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.