Monday, January 10, 2011

On The Arizona Massacre and Gabrielle Giffords: The Right Claims Innocence But Their Language Wars Began with Newt Gingrich and GOPAC

Watching the Right-wing circle the wagons and play the "what me?" game in the aftermath of The Arizona Massacre is not surprising. Nevertheless, their display of moral cowardice remains no less sickening. One would think that for a group who ostensibly pride themselves on "personal responsibility" that the events on Saturday would prompt a moment of critical self-reflection and contrition. I guess not.

Politics is chess and not checkers. Of course, candidates and parties can go after one another. But, we should also be mindful of (as I am so fond so saying) how styles make fights. Clearly, and this is not a condemnation per se or even a criticism, the Republican Party has been masterful in using explicit and coded language in order to generate fear and anxiety on the part of its electoral base.

Research in social-psychology has repeatedly demonstrated how fear drives the Conservative, authoritarian personality type. Thus, it makes good sense that a Right leaning politician would both encourage an environment of political insecurity and rage, and then seek to benefit from it.

Evidence of this strategy is none too hard to find.

For example, here is an excerpt from New Gingrich's style guide that was circulated during the GOPAC meetings of the 1990s in which Republican candidates are counseled on how to best describe Democrats and liberals. Notice: many of the words and phrases are still in use by the Tea Party GOP today. And one must ask, what type of politics and politicians has this game plan spawned?

Language: A Key Mechanism of Control

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."

That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used...

The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.

Contrasting Words

Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • "compassion" is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor ...)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

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