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How the GOP Abuses Language to Cloak its Criminal Political Agenda

By       Message Len Hart       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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Let's make a few things clear at the start. "Water boarding" is not "harsh interrogation" nor is it an "enhanced interrogation technique". It's bloody torture. "Water boarding" was invented by the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition --expert in such matters --called it what is: tortura del aqua. In English: Water Torture! I suggest that GOPPERS persisting in playing stupid word games submit themselves to tortura del aqua. Afterward, I will be happy to debate the issue with them. My comments are in response to the latest GOP absurdity from GOP Senator Kit Bond who likened Water Boarding to "swimming the backstroke":
GWEN IFILL: I just would like to -- but do you think that waterboarding, as I described it, constitutes torture? SEN. KIT BOND: There are different ways of doing it. It's like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. --GOP Senator Says Waterboarding Is "Like Swimming, Freestyle, the backstroke.
The fact of the matter is the GOP deliberately masks its real and heinous intentions with euphemisms and code words --techniques designed to simply change the subject, like "re-framing", itself a "euphemism" designed to hide GOP intentions to deceive.
That's why I wrote a "A New American Lexicon" for my business and political clients. But it soon made its way to the Internet, where it raised a storm among Democrats in Washington, DC, and in the blogosphere, who accused me of the worst kind of spin. They say I'm manipulating the debate in an attempt to obscure the true effect of the policies I advocate. Yet this lexicon genuinely seeks to establish a common language for a pro-business, pro-freedom agenda.

--Frank I. Luntz, The Lexicon of Political Clout

I have news for Luntz. Indeed, he is complicit in GOP intentions to deceive the American people. This is a subject about which I have some personal experience. For a brief period of time, as a result of my fairly extensive experience as a major market broadcast journalist, I "hired out" to big corporations to include Shell Oil, Exxon-Mobil, DuPont, HCA and Humana. My job was to teach their top executives how to "bridge" from unpleasant topics to company "lines", a process called "staying on message". I quit doing this for reasons of conscience. "Bridging" itself is a euphemism for changing the subject; staying on message a euphemism for avoiding the issue. I wrote manuals about this. And later burned them. The GOP will not debate because it dare not debate. It dare not deal in fact. The GOP, like the corporate flacks who support and inspire them, dare not deal with issues because the issues are against them. When corporate/GOP flacks are not lying outright, they lie by spinning. The GOP conducts "campaign schools" where "campaign manuals" instruct potential candidates with Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. It is disastrous for the nation that the GOP has made more malevolent use of those techniques than have the people's radicals for whom it was all intended. It was Alinsky who advised: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Torture is among the most pernicious issues obscured by the Bush administration's application of deceptive, right wing techniques. Bush's war of aggression on Iraq is another. Never the war on terrorism that it was called, it is rather, a war of naked aggression, a war crime, a violation of Nuremberg Principles and the Geneva Convention.
The Bush administration and the GOP generate euphemisms by the dozens to help shield the American people from the harsh realities of their foreign and domestic policies. Euphemisms like "collateral civilian casualties," are some the most disgusting examples of using words to remove the life from something and turn it into a non-issue. Most Americans who would hear, "We regret any collateral civilian casualties," would probably not think about what that statement really means. "Collateral civilian casualties" is of course a nice way to say "killing innocent people."

--Propaganda Machine tools: Euphemisms

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Social Security is another. Luntz, a self-described practitioner of these new psycho-socio linguistic techniques employs them himself in defense of Bush's attempt to dismantle the only governmental program that is an unqualified success: Social Security.
I have encouraged supporters of Social Security reform to counter such inaccuracies by talking about how the president's plan "personalizes" Social Security. When you personalize something, whether monogrammed towels or Social Security, you enhance ownership by allowing the owner to leave his or her mark on it. In this case, personalizing Social Security means partial ownership of our retirement. Instead of Washington making all the decisions, we will personally determine how a portion of our retirement savings should be invested.

--Frank I. Luntz, The Lexicon of Political Clout

Let's take this bit of re-framing apart. First of all, he even puts into quotes a new label, in fact, a new "frame". He wants you to believe that Bush's plan would "personalize" Social Security. How does giving your money to a Wall Street insider who gives you a worthless piece of paper in exchange "personalizing" Social Security? It isn't. Who would you trust --the only government program that "turns a profit" or a Wall Street insider whose only interest is the money to be made from it? What Luntz does not tell you is that it's your money already. It's already "personalized". We don't need the government to "personalize" or, in any other way, put its stamp of approval upon our right to the money that we have earned. It has been GOP regimes primarilythat have raided the Social Security trust fund since 1980. It was the profligate regimes of Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr and now Bush Jr that have manufactured the crisis by routinely raiding the "Social Security Trust Fund" to gloss over GOP deficits. Ronald Reagan alone doubled the size of the federal bureaucracy and tripled the national debt. But for that fact, Social Security might not be in trouble.
Before looking at taxation under Reagan, we must note that spending is the better indicator of the size of the government. If government cuts taxes, but not spending, it still gets the money from somewhere-either by borrowing or inflating. Either method robs the productive sector. Although spending is the better indicator, it is not complete, because it ignores other ways in which the government deprives producers of wealth. For instance, it conceals regulation and trade restricdons, which may require little government outlay.

--Sheldon L. Richman, The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan

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Or --the government just raids the Social Security trust fund. The GOP philosophy is this: break Social Security so that the party can justify abolishing it or worse "fixing" by using it's "failures" as excuse to enrich their Wall Street cronies. The GOP war on Social Security endangers not only the "security" of millions of Americans, it endangers to their lives, health, and well-being. "Broken" is another term with which the right wing hopes to "frame" the Social Security debate. Social Security might have been running a surplus were it not for GOP greed and incompetence. At last, turning Social Security over to Wall Street is not "personalizing" your retirement. That's the frame. What it is, in fact, is a payoff to Wall Street for its support of the GOP. The GOP/Wall Street insiders will make a killing off your money. Facts from the "no frame zone". The practice of journalism has succumbed to the right wing onslaught not only because most media has been bought out by the ideologues. Working journalists, who should know better, will write about "true facts" when writing about Bush.
He cited more facts (true or not, no reason to start believing anything he says now) than he has ever used in a speech. Second he remained particularly defiant.

--Radio Left

Facts are, by definition, true. Secondly, I am hard pressed to name an instance in which Bush has uttered a "fact" --true or otherwise described, if that's possible.
What Democratic strategists can learn from Luntz is to pay closer attention to crafting the language of political discourse, a pivotal factor in GOP victories of recent years. If we keep our language clear and straight, the GOP will be regarded as the party of equivocation.

--Ruy Teixeira's Donkey Rising

But will they? Issue framing is now practiced by armchair consultants and both parties are tarred. Focus groups are, in fact, consulted by both parties. Key words and phrases are tested for their effect. The holy grail is the sound byte distributed via various media. The media may be blamed for having conditioned the public, but our educational institutions must be held responsible for not having encouraged critical attitudes, for having failed to provide the cognitive skills necessary to cut through the crap. In summary, "water boarding" is not harsh or enhanced interrogation, it's torture, a war crime, as is the war of aggression against the people of Iraq. Privatizing Social Security is not "personalizing" it; it's another way the GOP pays off its base.


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Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The (more...)

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