Selling Fear.

| December 27, 2015
Categories: Op-Eds

Selling Fear.

Dave Merrill

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

You’ve noticed this, especially in the Post-9/11 World. A lot of people like to blame the 24-hour news networks for cultivating fears, but the fact is, news organizations have been doing this since their inception. They learned quickly that readership increased with news about disasters, and this lesson was reinforced later on radio and television.

Sensational headlines. Exaggerated stories. Opinions from pseudo-scientific “experts” (is this starting to sound familiar?). It got so bad in the late 19th and early 20th century that the term “yellow journalism” was made for it. Even the Spanish-American War was blamed, in part, on yellow journalism.


There’s a psychological reason we embrace yellow journalism. We’re more engrossed by news of Bad Things in order to learn how to avoid them. It’s a built-in survival mechanism media outlets unfortunately utilize too often not to help us, but to line their own pockets. The bigger the population, the more Bad Things happen (and there’s always some shit going down in some part of the world–that you can be sure of). Negativity bias is strong.

It’s gotten both better and worse with the internet. On one hand, so-called “new media” has undercut a lot of the big dogs in the industry and brought faster news to the every-man. But on the other, the evolution of the pay-per-click advertising format has led to more and more ridiculous stories, most of which your crazy Aunt Eunice shares on Facebook. We call it Clickbait, but it’s really just the window-licking little brother of yellow journalism.


[If your “news” site has these, it isn’t a news site.]

But it’s not just the news.

Politicians sell fear all the time.


Just recently Hillary Clinton claimed ISIS was using images of Donald Trump in their recruiting videos. So far this doesn’t appear to be the case, but the message Clinton attempted to sell is clear: Elect Trump and ISIS will kill us all. Elect Clinton and she’ll merely leave men stranded in Libya save us. Even if it turns out to be true (I’m imagining a half dozen Clinton staffers fabricating an ISIS video as we speak) it doesn’t really change the fact she’s peddling fear. And she’s far from the only one.

The reason why politicians and newspapers and shitty blogs do this is because they’re rewarded for it. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t be so damn pervasive in so many facets of our lives. Fear isn’t always a negative emotion by any means. It’s your body’s way of telling you to Watch The Fuck Out. You might only be alive today because one of your ancestor’s got spooked by a noise, ran like hell, and didn’t get eaten by a frickin’ tiger. A healthy dose of rational fear keeps you on your toes. But the unscrupulous hijack it for their own benefit.

And if you’ve visited a gun shop in the last eight years, especially a small one that may not be doing so hot, you’ve definitely heard it used. To sell things, why else?

“There’s no .22 ammo because the government bought it all!”

“Get it before it’s banned!!”

“UN troops are prepping to come door to door!”

In the lead up to the Obama election gun sales ran through the roof. People ran to their closets to pull out the most ratty and shitty ARs they could find and others opened their pocketbooks to pay exorbitant prices. It’s not called “Panic Buying” without reason. It’s one thing to raise prices in a more aggressive market, and quite another to pour gasoline on the fire to play into people’s fears. As with all such market evolutions, you end up with total shysters schlocking shit (though invariably they will claim benevolent intentions).

To see where this rabbit hole leads, I give you: The Underground Assault Rifle. I hate to even link to this, but you almost have to see it for yourself.

A more than 6,000 word pitch pushes no less than five huge ‘buy it now’ buttons, which get buyers a handful of videos you can easily find free on Youtube and a couple of sensationalist e-books. All for the low, low price of $27 (but wait! It was discounted down from more than $200!!)


I hope this guy dies slowly in a fire.

None of this is to say that the world is hunky dory. It isn’t. I’m not trying to sell you a rainbow, just a healthy dose of skepticism.

Bad shit does happen and it absolutely can happen to you. Gun laws can get more restrictive. Hell, we’re currently awaiting long-promised “executive action” on “gun control” over the holiday. Places can become more violent, and terrorists will attack us. But. Even though all of this is true, that doesn’t mean you have to spend your intellectual or actual coin in establishments that cater specifically to your fears. Buying solely into fear without even performing a modicum of research is for suckers. Even when there is something to legitimately be afraid of, make a plan instead of giving time and money to hucksters, of any variety.


Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

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About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave “Mad Duo Merrill” is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at) and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).


  1. Jarek Peila

    I feel slighted by the fact that this site doesn’t have adverts with the following: “3 Foods Surgeons Are Now Calling ‘Death Foods,'” “The Wedding Photographer Had No Complaints”, and “The 4 Worst Blood Pressure Drugs”—-the latter complete with the lazy eye of the century. On a serious note, I do feel a certain “give-a-shit” when there isn’t garbage adverts on websites that have a serious purpose.

  2. Wilson

    It’s not going to stop, there’s too much money in selling fear because for whatever reason people WANT it and the sellers are going to sell what the buyers are buying.

    The key to the whole thing is, IMHO, kind of the same as when dealing with advertising. You have to critically examine what you’re being told and, when necessary, sit down and actually research it too.

    If you really think about how selling fear works, it interrupts people’s OODA loop by either getting them stuck in Orient, or it intentionally screws with Orient to get people to Decide in a way that’s beneficial to the media.

    Mostly I think it just gets them stuck in Orient because it leads them to believe that they need more information before moving to Decide, which is exactly what the media is always promising you: more information breaking at 11!

    • Wilson

      I forgot to add that in terms of advertising this is mostly trying to move you to the Decision that the seller wants.

      In terms of the media however, they’re victims to some extent too. Each person there has their own OODA loop and many of them come at this from the POV that “If craziness was going down I’d want to know, so I’m going to do my darnedest to insure that you know what’s going on”.

      The problem becomes that they get an information overload themselves which screws with their OODA loop. They’re just people, and they’re not people with training on how to make the best decisions possible with too much or too little information coming in.

      So some of what you’re seeing is sensationalism to make money or just be sensational but some of it is also a group of people basically stuck to some degree in Orient and starting to make poor decisions as they get overwhelmed.

  3. 2hotel9

    Right the f*ck on! I am old enough to remember the headlines screeching THE ICE AGE IS COMING. Also, NO MORE OIL WORLD DOOMED. Both actual headlines from nationally circulated newspapers in the early ’70s. As for “yellow journalism” Mr Hearst was one of the primary agitators, through his “news” papers, that led to the Spanish American War. It made him even more vastly wealthy than he was before the war. Yellow Journalism works, as we are seeing yet again, still, today as the media vilifies anyone who wants to place a temporary hold on importing potential muslim terrorists or remove clearly criminal illegal aliens. They are getting rich AND pushing their leftist political agenda. For them? Win-Win! For us, yet another world class a$$ f*cking. High time we started using their tactics against them. Nope. That brings cries of “we can’t sink to their level”. Well, we are sinking, better to die fighting. I know, that makes me evil, not surrendering to the enemy and docilely letting them lead us all away to “re-education”.


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