Hope and Policy
Luntz, the public
relations specialist extraordinaire, who has
remodeled the languange, if not the policy, of the Bush administration,
has pointed out the vital significance, not only of fear, but of hope.
Whether the power of words is
for good, or for less admirable goals, this observation has had a
profound impact upon the marketing of Bush administration policies.
A significant amount of
documentation of Mr. Luntz's advice to the Bush administration is now
on the internet for the inquisative.
his June, 2004 memo
on how to talk about Iraq ( Rule #1: “9/11 changed
everything” is the
context by which everything follows. No speech about homeland
or Iraq should begin without a reference to 9/11”)
his 2002 memo
on how to talk about the environment
current talking points
for the 2006 election cycle, including the "14
Words Never to Use"
In his 2002 memo
, Luntz advised Republicans to exploit the last 'window of opportunity'
for Republicans to argue that the science of global warming is
uncertain. He wrote: "The scientific debate is closing [against us] but
not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the
science." ( page8)
Interestingly, this advice was
preceeded by this advise (page2),
first (and most important) step to neutralizing the problem and
eventually bringing people around to your point of view on
environmental issues is to convince them of your sincerity and concern."
And, "(Absolutely do not raise
economic issues first.) Tell them a personal story from your life..." (page
Mr. Luntz excels at advising how
to address issues with carefully crafted language. His domain is
not that of policy. Specifically relating to issues of
concern to women, Mr. Luntz proclaimed,
"I do not subscribe to the
that we must change our substance .... Listening to women and adapting
a new language and a more friendly style will itself be rewarded if
executed effectively and with discipline."
Less this sound cynical, Mr.
Luntz was quoted
in the Guardian 3/4/03, “A compelling story, even if
factually inaccurate, can be more
emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth... The facts
are beside the point. It's all in how you frame your argument.”
In "Let Them Eat Words",
Deborah Tannen describes Luntz's strategy as
"Stun Them With Fear, Lure Them
With Hope", illustrated
by this statement of Luntz, "Politics remains an emotional arena, and
television has made fear a very salable commodity. But fear alone is
not enough. The commodity Americans most desire -- and the one in
shortest supply -- is hope."
After "9/11 Changed
Everything.", Mr. Luntz's #2 talking point ("Before you can talk Iraq, you must talk about Homeland Security") pertains
to "Prevention": "...it's
equally important to paint a vivid - but not too graphic - picture
of what you hope to prevent in the future. Prevention is a positive,
optimistic, hopeful concept...."
And Mr. Luntz believes in
"There's a simple rule: You say
again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it
again, and you say it again, and then again and again and
again…”--Frank Luntz, in a Frontline PBS interview, 11/9/04
"The American people have
short attention spans – and they do not always see the big picture
unless it is unveiled to them..." - from hisJune, 2004 memo, page 2
George W. Bush has absorbed Mr.
Luntz's lessons well.
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over
and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the
propaganda.” George W. Bush, 5/24/05
Linguistic expertise has
undoubtably played a large role in the George w. Bush's electoral
How one might address Americans
who believe the administration has been more successful using language
for the purpose of manipulation, than at constructing
effective policy consistent with our values, is an entirely different
In the words
of spinmeister Frank Luntz, "I'm not going to let you twist the words,
because if I say to you that you can sell a politician the way you sell
soap-and it may even look that way from the outside-that says to
Americans that they shouldn't respect politicians."