Andrea Morales and Gavan Fitzsimons can both remember when and where their current research interest began. It came during a talk at the University of Pennsylvania a few years ago: Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology, took a cockroach that had been sterilized, dipped it into a glass of orange juice, then asked if anyone was willing to take a sip.
Nobody was. But if an involuntary ewww just went through your mind, as it almost certainly did, the experiment is still working. Rozin specializes in the psychological study of disgust, and he was demonstrating the universal concept of touch transference. It's a fancy term for cooties. If something repulsive touches something benign, the latter, even if it's physically unchanged, becomes "infected."
These types of insights are important - especially for those of us to are trying to win others to our cause. It's kind of pathetic, but sometimes it seems like all activists need at least a minor in advertising and public relations to be able to effectively convey a message that folks are open to. The professional propagandists, after all, are trained in these arts of deception. Does learning these arts make us evil, too? Probably not - but practicing them against people? Yep - that would seem kind of evil.
Anyhoo, the mainstream media has convinced most folks that any pseudo-lefty idea was probably dreamt up by a 'dirty fucking hippy' - as Atrios like to refer to us/himself - and that, i'm certain, helps to keep people from taking our ideas seriously. If we say, "Hey guys, let's like, not murder people anymore" - the mainstream press will effectively relay the message that "the dirty fucking hippies said blah blah blah" - what we actually said is not important, because there is a 'ewwww' factor associated with any sane-sounding ideas.
Should we spend some/most/all of our time battling negative stereotypes, or do we just try to convince those few people who remain open-minded?