Posted 7 years ago on Dec. 11, 2011, 9:32 p.m. EST by thomasthetank
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Republican pollster: Words can kill Occupy Wall Street BY JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF Published 10:59 p.m., Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Frank Luntz is a pollster, omnipresent on Fox News and at Republican retreats, who tests words, phrases and message themes for the "iron triangle" -- corporations, right-wing media and conservative image-makers -- who run the colossus that is American conservatism.
Luntz has now taken on the job of spin doctor for the 1 percent.
A master of defusing, defining and disinformation -- he lately strategized on how to block creation of the feds' new Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- Luntz is on top of his game.
Luntz was the guy who tested themes for New Gingrich's "Contract with America" in the 1990s. A decade later, he cannily told Fox to purge the phrase "public option" from its health care vocabulary and hammer at themes such as "government-run health care" and "government option."
He advised GOP insurgent Patrick Buchanan in his 1992 presidential run. In 2003, however, he was telling Congress' Republican rulers how to win "the environmental communications battle." The key steps were to excise the phrase "global warming" in favor of the milder "climate change" and "continue to make lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."
And last week -- witnessed by Chris Moody of The Ticket -- Luntz delivered Orwellian advice on how to talk about Occupy Wall Street to the Republican Governors Association at a Florida retreat.
Why was this lesson necessary?The soon-to-be-evicted campers at Seattle Central Community College should take heart. "I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort, I'm frightened to death," said Luntz. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."
The solution: Don't challenge society's inequities. Change the language of debate. Some tips:
Corporate bonuses: Americans of all stripes have voiced outrage at multi-million-dollar bonuses handed out to executives of the banks and financial institutions that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars deemed too big to fail.
Corporations should respond, argued Luntz, not by curtailing bonuses but by banning the word "bonus."
"If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry. It's 'pay for performance.'"
Taxing the rich: The American public has never warmed to soaking the rich. Nowadays, however, there's the widespread belief that they should at least bathe regularly -- and contribute to keeping such measures as the payroll-tax cut and extension of unemployment benefits.
Enter Luntz. The Republicans should never talk about government "taxing the rich," but instead talk of "taking from the rich."
"If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," the public gives a thumbs up, said Luntz. But instead, "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. 'Taxing,' the public will say yes."
Excise "capitalism": The word conjures executive jets, lavish retreats and long cigars -- ideal for the right in denouncing "labor bosses" but dangerous when it comes to defining captains of industry.
"I'm trying to get that word removed and we're replacing it with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market'," Luntz told GOP governors."The public ... still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of quote 'Wall Street' end quote, we've got a problem."
Pretend to sympathize: Luntz is no fan of Gingrich's bathe-and-get-a-job advice to the Occupy campers. He prefers the soft sell. "First off, here are three words for you: 'I get it,'" he told Republican governors.
"I 'get' that you're angry. I 'get' that you've seen inequality.I 'get' that you want to fix the system." After getting it, Luntz advised, talk Republican policy as a solution to the problem."
Replace "middle class": Democrats have made gains when they talk about those who work hard and play by the rules -- Wall Street is deficient on the latter count -- and in speaking about the "forgotten" middle class.
Luntz's solution is to send "middle class" -- the term -- packing. "They (Democrats) cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers," he told GOP governors. "We can say we defend the 'middle class' and the public will say, 'I'm not sure about that.' But defending 'hardworking taxpayers' and Republicans have an advantage."
"Compromise" is out: America has worked for 225 years, in large part, because regions and states and different groups have worked out (usually imperfectly) their differences. But "compromise" won't do in a polarized society, especially when you must manipuate the polarized.
"If you talk about 'compromise,' Luntz advised, "they'll say you're selling out. Your side doesn't want you to 'compromise.' What you use in that to replace it with is 'cooperation.' It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles and still get the job done."
The GOP pollster tweaks other words. "Entrepreneur," which implies wealth, should be replaced by "job creators" and "small business owners." Instead of talking about "jobs," the governors were told to use "careers."
One theme runs through everything that Luntz does: blame government.
Last year, in "The Language of Financial Reform," he urged taking attention away from hedge funds, derivatives, insider trading and bank bailouts. Instead, frame the issue as a battle against government bureaucrats.
"This is your critical advantage," he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Washington's incompetence is the common ground on which you can build support."
He was back at it before Republican governors, who are, after all, appoint-and-boss bureaucrats in 29 states.
"It's not about 'government spending,' it's about 'waste,'" Luntz told them. "That's what makes people angry."
We can learn a lot from this guy, on how a relentless message machine can deceive a free society and manipulate ordinary people into acting against their own interests.