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The Agony of Frank Luntz
January 11, 2014 9:12 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean when America's top political wordsmith loses faith in our ability to be persuaded?

A recent interview with Atlantic's Molly Ball. Frank Luntz on Mefi prev (1) (2) (3)
But what if the Real People are wrong? That is the possibility Luntz now grapples with. What if the things people want to hear from their leaders are ideas that would lead the country down a dangerous road?
posted by readery (92 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the '90s, he became known as the man who could sell any political message by picking the right words. "Estate tax" sounds worthy and the right thing for a democracy to do, but "death tax" sounds distasteful and unfair.

...

Most of all, Luntz says, he wishes we would stop yelling at one another

Yes, well, good for you. Maybe you should have thought about that before you helped rebuild an entire political party's identity around outright demonization of anyone to the left of William F Buckley.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:19 AM on January 11 [81 favorites]


Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed.

Natch.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 AM on January 11 [24 favorites]


I thought this was going to be a story about some sort of honest soul-searching Luntz underwent right up until the point where he blames Obama for everything.
posted by grouse at 9:22 AM on January 11 [17 favorites]


In the '90s, he became known as the man who could sell any political message by picking the right words.

Fuck Luntz, more like.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn't listen to each other as they once had. They weren't interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor.

Guess what, asshole? YOU are responsible for this. You and your side have actively perpetrated this for the past 60+ years.
posted by KGMoney at 9:23 AM on January 11 [18 favorites]


"Top political wordsmith" seems like an awfully kind way to say "effective lying bastard". Can't we just flush this guy away and forget about him?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:24 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


To those opposed to Luntz's kind of work, this should be the moment to bellow "EVEN A GOD-KING CAN BLEED".
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:26 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


You created your own agony, Fuck Lumps.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


It means hope.
posted by wuwei at 9:27 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


Professional well-poisoner laments poisoned well. Film at 11.
posted by Bromius at 9:34 AM on January 11 [116 favorites]


His travels to Las Vegas sound like the prelude to a great apocalyptic finish in the vein of a Stephen King epic. Well, one can hope, anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:39 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


must... hold.... back... RAGE... shirt SPLITTING... skin GREEN.... mondo TURN INTO MONGO... ME NO LIKE LUNTZ... MAKE MONGO ANGRY... ME HURT LUNTZ...
posted by mondo dentro at 9:41 AM on January 11 [10 favorites]


This piece is Luntz doing the same thing he's always done. "Oh, our poor political discourse! Oh, poor America! You know, I think that Obama guy's to blame..." Take a problem everyone can see (nevermind that he was instrumental in creating it) and shift the blame to your opponent. Luntz is on the clock through this whole thing.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:41 AM on January 11 [40 favorites]


I've mentioned before that I did several focus groups lead by Frank Luntz in the early 2000's. I was doing most anything I could for extra cash when I moved to NYC, and focus groups were the best. The groups I did with Frank weren't political; I did one about Brian Williams as a replacement for Tom Brokaw, one on chemicals in cosmetics, and another about how to deter pirated movie downloading. The thing about Frank Luntz that is so dangerous is how freaking likeable he is. He's funny, self deprecating, and not at all what you would imagine the most notorious right wing spin doctor of all time to be. You'd have a beer with him. He'd be someone you'd see at a MeFi meet up.
posted by kimdog at 9:43 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


"You should not expect a handout," he tells me. "You should not even expect a safety net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don't, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them."
It's interesting that he sees the idea of mutual aid as good, but rejects the notion of expanding it beyond the level of next-door neighbors or of creating a mechanism that can independently, potentially fairly organize and provide such mutual aid across, say, an entire nation.

For that matter, the guy who believes that the people know what's right and that there's always a way to argue for the best ideas seems utterly unwilling to consider that his inability to convince people or respond to the other side's argument might just mean that he's wrong.
posted by kewb at 9:44 AM on January 11 [21 favorites]


my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them

He doesn't mean he'd be willing to pitch in to help anybody. Just for people allowed to live in his neighborhood.
posted by straight at 9:49 AM on January 11 [21 favorites]


"You should not expect a handout," he tells me. "You should not even expect a safety net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don't, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them."
It's interesting that he sees the idea of mutual aid as good, but rejects the notion of expanding it or of creating a mechanism that can independently, potentially fairly organize and provide such mutual aid across, say, an entire nation.
I read it as Luntz's idea of prima facie evidence that racial and class segregation is the best way to run a purely capitalist American society. What an asshole.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:50 AM on January 11 [15 favorites]


He's funny, self deprecating, and not at all what you would imagine the most notorious right wing spin doctor of all time to be. You'd have a beer with him. He'd be someone you'd see at a MeFi meet up.

Actually, this is exactly what I'd expect a really good spin doctor to be like.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:51 AM on January 11 [13 favorites]


America's top political wordsmith loses faith in our ability to be persuaded?

Shouldn't the headline be:

America's top spin doctor notes country losing faith in politics. Tries to spin the blame for that to his enemies.
posted by straight at 9:51 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


No one is wrong anymore and everyone knows everything. It is a world where everyone has an equal opportunity to cast himself or herself as the never-erring hero and all those who oppose him even a little will suffer eternal and infinite suffering for their lack of enlightenment and applauding.

The spin doctors have spun themselves out a job -- for now...until the rest of the world spins out of control and people go on a Savior-hunt once more...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:53 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


He seems to think the only person who doesn't need to take personal responsibility is himself. I am unsurprised.
posted by rtha at 10:02 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Professional well-poisoner laments poisoned well. Film at 11.

This isn't actually what he is lamenting. What he is lamenting is that he can no longer poison the well effectively.
posted by srboisvert at 10:04 AM on January 11 [17 favorites]


Because it is full of poison.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on January 11 [41 favorites]


I usually associate the term "well-poisoning" with anti-Semitism, but whatever.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 AM on January 11


I read it as Luntz's idea of prima facie evidence that racial and class segregation is the best way to run a purely capitalist American society. What an asshole.

Well, exactly. It's interesting because it exposes exactly this about his positions. As a guy who lives by spin, you'd think he'd be smarter about hiding that sort of thing.
posted by kewb at 10:07 AM on January 11


It's kind of similar to the accusations of "class warfare" in response to criticism of the income disparity. It's only "class warfare" because people are trying to fight back, but nobody mentions that the status quo is "class massacre". Luntz' only problem here is that some people are believing the Democratic narrative instead of just his.
posted by LionIndex at 10:14 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


I'm cheering for the madness that infests Luntz, the imps that twist his worldview.
Luntz knew that he, a maker of political messages and attacks and advertisements, had helped create this negativity, and it haunted him. But it was Obama he principally blamed. The people in his focus groups, he perceived, had absorbed the president's message of class divisions, haves and have-nots,
Wait, wasn't that your message?
...of redistribution.
Ooooohhhh, I see. A social, civil society, that raises up each-other. No! Not that! My neighbors can save me, but not those outside of our gated compound, or beyond the walls of my new Las Vegas residence!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


This is what happens to people who are both wrong and stubborn: cognitive dissonance. Enjoy your chicken pot pie, Frank.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:16 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: I usually associate the term "well-poisoning" with anti-Semitism, but whatever.

Interesting, I've never heard/thought of it that way.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:18 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


The thing about Frank Luntz that is so dangerous is how freaking likeable he is.

You know who else was likeable, in private situations?

The thing about likability is that is it not an overriding proof of acceptability. If I knew nothing else about the man I might well like him in person. But I do know about him, and if I didn't his infuriating Wikipedia page would fill in the blanks.

You'd have a beer with him.

I don't drink, although thinking about people like Frank Luntz tempts me to start.
posted by JHarris at 10:28 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I love how he thinks the problem is that Obama is too partisan. Take them blinders off, Luntz!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:29 AM on January 11


I never realized how much he looks like Patton Oswald.
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Oh sure, because before Obama was elected nobody was accusing anyone who disagreed with them to be guilty of treason, in bed with the terrorists, etc. It's like all he has is a hammer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:35 AM on January 11 [10 favorites]


When I saw this article, I thought ...hmmmm will old Frank tiptoe up to coming out?. I've always read that he's one of the most famous right wing closet cases. Or at least address the new, more boyish toupee. But no, he just goes deeper into the lies and searches for a better gated place to hide.

I find Luntz and Roger Ailes fascinating. Both became millionaires selling lies, both are ostensibly intelligent people. How much of their own bullshit do they really believe? It appears all.
posted by readery at 10:39 AM on January 11


"Global warming" sounds scary, but "climate change" sounds natural or even benign.

And guess what, they're actually scientific terms, with distinctly different meanings. That's a NASA article about the terminology, with no mention of Luntz, because he only shifted how the GWB administration addressed it. True, "climate change" sounds a little less scary, but only without the context of "humans have changed the entire climate in drastic, and possibly irreversible ways."
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


If it makes you feel better KokuRyu, well poisoning is an age old tradition done to slow an advancing army.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:41 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


readery: I find Luntz and Roger Ailes fascinating. Both became millionaires selling lies, both are ostensibly intelligent people. How much of their own bullshit do they really believe? It appears all.

I wonder if either will issue death-bed reveals, or perhaps have personal diaries that display how they truly feel conflicted (or maybe just laugh at all the fools who believed their shit all those years). Or they might take their real thoughts and feelings to their graves, knowing that to give away their whole career as ploy to create feeding frenzies and reap the rewards would likely diminish the size of their graven images cast by the throngs of ardent worshipers.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:45 AM on January 11


Re: neighbors helping when the house burns down.

Great. What about when the whole town is leveled by a tornado? Presumably the neighbor towns help out? Maybe the town itself should have set aside enough money to rebuild itself? There would need to be some mechanism to collect that money from everyone so they would have our later? Like a mandatory donation to the town's coffers?

Idiots got to idiot.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:49 AM on January 11 [23 favorites]


Cry me a river Frank, then go jump in it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:50 AM on January 11


Isn't this a perfect illustration of crocodile tears?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:53 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This guy is odious, but y'all kill me. Don't you think conservatives wonder if you crazy-ass liberals will repent on your deathbeds and reveal that you truly don't believe the things you believe? That you were doing it for the cash or the fame or the power or the control or the whatever....? Not that many of you seem to really believe that other people sincerely believe these things, which is a cognitive dissonance yourselves. Both sides shaking their heads going, "They can't really think that crazy shit. I bet at home they're normal, like me, and will repent their horrible beliefs on their deathbeds." Nobody is normal.

And let the shitstorm of, "But we're the right ones!" descend..... Just like it would on the other side.
posted by umberto at 10:53 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


He boasts that he speaks to at least one Fortune 500 CEO every day. Yet, in his telling, he is still the little guy, the outsider, the schlub—half anxious, half awed by the trappings of power.

The guy's spun words for how many years, and you're letting him spin more without doubting the validity of his tale? "Because I understand the significance of this conversation, and I am not worthy of it." Right, you, who are "beset by Republican members of Congress wanting to talk to him and soak up his aura of celebrity" are humbled by Bill Fucking Clinton. At least he's consistent. He sang the praises of Clinton pretty loudly in '04, when talking about Clinton "making" Luntz by displaying the power of words.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


That you were doing it for the cash or the fame or the power or the control or the whatever....?

Um, yes, we're all for pooling our tax money to help the poor and unfortunate so we can get rich (or something).

No, they think we're all poor and dependent upon the government for handouts, like John Kerry, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, and thousands and thousands of doctors, professors, writers...well, you get my point.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:01 AM on January 11


There's nothing this guy doesn't convey that is not some version of spin; the nice guy act, the regular schlub facade. But it is all weirdly disjointed. Agreeing to be interviewed and talking of a six day headache and inability to sleep? "My parents were married for 47 years. I'm never in the same place more than 47 minutes," to When he's at home in Los Angeles, The Newsroom is the high point of Luntz's week. He turns off his phone and gets a plate of spaghetti bolognese and a Coke Zero and sits in front of his 85-inch television, alone in his 14,000-square-foot palace.

That's some self delusion.
posted by readery at 11:09 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Don't you think conservatives wonder if you crazy-ass liberals will repent on your deathbeds and reveal that you truly don't believe the things you believe? That you were doing it for the cash or the fame or the power or the control or the whatever....?

Wait, you mean we're not doing it because we're self-haters and also we hate America and also freedom?

In answer to your question, no, I don't think they think that. I think that's their "na na na na can't hear you" response to questions of social and economic justice.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:10 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


And let the shitstorm of, "But we're the right ones!" descend..... Just like it would on the other side.

The fact that both (all) sides think they're right is not evidence that they're equivalent.

The anti-vaccination folks think that they're right. The pro-vaccination folks believe that they're right.

The anti- folks are wrong. Flat-out, stupidly, demonstrably, fucking factually wrong.

The fact that both sides would loudly protest means nothing. "Both sides are the same," cynicism is for children.
posted by Myca at 11:11 AM on January 11 [45 favorites]


The depressing psychological theory that explains Washington

“Once group loyalties are engaged, you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments," political psychologist Jonathan Haidt once told me. "Thinking is mostly just rationalization, mostly just a search for supporting evidence.”

The beliefs that result aren't held cynically. They're held sincerely. And that's much more powerful. Even when people flip positions entirely, they believe they've done so because they've absorbed new evidence and changed their mind.

posted by Drinky Die at 11:18 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Shakespeare in the Park vs. Not I on The Strip.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:19 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


"We have now created a sense of dependency and a sense of entitlement that is so great that you had, on the day that he was elected, women thinking that Obama was going to pay their mortgage payment, and that's why they voted for him," he says. "And that, to me, is the end of what made this country so great."

The funny thing is you can get other folks riled up by changing out "women" and "mortgage payments" to "banks" and "bailouts." Even funnier, that wasn't mentioned in this article. The funniest thing is that none of this is actually funny at all, except in the darkest, most sarcastic sort of gallows humor.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


The fact that both sides would loudly protest means nothing. "Both sides are the same," cynicism is for children.

But like, the anti-vaccine people do actually believe that vaccines are harmful, in the same way that many conservatives sincerely believe welfare and regulation are unjust and bad for society. They might be wrong, but they aren't lying. It's silly to caricature conservatives as utterly selfish poor-haters, just as silly as claiming that the anti-vaccine people are trying to help spread diseases. The consequences of their policies are another thing entirely, but most are sincere and well-intentioned.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:24 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Sounds like a self centered psychopath. His notion of dangerous directions seem to be those that foresake empathy to pursue his hedonistic fantasies without limit.
posted by humanfont at 11:25 AM on January 11


It's silly to caricature conservatives as utterly selfish poor-haters,

I won't speak for anyone else, but my extended family is white, working/middle class, New England, and overwhelmingly in the Fox News camp. While most of them are doing well now, they came from poverty and a great many of them benefited from charity and public assistance a long time ago, when my parents were very small children. I honestly believe they would be very compassionate toward the unfortunate and underprivileged if not for one thing: their community was white back then. They would never ever admit it to themselves, but their "personal responsibility" finger-wagging and love of Bill O'Reilly is, at the core, based on pure racism.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:33 AM on January 11 [15 favorites]


The consequences of their policies are another thing entirely, but most are sincere and well-intentioned.

There are people who have internalized the arguments in themselves, but the logic of the Southern Strategy is precisely that conservative opposition to old Great Society programs is very much not sincere and well-meaning. White male opposition to welfare developed as code for racism (through the equation of African Americans with the poor), and I think there is still a very significant element of racial animus inherent in the white rage against welfare.
posted by graymouser at 11:35 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


My old man was a total dick to debate with, but that was his way of making sure I knew the differences between convincing an opponent, winning an argument and being right. The guys running the Republican party right now are those who conflate all three.
posted by klarck at 11:42 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that he sees the idea of mutual aid as good, but rejects the notion of expanding it beyond the level of next-door neighbors or of creating a mechanism that can independently, potentially fairly organize and provide such mutual aid across, say, an entire nation.

Sounds like you're actually willing to consider the subject rather than just dump on the guy. Okay, I'll take a shot at it.

"All politics is local" is a Tip O'Neil phrase, and in it is wider wisdom perhaps than he meant. As a social animal, I'll help a relative before a friend and a friend before a neighbor and a neighbor before a total stranger, a fellow townsman before a fellow county member before a fellow state member before a fellow American. The further ones goes, the more difficult it becomes to feel any ties of affection and loyalty.

Mass disasters? A problem with a can of worms. Once you allow a third party, especially a governmental third party, to organize and provide mutual aid, you free that third party to decide where to spread the mutual aid. And with government comes politics, which has little to do with fairness. Thus, the tornado taking down my house is my problem, the tornado taking down a whole town is a chance for a politico to help out thousands of registered voters. Vote early and often. Other than scale and media interest, what's the difference? (Related- the US government deals in flood plain insurance because private insurers could not make it pay. Result - more building on flood plains and moral hazard thrown on inland taxpayers. Thus, the wages of moral hazard. Similar to the government's willingness to bail out the banks rather than let them fail - it only encourages more ill-advised behavior.)

Okay, perhaps we can afford a cynical government. There are other costs, however. Governmental diktat shifts the social glue of voluntary good citizenship into an involuntary transfer from stranger to stranger with all the risk of resentment and ingratitude. "I gave at the office" on the one hand, and a sense of entitlement on the other. A commentator on the current Chris Christie debacle prefaced his hatred of the governor over the fact that an expected government grant for his PhD program was not forthcoming - a disappointment, but hardly something the fellow had any real claim to, especially in a state with a serious deficit.

I don't know what the right balance is, I truly don't, and I'm not saying that we should dismantle FEMA or the FDIC. But it is wrong to assume that there are not serious moral, spiritual, fiscal, social, and political risks entailed in allowing a government to take over en masse the role of aid provider of first resort. I think it fair to bring these points to the table, and not just sneer that those you disagree with are rich and privileged and white.

The guys running the Republican party right now are those who conflate all three.

I don't think the guys running the Republican party are thinking that hard. I'm not even sure it's correct to say that anyone is running the Republican party.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:47 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I think there is still a very significant element of racial animus inherent in the white rage against welfare.

I basically agree with that -- you don't have to dig very deep to find incredibly racially-charged conservative rhetoric. (But I think even many conservatives whose beliefs are racially motivated aren't totally conscious of it, and would never admit it, maybe not even to themselves.) My problem is more with another criticism of conservatives, where they're basically made out to be cackling saboteurs, rubbing their hands together and giggling as they drive people into poverty just so they'll have somebody to oppress.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:49 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


The guys running the Republican party right now are those who conflate all three.

Religious hardliners AND absolutist libertarians - you couldn't make a worse mix.
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


If we take the "fuck you, Frank" as a given, I think it becomes more interesting to think about why this article has shown up, and why now. Because I could swear this is the second Frank Lutz story I've come across this week.

My guess is that some clever people, like Lutz, are thinking it's time to come in from the cold. Last decade you could make a pretty good dollar delivering rhetoric to the panicky right-wing parts of the American populace. But maybe we've reached peak loony, and these folks are figuring out how they will survive. There are lots of large media organizations that aren't actually right-wing, but feel that a dab of harsh conservativism completes their offerings. Joe Scarborough's gig at MSNBC looks nice. David Frum's bailed completely. And even if you don't give up your politics, if you show you're willing to play nice with others now there are places that could use clever people like Lutz and won't bear a grudge.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:57 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


What a disgusting human being.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:02 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


I cannot drink Frank Luntz's tears, but at least I have this article.
posted by ignignokt at 12:03 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I honestly believe they would be very compassionate toward the unfortunate and underprivileged if not for one thing: their community was white back then.

Searching for solutions to this equation, how your family could have gotten from there to here. Maybe...

Maybe, when they were on public assistance, they were filled with guilt over it? When they got off they gave off a collective whew, I'm out of that thanks to my own hard work. Then they see African Americans on welfare, think they aren't acting nearly guilty enough, and that fuels their self-righteousness?

And even if you don't give up your politics, if you show you're willing to play nice with others now there are places that could use clever people like Lutz and won't bear a grudge.

Then it's great that I'm perfectly willing to blame FRANK LUNTZ for aggravating our nation's problems for personal gain, and pin that ill will to whoever hires him. This man has made the world worse, and generations unborn will have to deal with the repercussions to that career. I can forgive, despite appearances I am not a raging ball of hate towards these people, but it's only going to come after a serious mea culpa from him, and an effort to undo that damage.
posted by JHarris at 12:17 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


"You should not expect a handout," he tells me. "You should not even expect a safety net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don't, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them.".

I may be a bad person.

Am I the only one in this thread that wants to test out this hypothesis? So, erm, um, *someone* burns down his house, then lets his neighbors know whose house it is, then give them the offer to rebuild it... I want to see how this experiment goes...
posted by el io at 12:34 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


If we take the "fuck you, Frank" as a given, I think it becomes more interesting to think about why this article has shown up, and why now.

Between this and Rove's sudden push to get the business elite back in control, I think what we're seeing is...well, I'm going to put this in wrestling terms. The people that believe wrestling is real are called marks. They're the ones that would be horrified if they saw Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper at the airport together because they're mortal enemies and also one was totally hospitalized after Wrestlemania. And the way politics used to work is you'd go back to your district for the election and rail against the treasonous socialists or the poor-hating fascists and once you were elected, you'd get into office and chuckle with the rest of the press and elite about the rubes and marks back home that actually bought this shit, then get on with the business of governing.

However, in the last couple of decades, this spin doctor class has gotten so good at what it does that the marks are now so goddamn terrified that they're in charge and, like, the marks are starting to run for office. It's like having a wrestler who ACTUALLY BELIEVES the fiction and doesn't pull his punches because he really thinks he's fighting noted terrorist The Iron Sheik rather than a guy playing a role. Which is why the elites all seem baffled by this because, jesus, you're not actually supposed to believe it.

Unfortunately, the monster they've created and continually poked has gotten into such a frenzy it's broken free from its chains and storming across the metaphorical countryside and some members continue poking it because they make their money by keeping the rubes riled up and angry. It's hard for Karl Rove to rein in the nutballs when Rush Limbaugh is going to keep going "OBAMA IS COMING TO HAVE SEX WITH YOUR WIFE AND MAKE YOU HAVE FREE HEALTH CARE AND KILL YOUR GRANDMA" because that's how he makes his money.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:37 PM on January 11 [80 favorites]


Luntz previously.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:54 PM on January 11


I honestly believe they would be very compassionate toward the unfortunate and underprivileged if not for one thing: their community was white back then.

You mean like Carnegie and Frick were compassionate to their white employees during the Homestead strike of 1892?
posted by mondo dentro at 12:57 PM on January 11


Luntz and his techniques were examined on Penn and Teller: Bullshit! in 2006 (video).

Well, maybe "lambasted" would be the better word.
posted by pmdboi at 1:10 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


"You should not expect a handout," he tells me. "You should not even expect a safety net. When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don't, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them.".

I may be a bad person.

Am I the only one in this thread that wants to test out this hypothesis? So, erm, um, *someone* burns down his house, then lets his neighbors know whose house it is, then give them the offer to rebuild it... I want to see how this experiment goes...


I'm curious how he thinks that actually works. If he can't afford to repair his house his neighbours should help out because he would do what for them exactly if things were reversed? Give them some of his zero money he has put aside for home replacement? If he can't rebuild his own house how can he claim some sort of reciprocal charity from his neighbours?
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


GhostrideTheWhip, I love that comparison, and look forward to the term "kayfabe" being used a whole lot more in political discussions.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:18 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


If he can't rebuild his own house how can he claim some sort of reciprocal charity from his neighbours?

The whole philosophy is based on a vision of rural America that is all but vanished. You can almost see the sienna tint when they yearningly speak about it. But the smart ones know this isn't America anymore and they cynically take advantage of the rubes that don't. This is why the conservative/Republican message resonates so strongly in sparsely populated areas and is rejected so soundly in densely populated ones. The former can still be fooled into believing the myth, the latter see it's not true. Those that would like to think well of the leaders of the right wing need to be aware that they tend to live in densely populated areas, and so it is very likely they don't believe their own bullshit.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:20 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Not that many of you seem to really believe that other people sincerely believe these things, which is a cognitive dissonance yourselves.

On the contrary, I'm certain some people sincerely believe these things, I'm just much less certain (for some value of "much less" approaching zero) that Frank believes these things, or, at least, believes what he says. He's a man paid to say argumentative things for people, after all, and that should make any smart person a little incredulous. It's strange how cynics want us to doubt everything but other cynics.

Once you allow a third party, especially a governmental third party, to organize and provide mutual aid, you free that third party to decide where to spread the mutual aid. And with government comes politics, which has little to do with fairness

Whenever there are more than two people you have politics. The notion that "politics" can be dispensed with is the source of every utopian fantasy in history.

(As an aside, whenever I hear people complaining about difficult conservative parents, I feel a little pride in the fact that my parents seemed to become, generally, more liberal the older and more successful they became. Also also, I know someone who was at Penn with Frank and says he was a shit then, too.)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:27 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


> It's silly to caricature conservatives as utterly selfish poor-haters

But this is the way they present themselves. They venerate the author of such books as "The Virtue of Selfishness". Their representation of the poor is as inferior individuals who deserve what they get because of their unending laziness and poor decision-making power.

> most are sincere and well-intentioned.

Well, we're discussing over whether these people are sincere, but it seems the general consensus is that yes, they believe their own poisonous rhetoric. But there's no definition of "well-intentioned" that covers someone who wishes to cause great misery to millions "just to teach them a lesson".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:37 PM on January 11 [19 favorites]


I wonder if Molly Ball introduced Luntz by way of his displeasure at his food options and is later pointing out that he's chosen his lifestyle with the reply that "You sound like my relatives" were all (un)intentional efforts to make him sound like a spoiled man-child who has a wealth of options in front of him, but by finding fault with everything before him, he does not realize he is creating his own misery.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:11 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Policy issues aside, the biggest thing I took away from the article is the profile of a sad, lonely, weak middle-aged workaholic. I don't understand why Luntz would let himself be portrayed this way.

Both sides have been using snark for years, which is fun but doesn't really seem to change minds. Maybe pity and recognition of meanspiritedness can do what snark did not?
posted by troyer at 2:27 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


troyer: Policy issues aside, the biggest thing I took away from the article is the profile of a sad, lonely, weak middle-aged workaholic. I don't understand why Luntz would let himself be portrayed this way.

Because then he can be something of a victim, one who is still fighting for the True American Way, yet losing against That Monster Obama. But fight on he will, and he must! So you can still listen to him and pay him for his thoughts by buying his books and paying to speak on TV and at conferences.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


The very first political idea in this article is "it's all Obama's fault", and how many people (pro or con) will read beyond that? The rest of the article is "we tried to make America good, but Obama ruined it". The "I'm just a weak loser with a huge, private mansion and nice places elsewhere" moaning is sop to the Romney wound-lickers. Mission accomplished, or at least attempted. Yeah, he's on the clock.
posted by telstar at 3:04 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


to continue on filthy light thief's response to troyer:

I think you'll see a lot of this as the new posture for the right. It will allow them to concede some progressive ground without endorsing it, all while placing the blame for any issues in the public discourse* firmly on Obama's shoulders. It's a gambit to keep the illusion of victim-hood and strong conviction on the right while pretty much caving and bawling through the next election cycle.


*This is ridiculous of course. I voted for Obama twice almost chiefly because I like his sense of fair public discourse as an alternative to the shit factory the republicans have been running for 16+ years, and I know I'm not alone.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:26 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


"Obama made me shit in this punchbowl and now no one likes the punch anymore because of the turd in it." Rage fuck spit choke grar goddamn fuck fucking Luntz fuck.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:31 PM on January 11 [11 favorites]


My neighbors can save me, but not those outside of our gated compound, or beyond the walls of my new Las Vegas residence!

Or his other 3 homes: the house in LA, the one in VA & the apartment in NYC. Whatever other crises Luntz may be experiencing, a financial one is not among them.
posted by scalefree at 4:05 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]



It's interesting that he sees the idea of mutual aid as good, but rejects the notion of expanding it beyond the level of next-door neighbors or of creating a mechanism that can independently, potentially fairly organize


the difference for him will whether its voluntary or compulsary. I'm not saying his argument is right - to the contrary, its clearly not - but we should be able to state it correctly.
posted by jpe at 4:56 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


the difference for him will whether its voluntary or compulsary.

(Nods) And similar for many conservatives. What they don't get is that forcing someone to do something against their will is frequently good for them, and for society. Consider a school, and a casino. Which one forces people to go, and to which one can people come and go as they please? And which one is better for the world?
posted by officer_fred at 6:30 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Is the government really rebuilding people's houses that burn down now? Because I thought that's what private homeowner's insurance was for. I'm kind of feeling like a chump for having paid for it for so long.
posted by aaronetc at 9:54 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


"When my house burns down, I should not go to the government to rebuild it. I should have the savings, and if I don't, my neighbors should pitch in for me, because I would do that for them."

If Luntz was my neighbor and his house burned down I would would take immense pleasure in quietly watching it burn.
posted by jnnla at 10:11 PM on January 11


> I like his sense of fair public discourse

Ah, yes, I remember the first Democratic Party debates for 2008. Senator Gravel asked Senator Obama about what he meant by saying that "All options were on the table" for dealing with Iran militarily - pointing out that for a nuclear nation, "All options on the table" surely meant, "Nuclear weapons". Senator Obama made fun of Senator Gravel's age, and did not answer the question.

I remember too when single payer advocates - respected doctors and nurses - attempted to speak at the discussions about health care reform. They sent repeated requests to be invited starting the first day that applications were accepted - no response - more requests - and then finally were told, "Sorry, you're too late." Then they showed up anyway - and were arrested rather than be allowed to speak.

I remember too when some junior Democrats wanted to debate the first Afghanistan funding bill. They were visited and told that it was essential that Mr. Obama's first vote went smoothly, and if they did anything to slow this down, the Democratic Party would support alternate candidates in their district.

Yes, Mr. Obama is certainly not at the level of the vile Republicans, but he has been entirely intolerant of anyone to the left of him... and considering that Mr. Obama himself has said that his politics would have made him a Reagan Republican, it means that there is no longer any "progressive" or "left-wing" voice possible in national politics.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:24 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]


[Maybe try to keep this a little more directed toward the posted topic rather than becoming an all-purpose rant/fight about Obama?]
posted by taz at 10:44 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


The whole philosophy is based on a vision of rural America that is all but vanished.

Never existed more like and built on slavery, sharecropping, wholesale extermination of undesirable peoples and exploitation of immigrant labour.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:28 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


I didn't think much of Luntz's thesis until I read the comments here. Now I see exactly what he was talking about.
posted by GolfBlogger at 9:10 AM on January 12


It's funny when people use dog whistles around cats.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:33 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I didn't think much of Luntz's thesis until I read the comments here. Now I see exactly what he was talking about.

In 1996, Gingrich, with the help of political consultant/pollster Frank Luntz, issued a memo to Republican candidates through the GOP political action committee offering tips on how to "speak like Newt."

The memo offered some of Gingrich's favorite words and phrases to describe opponents: "radical," "bizarre," "sick," "pathetic," "corrupt," "cheat," and "anti" — as in anti-flag, anti-family, anti-child or anti-jobs.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/12/15/133216/newt-gingrichs-mouth-is-famous.html
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:36 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


this spin doctor class has gotten so good at what it does that the marks are now so goddamn terrified that they're in charge and, like, the marks are starting to run for office. It's like having a wrestler who ACTUALLY BELIEVES the fiction and doesn't pull his punches because he really thinks he's fighting noted terrorist The Iron Sheik rather than a guy playing a role. Which is why the elites all seem baffled by this because, jesus, you're not actually supposed to believe it

This is a splendid take on it, and I thank you for it. It's way more nuanced than my habitual, lazy lament about how goddamned dirt stupid people seem to be. It doesn't supercede it, but it does actually help me to have more sympathy, and opens a way to engage with them, maybe.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:30 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


"sick,"

somehow, this became a synonym for "really good and interesting" despite Newt's prevarications.
posted by telstar at 7:29 PM on January 12


I didn't think much of Luntz's thesis until I read the comments here. Now I see exactly what he was talking about.

Well, congrats on being a sucker I guess.
posted by stenseng at 12:16 PM on January 13


""I've had a headache for six days now, and it doesn't go away," he tells me as we take our seats at a table downstairs. "I don't sleep for more than two or three hours at a time. I'm probably less healthy now than I have ever been in my life." He's not sure what to do. He's still going through the motions—giving speeches, going on television, conducting focus groups, and advising companies and politicians on how best to convey their message."

Maybe that's his conscience coming back to haunt him...
posted by Chuffy at 2:29 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


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