Appeals to Emotion-Fear

Proverbs 10:13 “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.”


Proverbs 18:6 “A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.”


“Appeal to fear” is a propaganda technique. “Appeal to fear” is used when someone makes you fear the consequences of not doing what he wants. Often we will find a prosecuting attorney addressing the jury and urging John Doe to be convicted and put away where he would never commit another crime, because you might be his next victim.


It is never good to act out of fear. However, fear is a great motivator. When people fear something they tend not to think matters through. Appeal to fear is often used in advertisements. I am sure if we took the time we could think of many commercials that use fear to get their product out.


When someone fears something or someone, he often makes decisions which he might not make in calmer situations. Sometimes the appeal to fear is referred to as an appeal to force. Although appeals to force are not, at times, attempts at persuasion to change our beliefs but are simply attempts to change our behavior. However, some individuals or organizations do try to change people’s way of thinking merely by resorting to force. This sort of practice can be labeled “thought control,” something that was used during the Spanish Inquisition as well as the Maoist regime of China.


This type of fallacy overrides truth with fear. Some scholars have called this type of fallacy “appeal to intimidation.” We must always keep in mind that the statement is true or not irrespective of how we feel about it. In other words, no amount of punishment for dissent can transform a false claim into a true one.


Since we use the word “fear” in different roles, it is important to make some distinctions. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7) This type of fear means reverence, awe and respect. It means a regard for the holiness of God and the sacredness of God’s law. In the sense of respect and reverence or principle in their life all of us have this type of fear for somebody.


However, parents disciplining their children do use the “appeal to fear” especially for those who refuse to learn through instruction. The Bible says, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Proverbs 13:24)


In the Bible we find many instances of people using the appeal to fear or force in order to persuade. When he tried to get an answer from Jesus Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10)


We see this smear campaign coming out that aim to frighten anyone who might oppose different groups like the homosexual lobby, Planned Parenthood, racial pressure and special interest groups etc.


It is important for us to recognize these fallacies and to stand on the truth.


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