NOTE TO READERS
Normally, an author doesn’t tell you about the changes made along the way to a completed book.
In this case I have to, because this book was originally published online, in serial form, at a still-existing site for subscribers: Taibbi.Substack.Com. Those subscribers know Hate Inc. was originally called The Fairway, and that I changed my mind about the title midway through the book.
It wasn’t the only change. Originally, this book was intended to be a re-thinking of the classic work of media criticism by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent. In fact, the original title of the book was going to be Manufacturing Discontent.
I’ve carried three books with me everywhere throughout my travels over the years (I’ve traveled a lot in my career as a reporter, living as far away as Mongolia and Uzbekistan). Those were Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson, Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, and Manufacturing Consent.
Roughly speaking, the first book by Thompson is a great work of journalism, the second, Scoop, is the perfect parody of journalism, and Manufacturing Consent is an academic warning to reporters like myself, describing all the ways in which journalism can be counterproductive, serve power, and generally fail.
My original idea was to reconfigure that warning to reporters of my generation, who have far different professional and financial pressures than the ones Chomsky and Herman wrote about in the seventies and eighties.
As I was surprised to learn in the course of interviewing him for this book, Chomsky knew quite a few reporters, and this informed his work. But neither he nor Edward Herman (whose idea it was to write a media-themed book) ever worked in a newsroom, or sat down to write a lede with a deadline twenty minutes off.
I wanted to stress the personal experience I had. But when I sat down to write what I’d hoped would be something with the intellectual gravitas of Manufacturing Consent, I found decades of more mundane frustrations pouring out onto the page, obliterating a clinical examination.
The book quickly became more confessional than academic study. It’s about the invisible pressures of the business I’ve been in for nearly thirty years now. Commercial media has always been sensationalistic. We were never not encouraged to aim content at your outrage center. We were always eyeball-hunting.
I know this because I was hired to do this work, over and over. My commercial niche, in fact, was the vitriolic essay that got people spitting mad, or poked fun at someone audiences