Also known as scaremongering, fear mongering is the use of fear to influence other people into taking a certain action or thinking a certain way. For example, some television commercials have been accused of fear mongering by insinuating potential customers will be assaulted or killed if they do not purchase the product in question. In addition, political campaigns often use certain scaremongering tactics to get more votes. Many people reactive negatively to such advertising and campaigning tactics, but some studies show that the tactics are highly effective at manipulating viewers. A similar term is culture of fear, which is often used to describe people who use fear to achieve political goals.
Fear mongering is often repetitive, usually with the person rarely giving new information about the potential threat. For example, he or she might say, “Our neighbors are planning an attack, and we must be prepared.” This statement and variations of it will likely be said again and again throughout the speech and in future speeches. The speaker may introduce new information but withhold information that contradicts his or her theory. To drive the point home, there may be posters or television commercials featuring a special-effect attack and who will die because of it, like small children and elderly people.
The use of fear mongering in television commercials has increased because of its effectiveness. Although some people react negatively by speaking out and boycotting the company employing the scare tactics, many others are successfully scared into buying the product. An example of fear mongering for product sales is car dealerships that point out that older cars have less or no airbags, and therefore the owners of those are more likely to be severely or fatally injured in a crash. Even much less expensive products can cater to people’s fears, like home alarm system companies that make commercials showing a man breaking into a young woman’s home. Sometimes the woman is alone, while other times she has just finished putting her young children to bed.
Culture of fear is often used to specifically refer to politicians who fear monger for political purposes. For example, scaremongering about a potential but unlikely terrorist attack can make the citizens become more suspicious of foreigners and less likely to oppose acts of war on unrelated countries. In fact, a lot of fear mongering tactics abuse the fact that something could happen, but refuse to disclose how unlikely that event is. Like all fear mongering tactics, the politicians are relying on people’s heightened emotions to keep them from making rational decisions.