FUD and Coastal Zone Management
FUD is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. While it has a long and thoroughly dishonorable history, it has probably had its broadest use in computer marketing in the 1980s and 1990s. “No one was ever fired for buying IBM,” the saying goes, meaning that features and comparative merits matter less than market perception of value. IBM’s fundamental marketing strategy was that if you bought something other than IBM products, you just couldn’t be certain it would work. IBM’s products at that point might have been technically inferior, but IBM’s reputation was not.
Microsoft in the 1990s was also a master of FUD. A good example of Microsoft FUD, and its potential, was demonstrated when Digital Research launched their DR DOS in competition with MS-DOS Version 5. DR-DOS offered more features and cost less, and was widely acclaimed by all. Then the new Microsoft Windows 3.1 release flashed up a trivial error message when run under DR DOS, and all of a sudden everybody was saying DR DOS is great but you can have problems running Windows on it. At the same time Microsoft announced the ‘imminent’ release of MS DOS6 which would be far more feature packed than DR DOS. DR DOS never recovered.
But FUD isn’t limited to software or even marketing. FUD is a common tool in politics, where fear of the unknown plays nicely against the hard work required to really evaluate candidates and issues. The importance of FUD tactics on national issues like tobacco, acid rain, ozone and CO2-induced climate change is nicely documented in Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (Amazon link).
And Alaskans saw the deliberate and highly effective use of FUD in the recent initiative campaign for a new coastal zone management law, Proposition 2. In the face of a extraordinary industry-financed campaign, focused almost exclusively on FUD, the initiative was defeated by a wide margin. None of the industry claims about the initiative were true. But the claims raised enough fear, uncertainty and doubt to be quite effective. The initiative was necessarily long and not easy reading. Complex issues lend themselves to FUD.
The heart of the development industry’s campaign against Prop 2 was that the initiative was complex and confusing and could hinder development. Note “could hinder,” not “would hinder.” FUD. Although the industry-sponsored distortions of Prop 2 were pretty fierce, too. In the end, mining and oil industry sponsored FUD triumphed over the opportunity for local input in both the state and federal decision-making process.
The Associated Press quoted Ronald Glaeser, a Republican, who voted against Proposition 2. He said he probably knows less about the issue than he should, so he opted on the side of conservatism.”Less government is always good,” he said.
Kind of says it all.