#4. Controlling What You Watch and Read:
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."
#1. "Us vs. Them"
...we're hard-wired by evolution to form tribes. The more stress we feel, the more we feel love and attachment to those who look and sound the same as us, and the more we feel hatred to those who don't. It's just an old survival mechanism, since the ancient guys who didn't show that kind of blind loyalty were killed off by the fierce tribes formed by the ones who did.
So today we get that petty dehumanization of everybody outside of our group ("hippies," "rednecks," "fundies," "geeks," "douchebags," "libs", "cons," "fags," "breeders," "infidels," "towel-heads," "honkies," "darkies," "players", "haters").
They can play on those old, primal urges for even the most retarded of results, such as fierce brand loyalty (the PS3 vs. 360 vs. Wii flame wars will make you claw your eyes out).
But to really make this one work, They can't just define your group, but have to define your group as the elite group, a shining beacon in a world full of weak-minded walking turds. The items on this list work best in combination, and you'll see in that the element of mockery and insulation from opposing viewpoints we talked about earlier (why listen to the viewpoints of those lesser sheeple?). Often this is combined with siege terminology ("The whole country has gone to hell, but we've got to stand up for common sense, folks! It's us against the world!")
Watch five seconds of an election stump speech. Every side does it.
In Sarah Palin's convention speech she talked about how people from small towns are totally the best ("We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity"). Earlier in the primaries the Clinton campaign did the same thing, talking about small towns as being the backbone of America where real, honest people are found. Always there is the unspoken reminder that these honest rural folk are under siege from those scary, phony freaks in the city.
When speaking to those city folk, on the other hand, Barack Obama made the infamous reference to those same small town types clinging to guns and religion, talking about them like they were savages to be studied through binoculars from a tower, with some peasant disease that needs cured by the enlightened.
Not only is "Us vs Them" the first and most important one on the list, it's the culmination and end goal of all the others. Drawing you into the right tribe is what They want most, because they can accomplish nothing without tribesmen.
(One thing Wong missed is that the 'small towns' line isn't original to Palin, but is a quotation from a long-dead American facist, Westbrook Pegler. Robert F Kennedy Jr wrote about this on HuffPo. Pelger was talking pretty explicitly about the whiteness of small towns, as opposed to cities inhabited by black Americans, by Jews and by other immigrant groups that were considered less than white at the time he was writing).