ASSOCIATIONS (Hot Potato, Virtue Words, Stereotyping)


  • STEREOTYPING: Giving a person or an idea a bad label by using an easy to remember pejorative name. This is used to make us reject and condemn a person or idea without examining what the label really means. Examples: “Alt-Right”, “Communist”, “Tree-Hugger”, “Nazi”, “Environmentalist”, “Special-Interest Group”.
  • VIRTUE WORDS: These virtue words (or glittering generality) are used to dupe us into accepting and approving of things without examining the evidence carefully. Examples: “Natural”, “Democratic”, “Organic”, “Scientific”, “Ecological”, “Sustainable”.


Propaganda can be used to spread undesirable and often outright false rumors that get associated – in the public consciousness – with a target individual, group, or idea. This is a hot potato technique, i.e. there’s no way to easily deal with it. Engage with it and you give it legitimacy. Ignore it and opponents can cite this as an admission of guilt. Examples “Corbyn is an anti-Semite”, “Trump is a Russian spy”, “Leave voters are racist”.

(image: 08a44954-jeremy-corbyn-smear-campaign.jpg)


This is another hot potato technique, intended to create short-lasting gossip that occupies media and spawn a virus of articles. The hot potato is an inflammatory (often untrue) statement or question used to throw an opponent off guard or to embarrass them. It doesn’t need to last for a long time but it smokescreens or distracts in the short-term. Examples “Have you stopped beating your spouse”, “When will you pay the taxes you owe?” The fact that it may be utterly untrue is irrelevant because it still brings controversy to the opponent in the moment.