Hey, did you hear what Frank Luntz said?

“Politics for the simple-minded” is how Frank Luntz describes the approach he has, more than anyone else, helped embed in U.S. politics.

He’s referring to how politicians over-simplify issues, appeal to emotion instead of intellect, and cast people on “the other side” as enemies of the common good.

Luntz has made a lot of money poisoning public discourse this way on behalf of Republicans and big business, so he knows whereof he speaks.

Thanks to Luntz, Repubs almost invariably say “death tax” instead of “estate tax.” Also thanks to him, Exxon and BP aren’t drilling for oil; they’re “exploring for energy.”

Another example of the Luntz approach is how, in last year’s mid-terms, Republicans tried to scare voters about health-care reform by calling it “government takeover of health care.” Judging by the election results, it seems the tactic worked.

While I’ve cited only GOP examples so far, this insidious combination of dumbing-down issues and manipulating people with carefully chosen words isn’t exclusive to Repubs. The elephant party is better at it, but the donkey party does it too.

In fact, Luntz has expressed indignation at Democrats for “misleading” citizens with “poll-driven language.” I’ll bet the irony never struck him until someone pointed it out.

Lately I’ve seen less sophisticated Dem partisans try to stifle criticism of the President by labeling critics “Obama haters.” There’s no need to respond with substance, after all, if you can just get people to regard the speaker as filled with blind hatred.

Don’t expect the Luntz-style attack politics to die anytime soon, since it works rather well. Politicians win with it.

And, like any successful idea, it has crossed borders. The Conservative Party in my native land has embraced Luntzian demagoguery with gusto.

As Canada heads toward a May 2 election, the Conservatives repeatedly invoke the spectre of a “reckless coalition” of opposition parties usurping power if the Conservatives don’t win a majority in Parliament.

They also deride opponents as “soft on crime” and clinging to a “hug-a-thug” mentality, because we all know throwing massive numbers of lawbreakers in prisons works so darn well.

The attack words are repeated as if, as a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen says, politicians think voters are stupid.

It’s annoying, dishonest, and insulting to the populace, and Frank Luntz deserves much of the blame. Shame on Frank Luntz.

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About Stimpson

A curious chap, indeed.
This entry was posted in Commentary, conservative Republicans, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Hey, did you hear what Frank Luntz said?

  1. osori says:

    Great post, Mike. I didn’t realize how methodical this subversion of public discourse really is.

  2. Norman says:

    Why else do you think that they want to dumb down the population? That way, they can dupe them into voting the way they want. How sad this country has become, the very people that are in charge, are the real true terrorists, not any foreign outsiders. Everyday that passes, brings the country closer to having its own uprising. Unless there is a third choice, one that is for the people, then indeed, there will be a revolution, not in the word sense, but in the fighting sense. The fools on the hill, with the backing of the plutocracy, will make their move. Some may think that it’s already too late, but it’s never too late, the country only has to awake from the drunken slumber it’s in.

    • Stimpson says:

      As I alluded to, there is a bipartisan element to the Luntzian style. Dems do it too, after all. And besides politicians, Luntz consults big business. Mainstream pols and big business can really be viewed as the same group, the same club. They all have an interest in seeing the masses think about the political economy in a certain way – as self-interested consumers, as greedy creatures, and not as workers and community members who have good reason to look out for the interests of their peers.

    • Stimpson says:

      BTW, thanks for reading my ramblings, Norman.

      • Norman says:

        I try to keep up, like what I read here, from all who input. Having an open blog such as this, gives the spread of ideas, thoughts, direction to those willing to participate, which will only become more involved in this march for freedom, against those who would subvert the population to achieve their gains for dominance. It isn’t easy, requires a dedication, hard work, but pays off if enough band together in the same cause. The pendulum is on their side at the moment, but will reverse course allowing those with the resolve, to win.

  3. Teeluck says:

    Good Ramblings bro…good Ramblings.

    • Stimpson says:

      Thanks so much, Teeluck, for the kind remark and for dropping by and incidentally reminding me of how I haven’t visited your blog in ages. Cheers.

  4. scaredstiff says:

    Betsy McCaughey, former Lieutenant Governor of NY, I believe first came up with Death Panels. Being the opportunist that he is, Luntz made the most of it. btw old Betsy is credited with stopping Clinton’s hand at health care. Thanks for keeping the Luntz fresh in our minds.

  5. Jack Jodell says:

    Mike,
    Thank you for revealing Lintz for the despicable fraud he is. I feel bad that your own Conservatives have embraced his methodology and language, but I do believe you will overcome it. For Canadians have long proven themselves to be more principled, pragmatic, and smarter than their boisterous neighbors to the south!

  6. Krell says:

    There has always been an advantage in setting the dispute on your terms. Instead of Union busting it was “Right to Work”. To settle the Health care debate, you have to get past the “Death Panels”. Kerry was destroyed by the “Swift Boat” campaign.

    But is this the work of evil conspirators or just the result of marketing? The chicken or the egg riddle. Which is coming first? Is the dumbing down occurring because of manipulation or is the dumbing down occurring because the general population is becoming dumbed down?

    Look at everything you see in the media. Movies are made with quicker and quicker action shots. Music videos are using quicker and quicker segments, rarely is on camera shot used for more than a couple of seconds. Sound bites are 20 seconds anymore, more like 2 seconds. Everybody, in particular the United States, wants everything RIGHT NOW. Give me the concept or idea in 10 seconds or less. I NEED IT RIGHT NOW!

    I have a theory in that Wall Street didn’t produce as much indignation with the general population demanding more people see jail time because the crime couldn’t be explained in 20 seconds or less. This allowed the politicians to skirt their responsibility in holding the crooks responsible.

    Society seems to be demanding the simpleton phrases and answers and will not follow anything more complicated. Fast food thoughts for the fast food mind. A sad spiral to chaos that seems to have no influences preventing it.

    What’s really bothersome is that conditions today are going to seem like the old days to the whatever happens in the future. How short can the attention span be developed to? Will 5 seconds seem too long in the future? Will a 30 second commercial need 60 different camera shots?

    • That’s an extraordinary theory Krell! Smart fella. You are completely right on… things are way way too fast. Time is accelerated anymore… one wonders if evolution will accelerate as quickly? Good commentary David.

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