Monthly Archives: May 2011

Messaging Maxim #3: There’s an Invention Called Video

Newt Gingrich is the latest politician to be nailed by his own words stated on camera. Gingrich seems to be stuck in a 1990s political messaging mentality. Back then, unless a dogged interviewer had the smoking gun videotape statement ready to roll, a la Michael Douglas‘ video attack on Demi Moore in the movie “Disclosure”, a politician sometimes could get away with making extreme, stupid, or wrongheaded statements, even on camera, because the footage might not swiftly get replayed.

Those days are gone, thanks to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the proliferation of media.

Republican-Generated Controversy over Common Plays into Republican Hands

President Obama invites progressive black rapper Common to read poetry at the White House, and the folks at Fox “News” explode. It was perfectly predictable, since Fox and the Republicans have been waging a race-based cultural war on Barack Obama since Obama began running for President. That race war has included Reverend WrightVan Jones, ACORN, the “New Black Panther Party”Shirley Sherrod, and others as proxies for Obama in the Republicans’ “Scary Black People” strategy.

This time, the war on Obama (using Common as the proxy) was launched by Fox and Republicans contracted to work for Fox, including Sarah Palin and Karl Rove. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly then challenged Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” to a debate on the subject of Common, and Stewart took the bait. Many progressives are cheering, saying that Stewart will clean O’Reilly’s clock with the facts. Bad idea. Once such a debate is being held — on O’Reilly’s Fox “News” home turf, of course — Fox, O’Reilly, and the Republicans have already won.

George W. Bush: “Catapult the Propaganda”

As this video shows, former President George W. Bush, talking about privatizing Social Security in one of his phony Republican-stocked “town hall” events in May 2005, said:

in my line of work you gotta keep repeating things over and over and over again, for the truth to sink in. You gotta catapult the propaganda.

What Bush probably meant by “catapult” was to vault over what he called “propaganda”, i.e., reporting and political advocacy that disagreed with him, indicating that privatizing Social Security and leaving seniors’ finances to the forces of the stock market would be extremely risky, and, during the Bush years, when the stock market tanked, would have driven millions of seniors into poverty. But Bush was really following Messaging Maxim #2: Rinse and Repeat. Bush’s repetition of his message was the propaganda itself, and thus “catapult the propaganda” for Bush really meant to propel his own propaganda through repetition.  In the case of privatizing social security, it didn’t work.

The Boys Who Cried “Power Grab”

Here’s an enlightening post from the Daily Kos published at the end of last year, entitled “If it’s Wednesday, it Must be an Unprecedented Power Grab”. The post highlights the Republicans’ use of the term “power grab” over the years to describe a wide variety of Democratic proposals, from Senate procedures to the auto company bailout to the Clean Water Restoration Act, with which the Republicans disagree.  As the post indicates, “it’s a standard play, like so many of their Frank Luntz focus group-tested go-to phraseology.” (emphasis added).

Note also how this is a perfect example of Messaging Maxim #2: Rinse and Repeat. Sometimes the Republicans gussie up the phrase “power grab” with alarming adjectives like “unprecedented”, “major”, and “biggest”, but at the root is always the underlying phrase “power grab”.  That phrase will now take its rightful place on the ever-expanding list of Political Phrases Used by Republicans.

You have to hand it to the Republicans: they know how to stay on message, and it can be extremely effective, especially until folks like us and the Daily Kos bring it to people’s attention.