Posts tagged ‘Frank Luntz’

Spin Art

Vocabulary question: When your weird Uncle Mortimer left you all that money, the tax people who work for your other uncle — for Uncle Sam, that is — took part of it back. What is the name of the tax that gave them the right to do that?

Answer: It’s called an “inheritance tax.” If you said “estate tax” you would also be right. However, if you said “death tax,” you would not only be wrong but you would have fallen (I learned from reading the 21 May issue of the New York Times Magazine) for one of the sneaky tricks of a man named Frank Luntz who works for the Republican Party (and other right-wing bodies). What does Luntz do for them? He thinks up emotionally loaded names for things that they want people to have an emotional reaction to.

Take for instance President Obama’s health-care program. That’s a perfectly descriptive name for a specific plan, but it’s not how Luntz wants you to think of it. He prefers that you call it “a Washington takeover.”

That’s not one of his most ingenious creations, because it’s based on an outright lie: there’s no “takeover” in the President’s plan. The consumer keeps all his freedom of choice. He simply has more options to choose from.

But actually Luntz can get people to change how they feel — and vote — without even having to lie. Do the oil companies to want to make voters feel more kindly about despoiling an environment? Don’t call it “drilling for oil” any more. Call it just “energy exploration.”

If you want to see how this relabeling works in action, just turn on the Fox news channel for a while, or listen to a panel of Republican senators discussing world events.