Dr. Alexander Haslam is a renowned social psychologist who has done some groundbreaking work on how evil is manufactured. He produced the BBC show "The Experiment" for one of his studies.
Tobin Smith is an ex-fox news show host who wrote the expose novel Foxocracy: Inside the Network's Playbook of Tribal Warfare. He talks about how hate is created in modern day media.
Part 1: Dr. Haslam and the 5 step model of hate
Amna: In 1950, a man with the name of Ricardo Klement entered Argentina to start a fresh life with his wife and 4 kids. They lived a simple, predictable life there for 10 years, until there was a sinister discovery - you see, Ricardo Klement's REAL name was Adolf Eichmann, and it turns out that he was responsible for orchestrating the deaths of MILLIONS of jews and other minorities during the holocaust. Back in Israel, there was a media frenzy, and his public trial was one of the first to be televised globally. A well known journalist, Hannah Arendt, who also happened to be a holocaust survivor, was tasked with covering this trial. But her accounts, or rather people’s understanding of her accounts, may have single handedly led to one of the most persistent mistakes in our understanding of what motivates criminals.
This is Tethered Minds and you are listening to Amna Hyder. In this episode, we will answer the question - could Adolf Eichmann have been you? the renowned social psychologist, Dr. Alexander Haslam will walk us through how evil is manufactured, and why your psychology textbooks might be dead wrong. Oh and we’ll also be talking to the (ex)-fox news show host, Tobin Smith about his exposé novel and the tools for killer propoganda - so stay tuned for an exciting ride!
Now back to our story of Ricardo Klement. When he was identified as Adolf Eichmann, he was accused of having helped choreograph the holocaust. But in his words, he had never killed a single person OR given any orders to kill for that matter.
Dr. Haslam: So how did that come about and what kind of a person was Eichmann?
Amna: That is Dr. Alexander Haslam and that question is a starting point for a lot of his research
Dr. Haslam: He was someone who had organized the wannasee conference that had been the wellspring for what from the perspective of the nazis, came to be the final solution for the jewish problem.
Amna: The details of his involvement in the holocaust were pretty clear but his intent? Thats where things get a bit muddy.
Dr. Haslam: Well you know Eichmann turns up to court is broadcast around the world 'cause it was huge interest in the trial and the people had expected to see a monster, but in the court I Eichmann just looked like and you know thoroughly normal person he he was slightly stooped he was he he was in a sort of grey suit he just looked like a public servant. The seminal text on icons trial is Hannah Arendts book, which was Eichman in Jeruselum, the banality of evil.
Amna: Arendt coined a term “banality of evil” to described the idea that evil acts are not necessarily perpetrated by evil people, and can instead be simply the result of dutifully obeying orders. As she put it, Eichmann ‘had no motives at all’. He just ‘never realized what he was doing’
Dr. Haslam: What she was understood as saying was that you know Eichmann was just a kind of normal regular person who just got kind of like who thoughtlessly mindlessly got caught up in this Nazi killing machine, he was kind of just a puppet he just blindly following orders.
Amna: The banality of evil, became a tremendously powerful term, with tremendously powerful connotations and was immediately picked up by the media, philosophers and scientists.
Dr. Haslam: Yeah so the first thread was one that was really pursued by psychologists ultimately but in particular by Stanley milgram. Many of his family had died in the Holocaust, but he was very much fixated on this question of how might normal people be induced to do these horrible things?
Amna: And to answer this, all the way across the ocean in Connecticut United states, he designed the infamous milgrim experiment
Dr. Haslam: and the paradigm he created involved participants administering what they believed her electric shocks to a learner on a task when he made an error in a learning exercise.
Amna: In 1961, one of the participants, a 25 year old, man Bill Menold, responded to an ad to participate in a study. The ad had said that the study had to do with learning and memory. On the day of the experiment at 7 pm Bill followed signs to the basement of a building on campus. He was greeted by a man in a lab coat, known as the experimenter and a second volunteer.
Dr. Haslam: The experimenter tells the participant
Amna: In this case, Bill Menold
Dr. Haslam: who's got this role as a teacher that when the learner makes an error on the task, he has to administer an electric shock.
Amna: The learner was the other volunteer that Bill had met and this volunteer was taken to a room to be hooked up to a chair with electrical wires. Bill was taken to a separate room and told that he would be teaching the learner words, and administering electric shocks to him.
Dr. Haslam: And these shocks are arranged on a big machine with 30 switches and they go up in 15 Volt intervals, from 15 volts all the way up to 450 volts. And every time the learner makes an error the teacher just has to press the next switch, so it's ascending and it's got labels on it and it starts off mild shock and then it goes severe shock and then it goes danger severe very severe shock and then the firing it says XXX, you know like lethal.
Amna: A speaker system connected to two volunteers, and with each shock, Bill heard the volunteer yell increasingly primal screams, until at one point he became unresponsive. When this happened, the experimenter instructed Bill to keep going until he got to the maximum possible voltage. Which he did. Bill was one of hundreds of volunteers that participated in the milgrim experiment between August of 1961 and May of 1962.
Dr. Haslam: and the famous finding was that in what came to be known as the baseline trial, 65% of the participants went all the way to the end of the scale. So the story there was it appeared that normal people had just been recruited off the streets of New Haven CT would be willing to kill somebody, because an experimenter asked them to do it as part of a psychology experiment to look at the effects of punishment on learning. And on the basis of that Milgram concluded that Arendts conception of the Banality of evil came closer to the truth than one might dare imagine. And that demonstration milligrams demonstration studies really became the dominant analysis of the of that process.
Amna: This experiment made headlines everywhere, and became cemented in psychology textbooks as evidence that like Eichmann, and other nazis in the holocaust, most of us would blindly and unquestioningly follow orders to do horrible, atrocious things.
Dr. Haslam: For most people that's where the story ends, but behind the scenes there was not in psychology but in particularly in history a lot of scholars were really interested to actually dig deeper into the Eichmann story in particular and there's really a number of books which have come out on Eichmann.
Amna: And one of those is called Eichmenn his life and crimes by David Ceserani. And according to him, Arendt had nowhere near the full picture of who Eichmann was.
Dr. Haslam: Nasically Cesarani just totally destroys the idea that he was just a public servant who didn't know what he was doing and mechanically thoughtlessly went along with it. Ceserani kind of blows that out of the water in a big way.
Amna: You see, Eichmanns trial was arduous. It took 8 months from the first day of trial to get his final verdict.
Dr. Haslam: Arendt was only at the first three days of eichmann's trial and those were the ones in which his defense was trying to make the case for him to get him off the hook. Well obviously in that context they wanted to say look it wasn't me and and I was just uh you know I was just cog in the machine is Ceserani's point.
But all these books have you know very clearly and precisely demonstrated that actually no the key thing about Eichmann was that he was highly identified with the Nazi cause, and the point there was he was never someone who was just following orders so if we go back to the wannasee conference, no he showed creativity and imagination in in devising this final solution. He didn't just sit there and say what do you want me to do and just sign the papers. No, he wrote the papers, he authored them and he set to work to make the death camps as effective as they could possibly be.
Amna: And according to Dr. Haslam you could apply this logic to many of the other Nazis involved in the Nazi party too. Its possible they werent just obediently following orders. | Dr.
Haslam: Because when you look at the Nazi state it wasn't uniform, it wasn't the case t hat everybody was a highly identified Nazi, doing the things that people like Eichmann were doing there are plenty of others particularly early on who said hang on this is wrong and they and they were killed for their contribution. And there were plenty of others who resisted and and and went overseas and all sorts of other things. And there really was huge variability in the extent to which people were enthusiastic Nazis. But of course, the point was the Nazi state, as it had been set up was one that valorized and it rewarded the people who were the most diligent and enthusiastic Nazis.
Amna: Heres the thing. It shouldnt matter if Arendts conclusion on Eichmann falls apart, because Milgrims experiment seems to confirm her banality of evil hypothesis. But, Dr. Haslam was hard pressed to find actual examples of people who committed strong acts of hate out of pure obedience. So the claim that the overwhelming majority of us would do that seemed questionable. This exploration led him to an unexpected place. Milgrims study, it turns out, didnt just include one experiment. There were about 25 different variants of the paradigm he had created.
Dr. Haslam: What you can look at is and in the research that Steve and I have done is the extent to which those different variants encourage you to identify either with the experimenter in the science, or with the victim, with the with the learner, and what you see is that across those variants the amount of obedience varies firstly between 100% and 0%, and that where it sits is pretty close to perfectly predicted by the extent to which the paradigm induces you to identify with the leader and the science. And other variants where we've manipulated people's identification with the cause of science and show that the more you get people to identify with science in a milgram like paradigm the more likely they are to follow instructions to be abusive in the name of some and also how the participants talked about their own involvement was very much they understood that that actually they believe they when they coming out they experiment they believe that they had done something good
Amna: So even in Milgrims experiment, what Dr. Haslam has shown is that participants werent just blindly following orders, they were consciously choosing to make their decisions based on their beliefs of what was the right thing to do.
Dr. Haslam: We imagine that the participants were in there and they were doing these bad things and they thought Oh well don't really care about that just trying to do it. No that wasn't really the case, the people who administer the shocks did it because they they thought they were doing something good. They thought they were helping the science.
Amna: Can we stop here for a second? So Ive heard about milgrims experiment since highschool and always was told that the participants would have felt horrible about what they were made to do.
And thats so dangerous, because the earlier conclusion, that we can do these things because we are obeying orders - I think it gives us this idea that we would actually know when we are doing something horrible. It makes us feel like we have more control than we do.
But your findings are a lot scarier, because it shows that we wouldn’t think even see what we are doing is something horrible, and we definitely wouldn’t think we were obeying orders . And yeah I just find this so wild , especially because this experiment is so formative to pscyhology everywhere.
Dr. Haslam: it is it is it is absolutely wild it's kind of like obscene from a scientific level that that this thing which is so important to understanding this paradigm these studies, and actually is the thing that allows you to make sense of what happens in the world, is the thing that nobody wants to talk about. And other scientists don't talk about. And why is that? why do we just imagine that this is just people who are just kind of like following orders, or just or just conforming mindlessly to some kind of script? It doesn't make any sense
Amna: And why do you think this more nuanced and accurate explanation doesn’t make its way to the textbooks?
Dr. Haslam: The simple answer to that is because that's not what our leaders want us to see. At the end of the day when they're on trial they don't want to be held accountable. | Amna: Who doesnt want to be held accountable?
Dr. Haslam: Well I think and again not to be too add hominem about it but you see that a bit in the writings of say milgram actually started off with an analysis which is not too far from our own. And he'd gone around he'd given lots of versions of his talk well when you given the version it was like the version that I've been talking about now was closer to that people didn't kind of like that and his his analysis got watered down. As academics it's not like you just sit in an ivory tower you go out and you talk to you know I give talks lots of talks on this sort of stuff from businesses and to organizations and politicians you know I presented you know governmental committees and stuff and so you get to know what stories they really like and I can tell you they don't like the ones which say actually you're a big part of the problem
Amna: BUT According to Dr. Haslam, for too long, people have been focused on wrong questions. Instead of asking WHY people do horrible things, we should understand HOW they get to a point where those horrible things are actually celebrated as something great.
Dr. Haslam: Yeah yeah so Steve writer and I wrote with roxie Ralph this was back in 2008 we sort of set out what we referred to as sort of five steps social identity model of the development of collective hate. And the first sort of step there is is simply a step of identification.
Amna: In our previous episode on clashing identities, we saw that humans have a natural drive to create groups, and those identities go on to shape so many of our thoughts and behaviours.
Dr. Haslam: You have to develop a sense of shared identity. A common in Group and you need people to internalize it as part of their sense of self.
Amna: Step 2: define an outgroup
Dr. Haslam: Moving on from that, you need to define parameters associated with membership of that group. And typically you do that by defining the in Group in contrast to some disliked or alter- at least alternative outgroup. And if you look in the in the in the sort of pantheon of prejudice, you see that there's all manner of groups that people can come to vilify on the basis of religion or ethnicity, or sexuality, or whatever it might be.
Amna: Step 3: Create a Threat
Dr. Haslam: Then you that you as you know you need to develop a sort of narrative around how it's not just that those people are not not over it's not like us, what they're doing is actually a threat to us and our values and our way of life and the things that we cherish and hold dear.
Amna: Step 4: Create a narrative of virtue and evil. After all, hate is just intense dislike with moral superiority.
Dr. Haslam: Then you now have this group which is construed as not us and is a threat to us, then you need to you need to develop a narrative of of, if you like, good and evil as us as good and them as actually pernicious and evil and therefore as a group that that needs to be dealt with, and obviously not kindly.
And then in the process of, the final kind of step,
Amna: Step 5
Dr. Haslam: is one where not I mean that nobody and again this isn't quite a fundamental point about hate nobody like particularly as it were wants to hate it's not it's not a particularly sort of mobilizing emotion it can be in a particular sense. But most people actually you know are motivated much by much more positive and pro social ends and goals, and so it's quite important that rather than presenting what you're doing as something that is you know is is bad and nasty and unpleasant. But actually celebrated as something that's virtuous. So again it's their the evil ones, not us, where we are the righteous ones the people who have the good cause and and morality on our side, you also celebrate it and you fundamentally construe those things that you do the harm that you do to others as something that is actually you know is actually good work.
The speech that Steve and I always quote is Himmlers Posen speech in which he's trying to mobilize the German killing squads who are gonna go into occupied Poland and kill murder you know thousands of innocent people
Amna: He says:
But altogether we can say We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people.
And we have suffered no defect within us in our soul or in our character.
Dr. Haslam: Because what you see is that is that people are about to go off and do something which is actually inherently problematic and and and pernicious itself and yet those people have been led to understand that that is actually something that is that is righteous I mean again I I think uh a pretty much textbook example of that is Donald trump's address to the assembled crowds on constitutional hill as before they advanced onto the capital you know he tells them that America is under threat that that the elections been stolen from them and that there are there are bad people in Congress who are trying to unseat him illegitimately and to delegitimize and disenfranchise them, and instead put in their place other groups who don't have their interests at heart and then to say you know where we need to go out and as it were fight the good fight It is is something that yes you would rather not have to do that's quite important you'd rather not have to do and you wish you didn't have to do it but the world is such that this is a thing that needs to be visited upon these sources of cancer as it were in our society. And again if you go back to the Milgram study it's effectively if you look at the way Milgram rationalized that the behavior of participants is pretty much the same thing he's saying look look I realize it's a bit stressful for you know implicitly shocking these participants but it's really important you go on because it's necessary for the science and this is a really important piece of science and at the end of the study when they're a bit stressed by the whole thing is debriefing really focuses on that look yeah look I know it was really tough but you've done such a great thing and and this has been so incredibly helpful so thank you very much this is a really really important contribution that you've made and they go out of the laboratory of feeling very pleased with themselves feeling very happy and they go into the world blissfully unaware of the fact that everybody thinks they're monsters.
Amna: Ultimately our hate is often driven by love. But these 5 rules arent just used to get people to do quote in quote “bad things”.
Dr. Haslam: Interestingly, I mean it also applies to situations when people are doing good things. Or what we understand as good things. So like the allies fighting in the second world war you know you have to go through the same 5 steps. You have to really come to sort of hate germans and nazis. You might say its quite good and appropriate to hate germans and nazis because theyre not nice people doing nice things. So you know so intense dislike of things is is is is is quite a motivating thing, but again it it it it it's something that that grows on us and is grown and cultivated.
Amna: So how do you personally decide when this dislike is positive or negative?
Dr. Haslam: You know well that's a matter of debate and I mean and and the point there is too if you've been in Germany or Europe in you know late 1930s nineteen 40s that that debate would have been raging there too and and and and many Nazis at the time would, not have would would not only would they not have been willing to accept or what they were doing was tyrannical, they'd have killed you for saying it was.
Amna: We’ve seen how leaders can rally people to do horrible things in the name of love for their groups. When dictators succeed at this (like Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler) we typically call it propoganda. We counter this with the superior press freedom that most democracies have and claim that this freedom of speech keeps us immune to this toxic leadership.
But many believe that the media acts an invisible force that can be used to control its audience in much the same way. After the break we will talk to the ex- fox show host Tobin Smith about his experiences with Dr. Haslams 5 step model of hate in a leading source of media in one of freest countries in the world.
Part 2: Tobin Smith and Fox News
Tobin Smith: Alright lets roll.
Amna: We’re talking to Tobin Smith. He is a well known ex-Fox news show host who wrote an exposé novel about his experiences there. So Tobin, lets start from the beginning, how did you get to fox news?
Tobin Smith: So it it certainly wasn't on purpose I was pitching a New York Times best selling book now it's a business book and you know you have publicists and stuff so I you know I did Bloomberg CNBC etc. and I did the four o'clock show with Neil Cabu to and this is June of 2000
Amna: They liked Tobin so they asked him to join when they were recasting the show, and he agreed.
Tobin Smith: we we start the show and it's called the bulls and bears and this isn't a time where fox was not political this was a business show, and then later we had the elections. The market was in the dumps this is the 2000s. Brenda the host and I just get along great so they make sure they fly me up there so since I'm going up there anyway I started doing some of the other shows I do the 5:00 o'clock news and you know if you contribute enough yo u know they make you a contributor and a contributor in TV Land means but you can't you can't appear anyplace else other than fox.
Oh and then we have the financial crisis
Amna: This crisis had a lot more people tuning in to Fox Business news, and Tobin was becoming more popular.
Tobin Smith: So now all of a sudden I'm on three times a day and that's when I started and we started fox business news again no politics but all this changed when Barack Obama got elected. And one thing so many of the mega people had was it felt not connected they've had all these feelings for years they watch fox for years but you know President Obama, a black kid with the middle name of Hussein just blew their minds. Everything about him was foreign. He had a white mother, divorced dad you know everything about it was antithetical to many parts of the United States, and you know at least 40% of the United states was shocked angry bitter and they were looking for some place to go that they could see people who look like them.
Amna: And as I was reading Tobins book, I couldnt help but think about how much his insider experiences with media aligned with the 5 step model of hate that Dr. Haslam had outlined. Step 1 is to create an ingroup. For fox, this just meant they knew their audience
Tobin Smith: Remember even at that time in 2010 the average age of a Fox News viewer is 66.8 almost 67 years old. Now you have an identity
Amna: According to Tobin, the prime viewer was an older white Anglo-Saxon-protestant male based out of a red county. The language, visuals and guests were all catered to keep this audience glued to their screens.
Tobin Smith: and you know on the bottom of the screen the scroll is saying some indignity that those ******** lip tarde elites you know foisted upon us today so everything there the color the red the way the screen the way the lighting is done the way makeup and pretty girls. That's a pretty attractive formula
Amna: Step 2 of Dr. Haslam’s model is to create an out group. One poll during Tobins time at Fox showed that 94% of their viewers leaned republican, and this is something they were well aware of. So democrats or any groups associated with them, like immigrants were an easy out group.
But just because you have an outgroup doesnt mean you are against that outgroup. At least unless there is a sense of threat. Unfortunately, creating a sense of threat, Step 3 of Haslams model of hate, is something that Tobin saw a lot of.
Tobin Smith: if I know what you're afraid of so I'm gonna open the show with a visual that I know you're afraid of and I'm going to capture your attention because it's automatic. All I have to do is show you a guy climbing over the wall. All I have to show you is any of the things that that that that you're culturally afraid of and then I'm gonna show you well you should be even more afraid of it than you already were before you watch my show.
Soon as they get the fear response you get the adrenaline response soon as you get the adrenaline response, now you're jacked up I got your attention and then I just roll right into here's why here's about five reasons why you're not even afraid enough of these people. Let me tell you what you should really be afraid of I can do that act pretty good and it it's an act. |
Amna: This adrenaline rush from fear, its pretty much a universally lucrative system. I looked this up. Day after tomorrow brought in 544 million dollars, Super size me where they guy eats mcdonalds everyday, brought in 11 million dollars. Bowling for columbine, 58 million.
But according to Tobin, this threat doesnt even have to be real. Its just as effective if you make it up.
Tobin Smith: Remember that came out of World War One they had to pay reparations to all the countries they invaded which was basically about is all in gold, they have wheelbarrows of Deutsch marks to go buy a piece of bread because the government would just printing hundreds of millions and millions of deutschmarks every week to hand out to people, and you couldn't have been in a more horrible situation. However because there's so many Jews had migrated to Germany and German had so many German Jews. They were the storekeepers they were the ones who got the money and but had but it saved their money in gold, and on a relative basis were doing a lot better than the average German. So go to that resentment page and now you got that button and that's what goggles went after but the number one the rule is to understand and use the power of the big lie. Goebbels concept on this was that for the normal you know everyday working class chairman which was basically their audience, but the big lie is tell some tell a story that's so horrific that's so audacious today average human being when looking at you know their president their führer or you know a person of significant power, that they couldn't imagine that that person would say that if it wasn't true. And of course in the case of Nazi Germany you know the big lie was that the Jews had taken over the economy and it there was the Jews fault for the depression and that the only way Germany would regain its pride and its strength is to get rid of all people of color. #2 tell the big lie over and over and over and over again. And then they say it over and over and over and over and over and over again all sorts of people and there's a cumulative effect and that's exactly what Donald Trump did with the election was stolen thing that came up with this audacious lie is that has been disproven 1000 times. They have no proof whatsoever that happened, and then tell the lie over and over again.
Amna: These days, in America, part of the sense of a threat comes from a perceived drop in standard of living. For a lot of the fox viewers, they remembered their grandparents living very comfortable lives.
Tobin Smith: he's living like a God and he's got more money he can do with 'cause he's a simple guy and he's loving life well now you're like 50 and you've been laid off three times you're struggling that really nice house that your grandfather lived well you're living not in a nice house and who's to blame? Resentment is extremely close to the the feeling that of of unmet expectations. You know, in essence if the structure of your life that your dad or your grandfather had, and now that structure is not there anymore and you expected it you. First off you feel sorry for yourself. Secondly, you want somebody to blame it what Fox News does just like the attack ads blame that guy
Amna: Remember Step 4 of Dr. Haslams model of hate? Create a narrative of virtue and evil? One way to do that really well is with an attack ad.
Tobin Smith: yeah a political ad before attack ads was it's me looking up in the sky shaking hands having my sleeves rolled up total Smith he's here for America he's here for you he's here for your family he's a God fearing man and this is a type of person we need in Congress and then you cut to somebody who knows me and says you know I've known to man spent for all these years and he's just been nothing but a straight up honest guy he's the type of guy and hes the type of guy I would like to see and boom. Go vote for Tobin Smith. that's what television advertising was.
So an attack ad is a right a picture with red or black and it comes on the screen and it says Tobin Smith eats babies for breakfast. this is a horrible person and then someone comes on and says yeah actually beat babies blah blah blah and then boom the good guy rides in hey I'm Jim Thomas we're gonna close the wall we're gonna get rid of the Mexicans and so on and so forth vote for me right and it gets worse Roger ailes mastered these six and he made $15 million a year this is before fox as running these this ad agency that in you know invented attacking here's what's happening the attack ads worked so here’s what happened to attack ads. Once you run an attack ad that worked you can't run that same attack out again you gotta come up a different attack you have to impugn their character you have to impugn their you know whatever weakness ahead or if I give you ammunition word, in other words I do something stupid. And so boom. So for the first thing you're going to show somebody is something that's repugnant to them, because now you will you'll engage them. And as soon as you like their brain up then we hit him with the resentment.
Amna: which again is really just intense dislike coupled with moral superiority.
Tobin Smith: Resentment is the most powerful seductive emotion that if I can evoke but I can give you a reason to feel your resentment it just comes right up from the solarPlex and man now you're engaged now. So it's it's shocking, but anyway that was the model that Roger took the Fox News.
There was no such thing as attack ad trust me in the 70s they were outlawed you had this thing called the fairness doctrine which was created by the senators and congressmen who came back from World War Two had seen the propaganda machine in Germany.
Amna: The fairness doctrine was set in place after seeing the propoganda in Germany to set some limits on what could be broadcasted, but it had some major flaws and was revoked in the late 80s. Well that model of collective hate that Dr. Haslam had outlined, it thrives when there are no limits.
Tobin Smith: we didn't think too much about morals back there in the savanna plains. But as we got into the life all of a sudden we're looking for moral superiority intellectual superiority, and I want proof of it but more importantly, I want proof of moral inferiority. I want proof of moral ambiguity and that's why Donald Trump was just so visceral for so many people. Because it feels great to hate somebody 'cause now your ego pops in and when you say I can't believe how stupid they are well all your ego hears is is hey big boy and how smart are you huh and boom even when I do it just play acting you get the adrenaline you get the shot.
But the other one of course is cognitive dissonance you don't wanna hear any information that impugn the vast moral superiority of your tribe.
Amna: But its not just trump, or the republicans who look for moral superiority. Tobin sees this everywhere.
Tobin Smith: I'll tell you on the left wing side, the ultra left has gone just as insane as the ultra right in that it's exclusionary by definition. ‘Cause remember when you say you're woke which, if you wanted to be as condescending as you possibly could be then describe yourself as woke because if you don't you don't believe like all the tenants of wokeism is that I'm saying that your sleep that you're stupid you don't you know you're you're you're unwoke. wow that's a great way to you know convince people right make enemies and lose friends, so it works both ways
Amna: And now we can get to the last step in the model. Step 5. Celebrate. And according to Tobin, theres explicit celebration… speech from fox….
But theres also implicit celebration of small wins that are weaved into the show.
Tobin Smith: It's it's all choreographed. We would bring in a democratic strategist who is about three years out of college who was trying to get a job on CNBC or MSNBC or something.
We had some incredibly bright people when I worked at CNN for a time, but we would you know the producers would purposely choose somebody who thought they were the bomb, but they're not and then they put him in a situation they may be great about immigration reform but they didnt know squat about economics, they didn’t know squat about you know a lot of the financial issues that we bring them in to talk about. And there'd be three of us on the panel and then the the libtard. And we would have a question on sort of macroeconomics and you know that's what I have my degree in and we would the producers would send us stuff to make sure that you know we had a different story though there's three different ways to show this person is an idiot.
So they were set up. Fox News? No no no, this is kabuki theater. This is this is a staged theatrical event Where the hero always wins the villain always loses and the only thing to figure out is how I'm gonna win and how they're gonna lose that's how they're produced that's how it's set up
Amna: This formula becomes more and more dangerous over time.
Tobin Smith: Fox kept moving more to the right because the audience kept getting bigger and you gotta keep feeding when you become addicted to something you you can't see the same thing every time 'cause you know the hit goes down you gotta keep amping it up you can't do the same stuff because I'm not getting the same hit it's why does why do you start out with you know that much cocaine and a year later you know you're buying it by the bag so that's what fox did so they just dial it dial it dial it up.
And then you know trump came in and completely completely changed.
Amna: When did your time at Fox end?
Tobin Smith: I left in 2014. I was fired I got an argument with the president of Fox Business Network and I was ready to leave anyway so it was a nice 'cause by that time it had gotten very political.
I finally realized how powerful this this thing was. And people would come up to me in the airport particularly 'cause at that time I fly all over the place. I'd be at the airport somewhere and people come up to me and they say the exact same thing it come up hey how you doing love you love you on fox. You know last week when you had that freaking libtard on who was talking about how do we you know we should cut back on fossil fuels I wanted to throw up brick through my television.
I heard that exact expression hundreds of times from hundreds of different people and finally the light bulb came on and I said wow this is not you know uh television show this is not a TV network this is a cult and a safe spot for red state Americans.
Amna: Wow. This reminds me of how in your book you say “im with you” is a lot better than “im for you”
Tobin Smith: Correct, correct. They don't have to verbalize it it's their behavior shows they're with you.
Amna: As of today, Fox news is worth 20 billion dollars. And I want to put that number into context.
Lets say I told you to collect $100 today, and then again tomorrow and every single day for the rest of your life. And you had to continue to do that for generations to come. So your kid and your kids kid and so on are all collecting $100 each day from the day they are born to the day they die. If every single person in that chain lived untill they were 90 years old, it would still take take over 6000 generations to save up to the net worth of Fox news. Once numbers get big its tough to visualize, but this is a MASSIVELY profitable industry
Tobin Smith: It’s a theatrical event it's not a news event it's a theatrical production based on on on television rules on motivational rules on psychological rules on on cognitive hardwiring and and who you're with as you picked up is more important than who you are, because that's allegiance allegiance feels good because you're connecting with you you're of the same mind.
Amna: Media costs more than what people are willing to pay, so what the media sells is you. Their currency is your attention. And its worth a lot.
I am by no means comparing Fox news to the propoganda machine in Germany, but its important we revisit our history and understand how we can prevent the past from repeating itself. As Dr. Haslam showed us, we don’t just blindly obey orders from harmful ideologies. The truth is much scarier. We can be convinced to passionately follow through with careful, slow and intentional propoganda.
Human beings evovled to be tribal, and there was nothing that required our attention more than when our tribes were under threat. Thats collective fight for their survival was our one of our primary advantage. But the media can inadvertently hijack this system, and though its not intentional in the same way that perhaps nazi hitler was, if we arent careful, the outcome could be the same.
I hope that as we understand ourselves better, we can recognize when we may be headed down a path of no return and steer ourselves to a more just and peaceful society.
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