Analysis of Simon Chapman’s “Scare” Tactic Efforts
Chapman explains that “Past campaigns may paradoxically have been weakened by emphasizing how ‘risky’ smoking is.” He clarifies thus: “Given that people are more likely to act on the basis of experience than what they are told,” the communication challenge for a more successful campaign is “to translate the scientific knowledge about smoking into ‘felt’ experience rather than cognitive appreciation of risk.”
Chapman's Argument for the Use of “Scare” Tactics:
1. Why smokers want to stop smoking:
The scientific evidence establishing the harmful consequences of smoking has proved to be “the principle motive for people to want to stop “smoking.”
2. Why ex-smokers were motivated to quit:
“In spite of ever-changing fashions in tobacco control circles for emphasizing the wrong reasons for quitting, health reasons continue to dominate ex-smokers’ accounts of why they quit.”
3. A Study of 20 communities reveals:
Concern for one’s own current or future health is mentioned by more than nine out of ten ex-smokers and is so far out ahead of the next most nominated reasons for quitting…that it merits special attention.”
4. Response to arguments against using scare tactics:
Chapman answers arguments against using scare tactics with the following: “Ever since Janis and Fishback’s influential research on the unproductive use of fear in dental hygiene education in the early 1950’s, several generations of health educators have uncritically accepted as near holy writ that you should not try to scare people into adopting healthy practices, including smoking prevention and cessation. Evidence from ex-smokers has repeatedly affirmed that personal concern about ‘scary’ health consequences is the primary motivation for smoking cessation and predicts cessation, so interesting questions arise about whether this dogma is empirically grounded or whether it reflects a profession-wide neurosis intent on avoiding opprobrium….from those who believe it is somehow not ‘nice’ to deal in gory imagery in the name of persuasion.”
Chapman's Call for Wider Use of Scare Tactics:
The campaign used the slogan, “Every cigarette is doing you damage” with the purpose of translating “the scientific knowledge about smoking into ‘a felt’ experience, rather than cognitive appreciation of risk.”
Chapman’s move to focus on damage to the body in the present with every cigarette, rather than on the more traditional tactic of emphasizing the future risk, provides an important insight which merits further attention.
Future risk implies that something bad may or may not happen at some point farther down the line. However, the specific nature of this so-called bad thing and its degree of seriousness remains ambiguous. The more insidious implication here is that this bad thing is not happening now, and it may never ever happen at all. (“Right now, I’m safe and quite possibly I will be safe from anything bad happening for the rest of my life, see? And, even if something bad could happen in the future, I still have plenty of time to stop before something bad does happen. So, everything is okay for now, see?”)
The proposed employment of scientifically determined internal event descriptors – poisonous, addictive, diseasing, and lethal – seems in line with Chapman’s two primary guidelines for the more effective, hard-hitting campaigns he encourages, stated here again:
1. “Show the damage of smoking in new insightful ways that are both enlightening and chilling, and
2. “Develop a conditioned association between the images of bodily harm and the act of smoking such that those images are evoked when smoking is contemplated or seen.”
Chapman’s important work supporting and advancing the wider adoption of hard-hitting campaigns using scare tactics constitutes a strong move toward reframing the discourse to an internal event frame of reference. In his book he describes some of this formative work that went into developing a hard-hitting campaign.
“To convey a doctor’s-eye view of the damage caused by smoking it was felt important to bring the advertising agency’s creative team into contact with medical specialists in workshops where the agency pressed relentlessly for images and words that describe disease process due to smoking. . .”
Chapman continues with an example of the campaign’s final content resulting from these workshops focusing on what happens in the moment when someone smokes.
“To achieve this, the advertising agency created a journey into the lungs. The viewer travels with the smoke as it is inhaled down the trachea and into the lungs where it begins its deadly work.”
Chapman Pushes Acceptance of Internal Event Frame.
By promoting the use of scare tactics, Chapman is also pushing the public discourse toward acceptance of an internal event frame. In actuality, he is forcibly arguing for a reframing of the discourse. Chapman and the hard-hitting Australian campaigns he references are effectively pushing the language toward a reframing process that both Habermas and Lakoff claim is essential for social change. Further, when Chapman argues for the use of scare tactics, he is presumably arguing for the same approach that would welcome inclusion of the scientific evidence that brings to mind the very harmful poisonous, addictive, diseasing, lethal attack on the body’s internal organs actually taking place in the moment.
When the nicotine addict fully comprehends that he or she is, in reality, a poison-sucker perpetuating a lethal disease, the neural imprinting Lakoff proposes is more likely being achieved. And thus, Chapman’s goal of motivating a cessation attempt is now more likely to happen.
Furthermore, within the shift to an internal event frame the youngster who has not yet been persuaded to experiment with sucking addictive poison into the lungs may never give serious thought to doing so simply out of not wanting to be labeled as another dumb kid who was conned into becoming a poison sucker.
Again, I wish to emphasize that Chapman’s important work supporting and advancing the wider adoption of hard-hitting campaigns using scare tactics constitutes a strong move toward reframing the discourse to an internal event frame of reference. His support for the use of scare tactics might also be seen as an argument – if indirect – for employing the somewhat more frightening, scientifically established internal event descriptors, poisonous, addictive, diseasing, and lethal, the irrefutable, incriminating evidence already available, but marginalized to ineffectiveness for some 50 years.
The conscious shift to the internal event frame produces additional insights. In retrospect, the startling power of the external event frame to unconsciously force exclusion of the scientific evidence from wider, more effective, use in social discourse is revealed. In his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn explains this phenomenon of unconscious resistance in length while presenting his paradigm shift theory. Habermas identifies this unconscious quality of resistance as a “cloaking mechanism”. Lakoff, in his book Thinking Points, tells us that “the use of frames is largely unconscious, because “the use of frames occurs at the neural level, so most people have no idea they are even using frames, much less what kind of frames.” Einstein acknowledged this unconscious resistance to new information with his rule-of-the-thumb for problem-solving, claiming that when looking for a solution one should look for something that doesn’t make sense in order to avoid more of the same. In the field of addiction recovery this unconscious refusal to accept the obvious is called “denial”.
With the conscious shift to the internal event frame – the point of view of science – we can retrospectively ask: how is it possible that the most critical information defining the problem could be so universally marginalized and ignored for so long? A cursory review of past and more recent literature confirms the alarming, evidence-suffocating effect of the unconsciously operating external event frame. The external referencing terms – smoking, tobacco, puff, cigarette, etc. – continue to dominate the discourse right up to the present.
Analysis of Chapman's Reframing Efforts
From the internal event frame of reference, it becomes even more constructive to witness Chapman’s intuitive struggle to break free from the external event frame’s unconscious, restricting influence. Throughout his courageous book, Chapman consistently employs external event descriptors, ignoring the essential science, even while struggling to make his case for internal event framing. Chapman even employs frame theory to some extent in an effort to reveal the lethal tobacco industry’s intentionally deceitful public relations philosophy. He inches ever closer to making the shift into the internal event frame, but still lacks the “constellation of mental sets” Kuhn claims is essential to produce a paradigm shift, the epiphany that catapults one into the freedom to think outside the box. Two examples from Chapman’s book follow. Each is then followed by a reframed example of Chapman’s frame.
Example #1 Issue: Tobacco
“A natural agricultural product, redolent with wholesome associations of honest framers tilling the soil and campfire yarns”
Chapman’s Tobacco Control Frame:
“A highly genetically-engineered crop, pickled in chemicals at all stages from field to factory, responsible for unparalleled global deaths”
“A highly genetically-engineered poisonous, addictive, diseasing, lethal crop, producing addictive, poisonous, cancer-causing particles and gases when fired up into diseasing smoke for sucking into the lungs as intended by its despicable manufacturer, thus responsible for 100 million deaths globally in the last century”
EXAMPLE #2 Issue: Pack Warnings
“Responsible information provided to adult consumers who are already fully aware of the risks they take. Graphic warnings unnecessarily disturb sensitive people and may make them blasé’ about other risks.”
Chapman’s Tobacco Control Frame:
“Liberated information previously kept from smokers by the industry’s refusal to provide readily understandable and memorable information about how smoking is likely to harm its users.”
Chapman Reframed :
Damning evidence reveals the poisonous, addictive, diseasing, characteristics of lethal tobacco smoke intended by the killer tobacco industry to be sucked into the lungs in a manner already proven responsible for 100 million deaths in the last century.
Ideally, within the revealed logic of the internal event frame, the scientifically determined descriptors – poisonous, addictive, diseasing, and lethal – will overcome the predictable initial resistance and gain wide acceptance. If we are willing to honor the progress of knowledge, these powerful internal event descriptors must eventually become the primary focus of all prevention and intervention communication efforts. External event descriptors – tobacco, cigarettes, smoking, puff, etc. – will rightly become relegated to the sole purpose of topic identification.
Translating the Science to the Discourse
Within the internal event frame, Chapman’s Australian campaign slogan, “Every cigarette is doing you damage,” would translate to a slogan conveying a message something like this:
“Smokers, you must come to terms with your lethal affliction. The poisonous, addictive, diseasing particles and gases you are sucking into your lungs are attacking RIGHT NOW every vital organ in your wonderful body.”
Too much information for a campaign slogan, yes. But not too long for a physician correctly diagnosing a patient, face to face, who is suffering from poison-sucker disease. In his book, Chapman refers to a major report published in 1998 entitled “Smoking Kills.” Reframed, this title might make an even more effective campaign slogan: “Sucking poison into lungs kills,” or more simply stated: “Sucking poison kills.”
Reframing the discourse to an internal event focus forcibly evokes scientific evidence, the very critical information that the killer tobacco industry has been trying to block for so many decades. Evidence in the form of internal event descriptors should scare poison-suckers, and rightly so. The evidence, universally employed, should scare all poison-suckers into acting as if their lives depended on it because their lives do. As Chapman so effectively argues, “scare tactics” work. And more than a tactic, scientifically revealed truth is not manipulation as the word “tactic” implies. More than a tactic, a scientifically-established truth is liberating, provides choice and the opportunity to act in one’s own best interest and empowers society to do the same.
Poison-suckers should be “scared to death.” Societies themselves should be scared as well, in light of their bankrupted health care systems, their faltering economies, and the tragic loss of meaningful productivity.
When Society Becomes an Addict
The concept of an additive society is identified and explained by Anne Wilson Schaef in her 1986 best seller When Society Becomes an Addict. Societies confronting themselves with the truth about the horrendous consequences of its addictions are in effect pursuing a mass-media intervention. In addiction recovery parlance, this process of coming to terms with the lethal consequences of an addiction is known as “raising the bottom.” When Chapman so courageously argues for using scare tactics, he is in effect arguing for “raising the bottom,” arguing for a nationwide intervention. An intervention process aimed not just at the 44 million addicted poison-suckers in the U.S., but aimed at all of us who are unconsciously locked in the external event frame. All of us in society have unwittingly perpetuated this insidious scourge through our inability to come to terms with the challenging reality of the addictive society.
Schaef also provides us with an appropriate quote (attributed to Ursula LaGuin): “When we name something correctly, we gain power over it, and it loses power over us.”