use. I'd never really thought about how many news stories I watch have the word "possible" in it. Too many of the "news stories" we watch are just stories about things that MIGHT happen, worst case scenarios, etc. I've definitely felt my stress level go down since I've starting getting my news from other sources (e.g. CNN).
My only critism is that the book seemed a bit rushed. (However, the author admits that this was a book already in the works prior to 9/11 and given the appropriateness of the subject, work on it was accelerated so that it could come out sooner.)
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent information and credible reassurance. 7 Jan 2002
By Tw Rutledge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a psychotherapist and author who writes about facing fear (Embracing Fear, HarperSanFrancisco 2002), I am happy to see Gavin DeBecker's intelligent and realistic message being spread throughout our (now more than ever) fearful world.
The emotion of fear cries out for reassurance, but reassurance can be effective only when it is credible. We all know there are no guarantees. And since we cannot see into the future, clear-headed intelligence and well-researched material like you will find in Fear Less is the best reassurance there is.
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