My Christmas list

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahDecember 21, 2011 

As I reflect on the year, I'm concerned that so much rancor and ill-will is fracturing the nation. Are we really that different from one another? I would venture to guess that if people were required to experience each other's socio-economic circumstance, class, religion and culture before we speak ill of each other, we would find more commonality than differences between us.

So why do we differ on so many issues -- religion, immigration, the economy, taxes, energy policy, regulation, the environment, national security, civil liberties, education, you name it.

Perhaps this may lend some insight. If you have not heard of Frank Luntz, to be sure, you have been affected by him. Frank Luntz is a behavioral economist. He is famously known for his work with focus groups. He tests words and phrases and monitors the emotion it evokes.

Mr. Luntz says "80% of our life is emotion, and only 20% is intellect." What this means is that if you use the right words, you can get most people to agree with you where they normally wouldn't irrespective of the facts.

In a 2009 interview with Sean Hannity regarding the healthcare debate, Frank Luntz said, "If you call it [the proposed healthcare plan] a public option, the American people are split. If you call it a government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it." Sean Hannity said from now on, I'm going to call it a government option.

Subsequently, Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon sent an email to the Fox staff: "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option'... Please use the term government-run health insurance' or when brevity is a concern, 'government option,' whenever possible. This hardly sounds like Fox's motto "we report, you decide." It sounds more like we report in a way to influence how you decide.

In 2006, Luntz wrote a memo for Republicans identifying certain words they should never say and offered replacement words. "Sometimes it is not what you say that matters but what you don't say ... from today forward, you are the language police. From today forward these are the words never to say again. Never say tax reform, say tax simplification; not estate tax but death tax; not capitalism but free market economy; not healthcare choice but the right to choose.

In Newt Gingrich's 1996 memo to GOPAC, he said "Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party ... That is why we have created this list of words and phrases. When speaking of yourself or your positions use the words success, commitment, crusade, family, freedom, moral duty, incentive, prosperity, vision, reform, liberty, principle, rights, passionate, tough, strength and legacy. When speaking of Democrats and liberals use the words mandate, coercion, disgrace, bureaucracy, sick, corruption, destroy, lie, unionized, waste, shame, steal, traitors, pathetic, collapse, incompetent, taxes, crisis, welfare. Today that language has been updated to include confiscation, job-killer, takers, death panel, class warfare etc. Sound familiar?

Frank Luntz is handsomely rewarded for creating language that the GOP and 1% can apply to the 99% in order to foment intra-class warfare -- divide and conquer. The Occupiers have pierced through this subterfuge and Frank Luntz is "frightened to death."

The master wordsmith has a plan. "They should occupy a job and take a bath," Luntz said. "I get that joke. But man, they're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism. And so I'm trying to get that word removed and replace it with either economic freedom or free market. Let's be clear. Capitalism per se is not a problem but greedy, irresponsible, unethical, and immoral capitalism is.

So what do I wish for Christmas? Now that we know how we are being manipulated I wish the American people would apply more intellect than emotion when deciding how to achieve a better tomorrow.

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