THE THING THAT CONTINUES TO EAT OUR BRAINS
By now you've probably seen the story about Frank Luntz's recommended rhetorical tricks for right-wingers dealing with Occupy Wall Street. Now, I usually see Digby's point of view even when I disagree with her, but this seems wildly off base, a textbook example of what happens when you lose the ability to im,agine the thinking of a person in the middle or on the right:
I didn't know that the word "capitalism" is now a dirty word so they're changing it to mean something it doesn't mean at all: economic freedom."Tax the rich" is quite popular so they have to change it to "take from the rich", (which strikes me as pathetically lame). They can't say they support the "middle class" obviously, so they are going to change the term to "hardworking taxpayers."
He replaced entrepreneurs with "job creators", says they should use "waste" instead of "spending" and tells them to "always blame Washington" for everything. (You wouldn't want to blame our hard working job creators.) He says they need to say to OWS protesters that they "get it." and suggests they replace the word "compromise" with "cooperate" and they should never use the word "sacrifice" because it makes people really angry. (He's right about that one.) Oh and the word "bonus" should be replaced with "pay for performance," which is so hilarious that it proves Luntz is losing his touch.
I don't think any of these are hilarious; I don't think he's losing his touch at all. I think most of these have the potential to be effective as the right's most effective Orwellian euphemisms of the past ("death tax" for "estate tax," "Ground Zero mosque" for "Islamic community center," "socialism" for "liberalism").
Even if "capitalism" isn't playing poorly with Luntz's focus groups, "economic freedom" could be a nastily effective pseudonym -- the right-wing noise machine has spent decades portraying angry 60s hippies as being the enemies of freedom (defined as freedom for decent people to act the way they always did toward the poor, minorities, and so on). "Take from the rich" seems especially potent -- it taps into parent-style thinking about fair play, as well as fears of being a crime victim. (Americans still don't see the rich as them, so when they hear "take from the rich," they'll think "take from me.")
The nastiest tricks is replacing "government spending" with "waste." Because of decades of right and centrist government-bashing, our side can never, ever win the tax battles in Washington, for the simple reason that most Americans now believe there's a virtually limitless supply of waste in government, so any budget imbalance can be solved without compelling anyone to sacrifice. Luntz's language just makes the implicit explicit: he's saying that government spending is waste, by definition. Far too many Americans simply believe that. (According to the most recent Gallup survey on the subject, Americans believe the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar.) "Always blame Washington" fits here, too.
I hate fact that this stuff works, but this stuff works. I don't want to live in a world run by dueling Luntzes, but it's worse to live in a world dominated by the one Luntz and his allies, with no counterweight from our side. Snicker at this now, but expect to hear this from winning candidates (and your right-wing relatives) in the foreseeable future.