This is The Monday Line
By Denis G. Campbell
The Frank Luntz-ification of global politics has begun. It operates sans brake pedal or modulation switch. It works because ‘low information voters’ are easily manipulated. They will spread whatever simple but dangerous meme one trains them to believe. Frank Luntz is the linguistic puppet master. Get everyone in lock-step and off we go!
Why should you care? Because one need only look back three quarters of a century to the extermination of 6 million members of the Jewish faith, with the tacit support of ‘the people’ on this continent, to see how simple memes can gain dangerous traction and win.
In the recent UK General Election, a number of Labour voters quietly conceded to candidates that “they could not vote Labour because of their fear of Scottish Nationals taking over England.”
How did that fear spread?
For the last three weeks of the campaign, every Tory candidate, in complete lockstep, repeated this seven word phrase: the “SNP-backed Labour government would be dangerous” for Britain. Seven words… ‘SNP-backed Labour government would be dangerous,’ became truth in the voting booth.
It was a brilliant political strategy. The Tories (like US Republicans) know FEAR of extremism of any kind, in relatively good economic times, can be a powerful motivator. Find the right mantra, ride it to victory.
And this mantra was repeated by all 650 candidates. Add in every Tory SPIN doctor. Let the echo chamber of a complicit press, which showed no signs of objectivity in reporting. Stir in the electronic media pouncing on every word despite Labour’s Miliband repeatedly pledging he would not go into government with the SNP. It was a brilliant propaganda move that would make Tokyo Rose and the Nazi machine blush with pride.
Now some of you are saying, ‘whoa, pump the brakes there a bit, Denis.’ And I used to think such statements were ‘over the top.’ Now the evidence shows otherwise. Since 9-11, Islamophobia, police institutional racism and growing white outrage defining anyone down on their luck and needing a temporary helping hand as part of the ‘takers’ society, has fed a simmering rage that bubbled over in Baltimore, Ferguson and other cities around the globe.
News is now a collection of fact-free repeated memes. Repeat any simple statement over and over again on TV… it becomes truth. The ‘SNP-backed Labour government would be dangerous.’ Even those not drinking the Tory Koolaid had doubts. Those doubts became whispers. The whispers became votes.
Frank Luntz is a US Republican consultant who focuses his entire career on creating simple, catchy linguistic power plays. How can I bring Republicans in lockstep to the propaganda position I want them to occupy? And how much collateral damage can I do to my opponent using the words as a club? Now this has found its way into the UK system.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is a loathsome political figure. His anti-immigration and racist views are tempered by his ‘everyman appeal’ and willingness to have a pint anywhere, any time. He softened his Party’s insanity down ticket by being ‘just Nige.’ Simple sentiments ranged from, ‘Britain is too crowded’ to ‘English only’ as the preface to many statements. The simpler the statement, the easier the message, the bigger the fear. The greater the turnout/outcome.
In 2010 his party was a non-factor. In 2015 his message translated into millions of votes for the Ukip Party. Because of our broken system, he earned just one seat in Parliament. As much as I dislike him, this was a patently unfair outcome. Under proportional representation he would have been as powerful as the Dutch anti-immigrant candidate Pim Fortuyn 15 years ago. He should have more seats, then people would see his party in action. After a brief period of chaos, the voters would throw everyone out and start over just like they did after 90 days in The Netherlands. That is how a Democracy works.
And the most dangerous use of Luntz-ification is around reverse racism.
Michelle Obama gave a stirring commencement speech at the traditional African American Tuskegee University. She spoke of challenges she faced in her life and gave the students an inspiring lift-off as they attempt to start their careers.
FOX News and the right attacked her message as racist. Every show and host played the ‘reverse racism’ card to perfection. The meme was designed to show how aggrieved white people are worse off in the USA under Obama. Why? Low information white voters look at black people and Affirmative Action as a class of takers. ‘They get all the advantages and we white people get none,’ despite 50% or more unemployment in black community vs 5% in white one? Aggrieved whites? Really?
This is incredibly dangerous without a brake pedal or modulation switch. FOX calls it ‘Fair and Balanced’ free speech. And when it leads to violence, they are so lacking in any sense of morality, responsibility or compassion, they feel they can hold their hands up and say, ‘not our fault.’ How? Even with blood on their hands, they refuse to take responsibility for their actions because they are the propaganda arm of the GOP and are effective in spreading hatred and lies.
Now as a white woman Democrat on the left (Hillary Clinton) begins her pursuit of the White House, she is under withering attack from Luntz linguistic cronies. They want nothing more than to send her screaming from the race with memes from Benghazi to Travelgate, the Rose law firm to Vince Foster’s suicide being an inside job. It will be a long, disgusting fight with but this one purpose… suppress voter turnout of black, Hispanic and Asian Democrats and whip up Republican fear to win back the White House.
What seven words will they find and use over the next 18 months?