[We] live in a world very different from the one we evolved in. Our reflexive defenses might be optimized for the risks endemic to living in small family groups in the East African highlands in 100,000 BC, not 2009 New York City. But we can go beyond fear, and actually think sensibly about security.
Far too often, we don’t. We tend to be poor judges of risk. We overact to rare risks, we ignore long-term risks, we magnify risks that are also morally offensive. We get risks wrong — threats, probabilities, and costs — all the time. When we’re afraid, really afraid, we’ll do almost anything to make that fear go away. Both politicians and marketers have learned to push that fear button to get us to do what they want.
- Fighting The Fear Factor
by Bruce Schneier
Combined with insufficient input validation, the overreaction to fear offers a convenient way to short-circuit rational analysis and mobilize individuals or societies into actions which may be to their detriment.