What is FUD?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, a sales tactic first used mostly to sell computers. The goal of FUD is to discredit the competition’s products by making a fallacious appeal to emotion, in this case fear. By producing fear, the salesperson is more likely to sell his product rather than lose business to a competitive product.

Generally claims that may produce FUD are false claims. For example the statement “Nobody ever got fired for purchasing IBM,” suggests that people who purchase other products may get fired. However, FUD is now used not merely by computer companies, but on a much larger scale.

For example, a car salesman might use FUD and quote the crash test ratings of a competitor’s car in order to appeal to fear. Alternately, he might relate a single incident about a friend of his who owned “X brand car,” and the darn thing was always in the shop. This way the salesperson doesn’t really have to relate anything truthful. Alternately, companies may simply imply that their car is the safest, an indirect path to FUD since it suggests that other cars are not safe.


One also sees FUD applied in commercials for commonly used office services, like UPS or Federal Express. Commercials may feature a harried employee who loses his job for using the wrong postal service, which again evokes the fear of unemployment, for making a poor choice about office services. Meanwhile, the person using the “correct” service receives accolades from his bosses and is able to drink his latte in peace.

FUD is a rather dirty tactic, since it tends to capitalize on the real fears people have about things like job loss, unstable economy, car crashes, computer disasters, and et cetera. Since most people wish to fly from fear, the salesperson, or the marketing company then presents the alternative that will keep the person “safe” from the evils of the world.

FUD has also been applied to politics. Both Democrats and Republicans have used it to great effect in political campaigning. Rob Reiner captured it perfectly in the film The American President when the President makes a statement regarding his opponent that he is good for two things: “ making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it.” Essentially, Reiner references the politics of fear, or of FUD.

The defense against FUD is usually an accusation that an opposing candidate or company is using FUD to gain respect. By accusing someone of employing an appeal to fear, one implies a person is not only being fallacious, but is also committing dirty tactics that play on and exploit the fears of others. However, since it proves effective, one can expect both overt and subliminal FUD to continue in a wide range of applications.


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Post 1

This tactic is also used by some social media sites and blogs to discourage users from either deleting or deactivating their accounts or unsubscribing, for example, from a newsletter. Facebook is probably the most known social media platform to use FUD tactics--showing pictures of one's Facebook friends with the caption, "_____ will miss you," in hopes of guilting the user into canceling a deactivation request.

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