As of today, I am renaming the project you’ve been reading that’s been titled, “The Fairway.” From now on, it’s going to have this title, and subtitle:
How, and why, the press makes us hate one another
If there’s room at the bottom of the cover – and it is looking more likely now that this will be a physical book at some point – I may add the following:
Your Campaign 2020 Guide to Media Deception!
I started this serialized book as a re-think of Manufacturing Consent. I was so locked in to that idea that I felt I needed Noam Chomsky’s blessing to start it. Over the course of writing it, however, the thesis started to drift.
I realized what I was really writing was an insider’s guide to how reporters lie to the public. It was part tirade, part confessional. The text poured out in big chunks, probably reflecting, I realized, years of secret frustrations.
Manufacturing Consent was a dissection of propaganda at the structural level. It’s a macro-analysis.
Hate Inc. – what I started off calling The Fairway – increasingly focused on deceptions that were more at the sentence level. It returned frequently to one theme: What most people think of as “the news” is really a particularly twisted wing of the entertainment business.
In the Internet age, we in the press have mastered the art of monetizing anger, paranoia, and distrust. We’ve learned how to wind you up for profit.
Because I spent so much of my career covering elections, and this happens to be the subject matter where this kind of manipulative media activity is most egregious, the book turned into a taxonomic survey of the tricks of modern American political journalism.
I’m renaming this book Hate Inc. a) because I can, i.e. because b) the Substack formula allows it, and c) because I want to focus more on the theme of how shattering your peace of mind is our business model.
Heading into a 2020 election season that promises to be a Great Giza Pyramid Complex of invective and digital ugliness, I want people to understand this book as a guide to all the unseen manipulations you will see and hear by the truckload in the 2019–2020 election season, and beyond.
During my second campaign assignment, in 2007–2008, I started a secret hobby. As I followed candidates around the country, I’d grab a red pen and whatever paper I could find in the hotel lobby – a USA Today, frequently – and see how quickly I could mark up the deceptions on the front page. By the end of a campaign, I’d have most papers covered in red in under a minute.
I want readers to be able to spot the same things. Does a 1200-word piece that is the last New York Times article before the Iowa caucus cite poll numbers eight times, and make only passing references to policy? Is the well-funded candidate with a history of flip-flopping “nuanced,” while the poorly-funded candidate with detailed and earnest proposals called “kooky”? Does a paper use a term like “highly delegative” about a politician when what they really mean is, “Too slow-witted to independently make decisions”?
The modern media business is all about identifying demographics and serving them a steady diet of affirming opinion. If you feel negatively about any group or subject, we will serve you information that enhances that feeling. When you’re angry, we’ll make you angrier.
When we think you’re thinking on your own too much, we’ll nudge you back toward the sensational and the non-reflective. The goal is to keep you spinning in an endless cycle of disgust and impotent anger. It’s the ultimate Orwellian trick: a consumer business in which the product is your own frustration. You are our power source. The unhappier you are, the more money we make.
Going forward, Hate Inc. will focus more and more on what you’re about to see on the 2020 campaign trail. Think of it as a glossary of lies, and please don’t hesitate to write in with your own complaints about news coverage. Until then, thanks for reading, and for your patience.