Thursday, December 01, 2011


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.


the bewilderness said...

You may have misunderstood something. The point was they are retrofitting instead of getting out in front with the doublespeak, and some of it seems a bit obvious and awkward.
I suppose Digby might suffer from the same incapability to grasp how other people think that is so common on the interwebs.
Still, you use this technique so often that I had begun to wonder if your misunderstanding is willful. I rather think it is.
Congratulations on expanding to Booman, and good day.

Steve M. said...

So you're saying right-wing noise generators can't win if they're coming from behind? Tell that to Mike Dukakis.

Raenelle said...

Well, there is a material base to all this, I think. Messaging has to be, at least somewhat, coupled with actual material well-being for some. I think their bet was always that they could buy off the middle class to look the other way while they fucked the poor; the messaging was the conscience salve. But job opportunities are decreasing, medical bills are rising, debt is crushing everyone, and there are very few sentient humans around who think that their children will be better off than they were. The make-over they're doing for capitalism is akin to another Joan Rivers face lift--exponentially diminishing returns.

Steve M. said...

Well, there's a solution for that: NUKE IRAN!

Seriously, if you can't mollify the masses, find them a scapegoat. Iran. Mexicans. ACORN. Whatever works.

BH said...

Amen, & if it's the right kind of scapegoat - i.e., one against which military action or the imminent threat thereof can be employed - well, the flagwaving has almost always worked well to distract, and they might get the side bennie of increased "defense" spending, thus shifting even more tax bucks to their contributors and creating an economic "blip uptick" to be hailed ad nauseam as the cure for Obamanomics.

c u n d gulag said...

Luntz isn't an asshole.
He's a waste manager.

And it isn't that Luntz hates the seniors, it's that he cares about the aspiring seniors.

And it's not like Luntz doesn't care about the poor
He's just trying his damnest to keep people above them from dropping down to their (ever increasing) levels.

This is kind of like saying that Rush isn't a boy fucker.
He's a youth leader!

When this country and its demise is laughed at in the future, they will especially enjoy the comedy stylings of Luntz, Rush, Rove, Bill O, Glenn, Sarah, and Sean, among others.