What should go on my reading list?
September 20, 2007 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing my undergraduate thesis on the rhetorical technique known as Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. What should go on my reading list?

I'm interested in how groups with power use FUD to manipulate public thought.

I want to ask questions like:

What is Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt?

Does FUD challenge the idea of the rational consumer?

How can it be used to manipulate public perception?

Where can FUD be seen in contemporary America?

What are the effects of geographic, political, or social boundaries on the spread of FUD?

Does FUD differ from a more general appeal to fear?

If you were me, what books or articles would you choose to put on your reading list?
posted by ifranzen to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Start with what you have, which is the Wikipedia article. Check the sources listed there. Check their bibliographies for earlier texts which they cite. Use a citation index to find subsequent works which have cited them.

Try to find a more scholarly encyclopedia article which deals with the subject, and check the sources cited there.

Try to find a journal article which discusses it (use your library's databases; talk to a reference librarian to find out the best ones); searching for articles with the phrase in the title will probably get you some relevant starting points. Check citations as above.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:36 PM on September 20, 2007

Best answer: This is a great article (worth getting the 4-week trial for, I guess) about how reminding people of death makes them vote differently.

Oh, and here's a link to one of the papers mentioned, Fatal Attraction. "Terror management" seems to be the significant term.

Good luck with the thesis!
posted by so_necessary at 6:05 PM on September 20, 2007

Best answer: Get familiar with other rhetorical tricks that work something like this, so you can think about contrasts. Framing, priming, appeals to emotion, scare tactics, smokescreens, loaded language, argument from outrage, scapegoating, etc etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:39 PM on September 20, 2007

Also, I assume you're talking to your advisors and relevant experts at a nearby university?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:40 PM on September 20, 2007

And if you're in the philosophy department, grab a copy of Aristotle's Rhetoric to buzz through - esp the section on emotions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:41 PM on September 20, 2007

I guess that my first answer to any question on thesis writing is probably going to be Foucault, but in this case I think it applies. Try The Birth of the Clinic. It seems as though these tactics rely on a power dynamic that is created by defining experts and novices, and power/knowledge is right up foucault's alley.
posted by hue at 10:06 PM on September 20, 2007

Talk to your advisor to see if Foucault is a good idea given the presuppositions of the discipline you're in. Some disciplines consider him required background, some consider him a distraction.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:17 PM on September 20, 2007

I think a good start would include Richard Hofstadter, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics", Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.
posted by tew at 10:36 PM on September 20, 2007

General Rhetoric, well worth your time if you haven't already read them: Hermogenes's Peri Ideon (Wooten's translation, Hermogenes' On Types of Style) is idiosyncratic, pretends to be more systematic than it is, but insightful. And of course, Cicero's De Oratore, etc.
posted by orthogonality at 12:52 AM on September 21, 2007

Cicero's De Inventione and De partitione Oratoria are worth a look, especially the parts about vituperation. How to effectively demolish the idea of the virtue of a person or a thing is essentially what FUD is about.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:52 AM on September 21, 2007

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