Is scaremongering the best way to persuade?

Fear is a powerful emotion that everyone can relate to. It’s often used to sway opinion and evoke reaction. There is no better example than UKIP leader Nigel Farage this week encouraging people to “bully” others to vote out of the EU if “we want our country back”. It got me thinking – is scaremongering the best way to persuade?

It seems politicians often use fear and anxiety to predict a grim picture of the future, unless voters take their side.

During the British Raj in India, authorities adopted a divide and rule approach to justify how and when they left India. Dividing a once united nation for independence to believe a separate state for Muslims was crucial resulted in 200-years vented frustration over British occupancy being diverted to the potential of another alleged dictatorship by the Hindu majority.

Paradoxically, the majority of Muslims remained in India after the partition. And what ensued has marred families for decades. The partition of India in 1947 made friends enemies, and millions of lives were lost. Seventy years on, tension in the region is still rife. But the British authorities made an escape, avoiding bloody anarchy against them.

This political charade is no less today – we were made to fear weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify a war that claimed countless lives and probably gave birth to many more terrorists. But those weapons were nowhere to be found.

Since unrest in the Middle East, we have heard constant media reports on the “migrant crisis”, implying there is an “unprecedented” situation. Such terms do nothing but exacerbate an issue and convince people there is a problem they should be afraid of.

I am in no way condemning the number of migrants seeking refuge in Europe is not an issue. But the way in which it is reported and spoken about by politicians and the media is grossly exaggerated and makes me wonder what our attention is being diverted from…

Donald Trump has been swaying voters in America with his distrust and fear-spreading rhetoric about migrants, and Muslims in particular. Such preaching has a powerful impact on people who may not go out of their way to read up on the facts, to inform themselves of the truth. It’s a worrying thought that people who listen to the loudest, scariest voice will base all their political views on it.

Likewise with the recruitment of extremists: terrorist groups use fear and scaremongering to brainwash people that the world is against them, their faith and their beliefs to justify the slaughter of all those who are different to them.

And I’m not only referring to Islamic extremists – there are radicals from all faiths and cultures. The recruitment process works in the same way.

As I learn more about the world; working in news, speaking to more people with different perspectives and experiences – I’m growing more aware of the impact of scaremongering.

Ironically, I’m afraid of how the world is evolving and how this will impact my unborn children and generations to come.

Maybe it’s easier to believe charismatic and charming people than making the effort to educate and forming an opinion of your own. Maybe it’s easier to be herded like a sheep than having the courage and strength to stand your own ground. Maybe its human nature to be easily influenced and there are the few who are bold enough to carve their own way.

But it is these few that change history forever. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela’s legacies leave me with a glimmer of hope that positive persuasion can empower people.