Does evil exist; how potent is the 'fear appeal' ?

When Scott Peck in his book, 'People of the Lie' tells us about Bobby, whose parents made him a gift of the rifle with which his brother had committed suicide, he demonstrates to us that 'evil' exists and is manifested in acts all around us.

Peck's thesis is simple: There really is such a thing as human evil, and it has certain definable characteristics. Human evil is that which destroys human life. More telling, however, is what characterizes evil. According to Peck, it is the persistent and accumulative refusal of the evil person to face the truth about himself. He may admit publicly that, of course, he is a sinner just like everyone else. But deep down inside he does not believe it. So rather than face up to his own sin he is constantly scapegoating: laying it on other people, making his faults theirs. Evil people are masters of disguise, morally. They are constantly dodging their conscience. In other words, evil people are liars.

If evil does exist, can Arun Maira and many others like him be wrong when they describe President George Bush's presidency as one that was earned by 'selling' an idea of the 'existence of evil' to a hapless, unthinking electorate? Arun Maira, in his article, 'What we want to be' states, 'Amidst this democratic cacophony, various formations, some political, others economic, are competing for their vision of the future of the country to prevail. It is always easier to sell a negative vision — one that is based on fear of an enemy against which a leader can rally people. Thus the neo-Cons in the US were able to propel George Bush and the Republican Party into a very powerful position against the Democrats by exaggerating the threats from the so-called Axis of Evil.'

Now was that really a negative vision? Is it right to state 'It is always easier to sell a negative vision' ?

What about marketers? Is it wise for them to use fear appeals to evoke responses that lead to a purchase? One theory suggests that the relationship between the level of fear in a marketing message and its acceptance or persuasion is curvilinear. This means that message acceptance increases as the amount of fear used rise, to a point. Beyond that point, acceptance decreases as the level of fear rises.

Another approach to the curvilinear explanation of fear is the protection motivation model. According to this theory, four cognitive appraisal processes mediate the individual's response to the threat: appraising (1) the information available regarding the severity of the perceived threat, (2) the perceived probability that the threat will occur, (3) the perceived ability of a coping behaviour to remove the threat, (4) the individual's perceived ability to carry out the coping behaviour.

Its therefore safe to conclude that 'fear appeals' need to be orchestrated with much care. Also its fair to note that the electorate out there is not as hapless and unthinking as commentators make them out to be.

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