Writing with bad intent: Mongering fear

Inform, instruct, train, sell products, sway votes, incite a riot, make people laugh, get clicks.

I used those all recently as examples of what a writer’s intent might be. A bit later I mentioned another example: Scare people so they will buy guns and ammunition.

So what if you write with the intent of starting a riot and nobody shows up? What if no one is buying what you’re selling?

It’s possible that your message wasn’t clear. Maybe your writing is just crappy, or boring, or both. It happens.


A few other possibilities:

  • You don’t understand your audience, the people who are your prospective customers, so your message doesn’t move them.
  • Your message just isn’t compelling.
  • Your intent was bad, even creepy (hey, Aqualung).
  • Your product stinks or catches on fire at inopportune times.
  • Perhaps you’ve written and published so many distortions and fabrications (i.e., lies) that people just no longer trust you.

So what do you do when your message falls on deaf ears?

Take a close look at what you’ve been doing, from execution (writing, editing and publishing your words) all the way back to your intent. Be open to change and taking a different approach.


Gun sales spiked during the Obama administration, as people who had much to gain from spreading fear managed to convince their target market that the government was plotting to take their guns. When it turned out that didn’t happen, and Obama was no longer president, gun sales dropped. (Link added 9/14/2017.)

Having had some success with fearmongering and hate before, the NRA refocused its sights on Black Lives Matter, “leftists,” the media and other perceived threats. Its primary purpose these days seems to be more political than ever, even though selling guns and retaining power remain important. 

As effective as it looks lately, maybe someday the raw, vicious messaging will backfire. Maybe responsible gun owners will tire of the cynical marketing and politics spewed out by NRA leadership. Maybe they will leave the NRA in droves, or simply man up and throw out the creators and purveyors of such dangerous and deadly marketing content.

Maybe pigs will fly someday, too.

Update 7/28: