Back in the dark ages when computers needed their own office block let alone their own room, the word “fud” was coined. “Fud” – as I’m sure you all know – described the disinformation and attack campaigns directed by IBM salesmen at people who might switch to competitor organisations. These campaigns leant heavily on the “no-one got sacked for buying IBM” adage and sought to question the reliability, support and capability of competing machines. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – fud – was sown in the minds of customers.
It seems to me that we haven’t used this word enough! The strategy of casting doubts (not to mention fear and uncertainty) in the minds of the target audience is central to political campaigning – and especially to the left’s campaigns. The entire Labour strategy in the recent general election was founded on fud – disinformation that spread fear, uncertainty and doubt among those tempted to desert the party. Key targets – middle-class public sector workers, ethnic minorities, union members – were bombarded with negative stories about what the Evil Tories would do in power, how this threatened them, was based on questionable evidence and would probably make things worse.
What we had was the strategy of the father in Hillaire Belloc’s Jim on being informed of Jim’s death:
When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, “Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!”
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James’s miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
Or, as we now know it, fud!