In my four decades in national journalism – I started at the Associated Press in 1974 – I have grown increasingly concerned about how Americans respond to information, or put differently, how propagandists package their messaging to elicit the desired response. In an age of cynicism, the trick is to get the “big ha-ha!” – convincing you to laugh at the target whether deserved or not.
The way the process works is to first generate hatred or contempt toward a person or group and then produce “themes” that make the target a subject of ridicule and derision, demonized to such an extent that pretty much anything goes. Some of this behavior might seem relatively harmless but it can lead to serious unfairness, injustice, even war.
In 2000, I took heat from some colleagues for objecting to the “big ha-ha!” being directed at Vice President Al Gore. It had reached the point where the mainstream media even made up fictional quotes to put in Gore’s mouth – like “I invented the Internet” – so he could be mocked in favor of the much cooler George W. Bush, who rewarded favored journalists with pet nicknames.