Thursday, November 14, 2013
The Ubiquity of Fear Campaigns
"Fear campaigns are used extensively in today's society. An entire commercial break without at least one fear campaign is a rare occasion."
I asked students in my "Happy Society" class to analyze fear campaigns. They did not lack for material. I have read papers analyzing campaigns against drinking, meth, global warming, domestic violence, obesity, several medical conditions, and many more. If this had been an election year in Kentucky, I imagine I would also have seen an abundance of political ads.
I also asked them to imagine making the same argument, but in a positive way. In some cases it was easy, but in many it was hard.
Advertisers use fear even more than they use sex to sell everything. This fosters a culture of fear that undermines social trust, and therefore undermines general happiness.
After viewing many fear campaigns, one student reached to conclusion quoted above.
Which leads to a good natural experiment. The next time you watch television, pay attention to a few commercial breaks. See how often a whole commercial break goes by without at least one fear ad.