Advertisers of virtually every kind of product or service are trying to create fear where there is no reason for it to exist. In many cases, they are succeeding.
Politicians at every level of government; insurance companies; pharmaceutical companies; cybersecurity firms; car makers; sellers of diet, exercise, and body “contouring” systems…all of them and more are peddling a toxic stew of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Some of them undoubtedly believe they are performing a valuable service, but one is correct to harbor doubts about their motives.
We are all susceptible to the message of fearmongers. Don’t believe otherwise. We are human; therefore, we are not perfectly rational. We tend to reject the rational, usually because it is complex. It takes some time to digest and process. We prefer the “quick and easy” solution to every problem. Emotional appeals take advantage of this inherent “laziness”, or desire for simplicity, in us.
Their basic message is “Something bad is very likely to happen to you. We can make sure it doesn’t happen. Only we care about keeping you happy, healthy, safe, strong, pure, sober, inviolate, and/or free.” Everybody uses that message, or one very much like it, to some extent. They need to get you to buy their premise, or their goods.
Their messages won’t often stand on the facts alone. As useful as facts are, processing them takes time and, often, specific and arcane knowledge is required to do the processing. Other requirements are attentiveness, patience, perseverance, and diligence. These characteristics may or may not be in short supply; certainly, those who understand human behavior are counting on that. They know our weaknesses and they exploit them by aiming somewhere south of the cerebrum.
We need to be better risk managers – rational, analytical, calculating, and planning. We need to understand where we are demonstrably, factually at risk. We need to understand where we are most at risk and why, and we need to act together.
It is imperative for us to address the greatest risks to our well-being as a society. There truly is strength in numbers.