Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Mechanics of Class Warfare

First, a bit of humour:
“Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.”
Next, here is a bit from an article on how right wing political "consultant" Frank Luntz is advising his clients with techniques to deflect the Occupy Wall Street crowd's message of the 99% versus the 1%:
... here’s how Luntz’s 10-strategy playbook should be annotated for the Super Rich who are the real powers behind Luntz’s political clients.

We began with what Yahoo News reporter Chris Moody heard Luntz tell the 29 governors about how to “fight back by changing the way they discuss the movement.” My re-edits shift the focus to the real problem, the growing economic class war between the Super Rich and the 99%. Hopefully to improve the dialogue. Listen:

1. Capitalism is a bad word, don’t say it

Luntz admits: “I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market’.” He admits the public “prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral.” But don’t mention “capitalism?” Impossible: Capitalism is in the genes of these conservative governors. Has been since Adam Smith, the “Wealth of Nations” and 1776.

Deny capitalism exists? They’ll sound hypocritical to both occupiers and their base.

2. Taxing the rich is bad. Say government’s taking from the rich

Clever, say “taking” not “taxing.” This word play will backfire: Luntz admits “If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” polls show most voters want to tax millionaires. So shift the focus: Say government’s “taking the money from hard-working Americans?”

Luntz is too clever with his Words That Work. He’s also ignoring the fact that billionaires like Buffett, the new Patriotic Millionaires and others see a need for new tax revenues to feed the recovery.

3. Never say middle class: Call them hard-working taxpayers

Luntz admits that most Americans know the governors are not defending the middle class. He also knows polls show most Americans don’t trust the Republicans to fight for the middle class. But the advantage shifts when the buzzwords become “defending hard-working taxpayers.”

Warning: New buzzwords without new policies will ring hollow to many occupiers who are unemployed, lost benefits, lack job prospects or can’t find a new job for their training.

4. Stop talking about jobs, instead talk about careers

Luntz apparently has a very low opinion of the intelligence of occupiers. Folks, the word jobs just is not going away because of our 16% rate of underemployment. And yet Luntz asked his audience: “Everyone in this room talks about jobs,” but who wants a job? Raise your hands, he asked. “Few hands went up.”

But then “he asked ‘who wants a career?’ Almost every hand was raised. So why are we talking about jobs?” I wonder how many of the 99% laughed at that cruel joke. It really is “the economy stupid.” We really need jobs.

5. Never say government spending, it’s government waste

Luntz’s polling apparently tells him that most Americans are not against government spending, on them. But call it government waste, because that “makes people angry.”

6. Compromise is bad. Never admit you’re willing to compromise

The “no-new-taxes” pledge is a must for these 29 governors. Luntz warns: “If you talk about ‘compromise,’ they’ll say you’re selling out.” Your base “doesn’t want you to ‘compromise … replace it with ‘cooperation.’ It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you’re selling out those principles.”

Unfortunately, the public, especially the 99%, see past the jargon into today’s economic reality, and an “unprincipled” failure to “cooperate.”

7. Tell occupiers, ‘I get it, you’re angry, we’ll fix it.’ Sound sincere

Luntz definitely has chutzpa: “Here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.’” Then, he instructed, “offer Republican solutions to the problem.” What, more solutions? Better ones? Different from the solutions the 99-percenters believe are the problem?

Warning: America’s problem is not about politics. Not Republican political solutions. Nor Democrat. Too self-destructive. No, this is not about politics. This is a class war, a new American Revolution. Luntz’s sweet talk won’t convince governors. Nor their base. Nor the OWS who’ve been conned too often. So please get it. The 99% will smell the insincerity.

8. Entrepreneur or innovator are bad words, say job creator

From a purely behavioral economic standpoint this one is guaranteed to have unintended consequences and backfire. America’s global competitive thrust is driven by innovators and entrepreneurs. Imagine telling Silicon Valley they’re now just “small-business owners” and “job creators.” That’s guaranteed to make them wonder if these 29 states actually support America’s desperately needed “innovation” and “entrepreneurship.”

9. Never ask anyone to sacrifice, especially not millionaires

Luntz admits that “there isn’t an American today … who doesn’t think they’ve already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to ‘sacrifice,’ they’re going to be pretty angry at you.” Solution? Luntz says “talk about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.”

Afterwards? Once back home in their states, see who still gets the tax breaks … who’s forced to make concessions … who’s still “sacrificing” in a world of politicians who signed that “no-new-taxes-for-the-rich” pledge.

10. Blame Washington, and never take responsibility

No, Luntz does not get the OWS movement yet. These guys are natural enemies. Governors are also in a class war with occupiers. Yet Luntz tells them to tell the 99-Percenters: “You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington … occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

Warning, the 99% have long memories, they recall the Bush years, the massive war spending. They remember the 2008 meltdown. They see Wall Street greed unabated, their spending hundreds of millions fighting reforms. They know this is not about politics.

America is in a class war, the Super Rich versus the 99%. And the occupiers are not going away, vanishing into the cold winter nights. They’re already planning their version of an Arab Spring in 2012.

Finally, a little bonus … never, never say bonus!

Luntz also warned his state governors not to use the word bonus if they give staffers any extra money this holiday season. Why? The rest of America is sacrificing. “If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry.” Reframe your bonuses, call them “pay for performance.”

Yes, Luntz remains one of the greatest behavioral economists ever. He could rewire, debug and reprogram individual and collective brains with just a few verbal flip-flops.
Here is the Wikipedia background on Frank Luntz.

Sadly rhetoric can sway. Demagogues use words to bend people to their will. Without an awareness of the cynical lies used to manipulate people, democracy can be crushed. Think 1933 with the ascension of Hitler, the crushing of democracy, and the unleashing of the horrors of the Nazis.

If you don't believe, then seeing is believing. Here is a picture of the rising Jobbik party in Hungary (more info here in a Der Spiegel article):

Click to Enlarge

The maxim of George Santayana still applies:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Similarly, those who fail to understand demagogues and "political spin" are condemned to destroy democracy.

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