Republicans get lessons in propaganda

commentDecember 10, 2011 

"Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; ... it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side ...The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble."

-- Adolph Hitler, "Mein Kampf"

While most Alaskans were suffering through another cold, dark week, Gov. Sean Parnell was hard at work -- on another junket, this time to the Republican Governor's Association meeting in Florida. Odd -- no palm tree beach shots on the state website.

In fact, no official mention of the trip at all -- just one picture on his Facebook page saying the governor participated in a "panel discussion on energy issues."

One of the presenters at the governors' conference was Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist whose specialty is "testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate."

In other words, if you're a politician whose policies benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the middle class, Mr. Luntz will help you choose words to convince the masses to vote against their own best interests and vote for you.

Luntz is so good that he was awarded the 2010 PolitiFact Lie of the Year honor for his promotion of the phrase "government takeover" to refer to health care reform, starting in the spring of 2009.

The reports of Luntz's coaching session for the Republican governors about how to speak to us are fascinating. And chilling.

Luntz acknowledged that the general public does not agree that Republicans defend the "middle class." So how do Republicans convince the masses that tax cuts for them are bad, but tax cuts for millionaires are good? Piece of cake, as it turns out.

According to Luntz, "If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," people like that. But, "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking (millionaire) Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes."

Apparently you just have to change a few words and millionaires will maintain or even gain massive new tax breaks while average Americans feed their families Top Ramen. Again.

How do you convince working Americans that government investments in education, roads, bridges, Social Security and Medicare are bad, even though they benefit from them? Quite simple, according to Luntz: "It's not about 'government spending.' It's about 'waste.' That's what makes people angry." Tweak a word or two and Grandma will support having her Medicare and Social Security cut while Republicans blast Obama for government waste.

How do you justify the Republican-imposed partisan gridlock that has led to an all-time low public opinion of Congress? Luntz has an answer for that too: "Don't ever say you're willing to 'compromise.' If you talk about 'compromise,' they'll say you're selling out. Your side doesn't want you to 'compromise.' "

Luntz discussed how to frame the growing Occupy Movement as well: "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism, so we're replacing (capitalism) with either 'economic freedom' or 'free market.' The public ... still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we're seen as defenders of 'Wall Street,' we've got a problem."

What to say about the Occupiers? Three words. I suspect that jaws dropped when Luntz did not suggest, "take a bath" or "get a job," as Newt Gingrich did. No, you have to be a little more cunning when dealing with the average American voter.

According to Luntz, "First off, here are three words for you all: 'I get it.' ... 'I get that you're angry. I get that you've seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system." Then, Luntz instructed the would-be Republican puppet masters, pivot to the same-as-always Republican solutions. Tax breaks for millionaires. And corporations.

Of course, no Republican strategy session on dealing with the grimy masses would be complete without blaming Washington. It's always Washington's fault. Tell them, he said, "You shouldn't be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington."

But how to deal with those multimillion-dollar bonuses that Wall Street will be doling out come Christmas time while middle-class America struggles to pay the heating bill? This is a problem. Or, perhaps not. According to Luntz, strike "bonus" from your vocabulary. "If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you're going to make people angry. It's 'pay for performance.' "

Choose your words carefully. Replace "jobs" with "careers," "entrepreneurs" with "job creators," and "middle class" with "hardworking taxpayers."

We should all sleep easier knowing that we paid for Gov. Parnell to learn the art of political propaganda.

He doesn't really want to lower taxes on the most profitable oil companies in the history of civilization. He wants to keep government from taking money from hard-working, job-creating Alaskans. He doesn't want to cut health care for children and pregnant women. He wants to cut government waste.

And, by the way, he gets it. He gets that we pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the U.S. He gets that we have some of the highest home-heating costs in the nation. He gets that children are homeless and go to bed hungry.

And he has a solution: tax breaks for oil companies.


Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM/95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. on KYUR Channel 13.