From his seat on the bus delivering him to aid retreating congressional Republicans conjuring their newest Dem-defeating strategies last weekend in Baltimore, Republican pollster/linguistic illusionist Frank Luntz issued a dare. He was on Public Radio International’s (PRI) aptly named To the Point , hosted by Warren Olney, a rare journalistic beacon of integrity and trustworthiness, where the discussion was about political rhetoric before and after Tucson.
Olney had quoted Glenn Beck’s stated desire “to kill Charlie Rangel with a shovel” and his prayers that “Dennis Kucinich will burst into flames.” These quotes prompted the Machiavellian conservative “language guy” to say “What I don’t understand is… why you haven’t provided quotes from MSNBC and Keith Olbermann… if you say Fox you’ve got to say MSNBC.” Then Luntz challenged Olney to invite him back so he could counter with examples of progressive media and Democratic Congressional leaders using violent imagery against the right.
Luntz is far from the first to label MSNBC an all-left-all-the-time network. But, unlike some who equate the station with Fox News out of ignorance — the Roger Ailes-led network actually is all-right-all-the-time — Luntz, knows full well that MSNBC has, among other non-liberal programming, a multi-hour block of Republican-friendly talk hosted by ex-Fla. GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough. So unless being more moderate than Sean Hannity equals being liberal, Luntz purposefully mis-equated the two.
Earlier in the discussion Luntz began his campaign of denigration by accusing some Democrats of scorning congressional Republicans for reading the Constitution on the floor of the House. “You think this document’s that important,” he imitated Dems taunting, “to read it on the floor?” And the usually adept Olney didn’t question the charge.
Did you hear Democrats say it wasn’t important to read the Constitution? Of course not, because they didn’t. What happened in the real world was that Democratic Reps took turns with their GOP colleagues to read the Constitution. What some Dems did lament was the majority party in the House leaving out such original imperfections as the acceptance of slavery and the absence of female voting rights.
A minor detail, perhaps, but yet another distortion of reality floating through the air waves undisturbed. The cumulative weight of this kind of manipulation contributes to the purported lack of support that much of the country apparently feels for the kinds of stances and issues advocated by Dems.
Our reality is formed from the accrual of such details. Today’s reality, shaped by our politics, is much too heavily influenced by the deliberate distortions of Frank Luntz and company, which overwhelmingly outnumber those coming from the other side. Can you imagine a world based on accuracy?
If indeed Luntz returns to To The Point, listen carefully — as Elizabeth Warren warns about the banks — for tricks and traps. Luntz may rattle off examples covering the past four years that he had to spend a night on Nexus researching. Ask yourself how they compare to say, one typical hour of Beck and his blackboard. And who wins on virulence?
Luntz gets paid big bucks by the right to play these linguistic tricks on the rest of us; it’s our job to catch his sleight-of-hand and call him on it, and to encourage all the non-political junkies we know to recognize his misdirection for what it is.
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