There's a time for partisanship and a time for unity, and on the morrow of the presidential election Jonathan Haidt reckons the moment for unity has arrived. What's more he has an idea of how it can be achieved, that idea being 'to focus on common threats'. Or, as he also says:
Shared fear can help.
There are, he believes, many threats confronting Americans, among them: global warming, the growing cost of welfare state entitlements, rising inequality, and rising births to unmarried women. But the trouble is each 'side' of the current national disunity sees some of these threats but not others. His solution? This:
There are two related and rather glaring problems with Haidt's solution. First, if you don't see something as a threat, then you're not going to be able artificially to induce the fear within yourself to propel you towards unity with others who do see it as a threat. If, say, global warming or rising inequality is not (in the understanding of M) a threat, why would M be worried by it at all? Second, and more generally, for fear to have the effect Haidt wants, it has to be visceral. You can't just talk yourself into a level of fear. Fleet of 'asteroids' is a metaphor that misleads its author in this case. He needs Americans to see the problems he identifies, already and unitedly, as panic-inducing threats, when they don't; and so he's trying to nudge them along towards being fearful.
... if we can look up into the sky and see a whole fleet of asteroids heading for us, we lose our tunnel vision and experience a healthy form of panic.
(Postscript: Of course, you can sometimes persuade people of a need to be afraid of something, but in this context that would mean achieving fear through unity rather than unity through fear.)