4Controlling What You Watch and Read
Restriction of reading and/or viewing material is common to pretty much every cult. Here on the internet, we've all heard horror stories about Scientology, which goes as far as filtering members' internet access. Obviously the idea is to insulate the members from any opposing points of view, to keep them marching in line.
That technique works just as well outside of the cult world, but They have to be more subtle about it. It just takes a little poison in the well, that's all.
"Of course the public is misinformed! They're reading that trash in the liberal mainstream media!"
"Of course the public is misinformed! They're watching Faux News and the other trash in the corporate mainstream media!"
Why It Works:
Studies show the brain is wired to get a quick high from reading things that agree with our point of view. The same studies proved that, strangely, we also get a rush from intentionally dismissing information that disagrees, no matter how well supported it is. Yes, our brain rewards us for being closed-minded dicks.
So with a little prodding, the followers will happily close themselves in the same echo chamber of talk radio, blogs and cable news outlets that give them that little "They agree with ME!" high.
This wouldn't have been possible even 20 years ago. I grew up in the 80s, in a house with three TV stations. Three. We got one newspaper, the local one. You didn't get to pick from the conservative news or liberal news, back in my day you took what you got and you were thankful for what you had, dammit.
Today, I go through that many outlets a day just to get my freaking video game news.
And now, that explosion of the 24-hour cable news stations and, later, the web and blogosphere, has created these parallel universes of Right vs. Left media outlets, complete with their own publishing arms.
And for each, their favorite topic of discussion is how corrupt and ridiculous the other side's media is. They each even have "watchdog" groups that exist purely for the reason of hammering away at each other (the left has FAIR and MediaMatters, the right has the Media Research Center).
When an MSNBC interview with candidate John McCain got tense, he responded to the question by openly accusing the reporter of being an operative for the other side:
Just days later the campaign called The New York Times "a pro-Obama advocacy organization."
This technique is relatively new, but you'll see a lot more of it in future elections. The candidate will talk right past the reporter asking the questions and says to his supporters, "These guys work for the enemy, don't believe a word they say. Their lies will only poison your mind."
3Keeping You In Line With Shame
I won several formal debates in college using my patented technique of simply repeating my opponent's argument in a high-pitched, mocking tone while wiggling my fingers in the air. There really is no defense.They call this the appeal to rididcule fallacy. To which I would simply rebut, "Oooooh, appeal to ridicule fallacy! Well I've got a 'phallus' you can 'see' right here, college boy."
Professionals have more sophisticated methods, but it boils down to the same technique. "They" know that if they can paint an idea as ridiculous, the listener usually won't bother examining it any closer to find out if the ridicule is justified.
After all, why even consider something that's ridiculous? That's only something a ridiculous person would do! And you're not ridiculous ... are you?
You are if you use something other than Alltel Wireless!
Look at these assholes! Is this you?
"So now they're telling us that--get this, folks--global warming is caused by cows farting! Priceless!"
"And then he said we could save gas by inflating our tires! I couldn't make this stuff up, folks!"
Why It Works:
It's no secret you can short-circuit somebody's brain with shame. How many of us were shamed into doing something stupid in high school? Hell, I still have that huge Dokken tattoo on my back.
But why does it work? Well, there are these primitive, lower parts of your brain called amygdalae that controls those base, emotional reactions. That's where things like contempt and shame come from, and stimulating it can completely shut down the analytical part of your brain. The gang calls you a coward and the next thing you know, you're wedging a roman candle between your buttcheeks. You'll show them!
You can thank evolution for that. Way back when humans started forming groups and tribes, social status was everything. It's what guaranteed you food, protection and ladies (that is, a chance to pass on your genes). Mockery developed as a "conformity enforcer" to keep people in line.
Making a person, idea or behavior the target of mockery gave it a lower social position, and made it clear that anybody who associated with it would share that lower position, leaving them out of the hunting/eating/fucking that made life in the tribe worthwhile. Thousands of years later, a good dose of mockery can shut down critical thinking and make us fall right in line, no questions asked.
We again come back to our 2008 presidential campaign, and again we find both sides guilty.
The speakers at the Republican National Convention had a great time mocking Barack Obama as a "community organizer," drawing laughter from the crowd and skipping smoothly over the part where they explained what a community organizer is and why it's ridiculous.
And of course the other side does it with McCain's age...
...as if there is something inherently silly about having lived a really long time.