What Is War Hysteria?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Images By: John Gomez, Sebastian Fuss
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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War hysteria is a hysterical emotional reaction to the feeling of impending doom created by the spreading of propaganda relating to imminent war. War hysteria affects the parties involved in the war and induces feelings of panic among the population. For instance, in a situation where rumor spreads that Country A may be going to war with Country B, feelings of panic may start spreading among the citizens of both Country A and Country B who have a feeling that the war will lead to catastrophic consequences for them.

Such embers of panic may be fed by propaganda from the government and other sources that may whip the embers of panic into full-fledged hysteria. During the onset of the Cold War, Americans were in the grip of war hysteria, which resulted in feelings of fear and panic. These were purely emotional reactions that led to certain actions. People started buying food in large quantities and hoarding it for emergencies. They also started including some form of protection in their homes as they deliberated on the prudence of relying on public shelters instead.


Perhaps, this hysteria can best be captured by the sentiment of certain residents from the Cold War era who thought they had to make provisions to better defend their private shelters. These people believed hordes of people might swarm their homes in search of shelter should the war begin. The main fear in the Cold War of the 1950s was that of a nuclear attack on the United States.

The war hysteria stemming from the Cold War has been replaced with an emerging mass hysteria in response to the growing threat of terrorist attack. This is in addition to the American wars against countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. The war hysteria due to the growing fear of terrorist attacks has led to a sharp curtailing of certain individual rights as people give up more rights in return for the feeling of better protection against these attacks.

For instance, the use of body imaging scans at various airports around the world may either be viewed as prudent or as the outcome of war hysteria. Without the threat of terrorist attacks and people having emotional fear for such attacks, these things would never be tolerated as people would view it as a violation of their dignity. Apart from imaging scans, people are also prepared to put up with often invasive body searches and restrictions on the types and numbers of items they can travel with in exchange for the feeling of safety.


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