Frank Luntz is the master message-smith whose advice to Republicans has largely shaped their anti-health care reform messaging. I'm working on a post about him right now, another installment in my series on propaganda and how Republicans have been using it effectively to kneecap healthcare reform and other issues of national interest.
Katie Couric interviewed him recently. Luntz is a smart man. I don't like his ideologically inspired work, but I admit he makes some good observations about American attitudes right now. There is also much he says that is poorly qualified and ideologically slanted. Time allowing, I'll comment on some segments of that interview later.
"Oh, Look, Ma - They're Angry!"
There is much there that is discussion-worthy. Nevertheless, I found this bit particularly disingenuous: he goes on about how people are angry and expressed that anger at town hall meetings this summer - as if the messaging that he himself created had no relationship to that outworking. This summer's town hall protests were fueled, first and foremost, by Republican propaganda and overt disinformation, much of which was authored by Luntz or riffed directly off his messaging work as a political consultant.
Emphasizing this, as if it were a phenomenon that sprang organically from populist anger, he says his "focus groups are getting louder. They're already angry when they walk in there."
Of course they are. They've been fed a diet of lies and had their emotions stoked by Frank himself, and the GOP leadership which has taken their talking points word for word from his playbook. One cannot then point to the fruit of the tree one poisoned and say, all innocent-like, "Oh look! That's poisonous fruit!"
For Luntz to remark that "the public is angry" is like an aggressive parent who says to their picked-on-yet-indecisive 8-year-old, "You're not gonna take that lying down, are you? You're gonna stand up for yourself and fight, right? You oughta punch the punk." And then in the meeting with the principal that follows that acting out, says, "Well, he was pretty angry, you know..."
Gee. Wonder why.
People en mass can be goaded to act out in exactly that manner. Given "permission" by authority figures or authoritative organizations, they check their otherwise sound judgment at the door and indulge in the sanctioned liberty to go ballistic. Shout others down, physically intimidate people, phone in anonymous death threats: joy! We have a rationale that justifies it, and even official guidelines about how to disrupt town hall meetings. Let's run with this before someone notices we're having tantrums and being bullies...
Politics as second-grade recess playground. It's not much of a stretch, as analogies go.
Blind, or Conniving?
Luntz strikes me as a smart man, certainly an observant one curious and attentive to the world around him. Does he really not get the connection between his work on messaging, and the acting out of those messages in the public forum? Perhaps not. People very engaged with their work and ideologically oriented often have notable blind spots about actions and consequences. I'd like to think that's so in Luntz's case, because otherwise he is a totally dissembling S.O.B. who is beyond cynical about the social effects of his propaganda work.
Luntz seems to have some measure of clue, so I'd like to think there's an ethical person in there as well. I'm hoping his blindspots are simply that, not dissemblance.
More on Luntz and his messaging efforts in part 3 of my Propaganda series, which I should have online this week.
The earlier installments are:
1. For those keeping track of such things, I have two pithy series underway right now. One is on propaganda, the other is on authoritarianism. From here on out my goal is to post on each theme in alternating weeks. This week I'm due for part 3 in the Propaganda series, regarding messaging. Next week, look for part 3 on the Authoritarian personality.
This post originally appeared at Cogitations.