Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Surge vs. Escalation: Chuck Schumer vs. Frank Luntz for Linguistic Domination

Listening to Chuck Schumer's appearance on the Diane Rehm show this morning, it seems that the Democrats have been reading Frank Luntz's book -- in every mention of the new (well, new-ish) strategy of Our Dear Leader George W. Bush, Defender of the Faith, President of the United States and the Chief Decider of the Big Steaming Mess in Iraq, he referred to it as the "escalation" (RealAudio here).

Actually, I think he slipped and called it the "surge" once.

This was interesting to me, since I had been listening to Frank Luntz's appearance on the show the week before (RealAudio here).

Luntz, one of the architects of the Contract With America, and more recently, progenitor of the terms "Death Tax" and "Global Climate Change," is an evil genius when it comes to the use of language, with equal parts of evil and genius. (The title of his new book is "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear.")

Of course, most of the rationalizations behind his rebranding efforts are contorted and intellectually dishonest, but damn, the phraseology is effective.

I think his achievements in the fields of linguistic doubletalk, newspeak and euphemism are only surpassed by that unknown and unsung Hasbro marketing guy who came up with the term "action figure" for dolls for boys. (Dolls. They're DOLLS. Dolls with guns, maybe, but they're dolls. Genius!)

Luntz hates the term "surge," preferring something more bloodless like "restructuring" or "reassessment", so perhaps it's a false dichotomy. But he should be flattered. Or something.

I notice that the use of the term escalation was also in full effect in an ad that was run locally during the Super Bowl; it features vets against the surge/escalation, it's run by VoteVets.org, and it's on YouTube -- the ending is a little shocking:

Yes, the injured vet is indicating "on the other hand" -- the pro-surge/escalation viewpoint -- by gesturing with his stump.

Makes waving the bloody shirt pale in comparison.

1 comment:

media concepts said...

This is something I blog and talk about all the time. Luntz had the nerve to write this post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-luntz/words-that-dont-work_b_39208.html in the Huffington Post on January 21, 2007, telling Democrats that they should stay away from language that only serves to attack or divide. This is from the guy who, in addition to the terms you list, helped create and disseminate divisive attack language like "Democrat Party," "pro-abortion," "cut and run," "liberal media," "environmental extremists," "junk science" and others. Luntz was blitzed by over 200 comments, pointing out his laughable hypocrisy. It's about time the Democrats caught up in this all-important war over the language used to frame debates.