Monthly Archives: October 2011

That Loaded Term “Illegal”

One of the clearest examples of how characterizing something slightly differently gives it a very different meaning occurs with the labeling of illegal immigrants. In a recent episode of MSNBC‘s “Hardball”, host Chris Matthews discusses the most popular ways of describing illegal immigrants, and the political ramifications of each. Matthews says:

When do you think, John, it becomes an ethnic slur? I mean, I try to be proper. Some people say ‘undocumented workers’, that’s very pro, I would think, a person here illegally. Some people say ‘illegal aliens’, which is pretty strong language, as [Michele] Bachmann does. That sort of doubles it down. They’re already illegal, let’s call them ‘aliens’. The others just call them, not even people, call them ‘illegals’. I watched that [Republican presidential primary] debate the other night, and I thought, they’re just trying to put these people down. ‘Illegals.’ That’s not even a person.

Matthews did a good job of encapsulating the most popular descriptions of illegal immigrants, and the very loaded, very different ways of classifying them for political effect. Presumably Matthews uses the term “illegal immigrant”, which is arguably the most accurate and neutral way to describe someone who moves to the U.S. illegally.

Next time you hear a discussion of illegal immigration, listen closely to the terminology used. It will likely give away the biases of the people using the terms, or at least the biases of those who are influencing them.

Jesse LaGreca: Occupy Wall Street’s First Media Star

Daily Kos blogger Jesse LaGreca recently became Occupy Wall Street‘s first bona fide media star when he gave a scathing interview to Fox “News” (see video above). Note how Jesse takes the loaded, biased questions from Fox’s Griff Jenkins and reframes them to answer the questions by listing almost all major Progressive talking points. Jesse was so effective that Fox reportedly has not even aired the interview.

This is an important lesson for Progressives and Democrats, which goes back to the Messaging Manifesto For Democrats: rather than reacting within the Right’s biased framing of issues and questions, which occur whenever they appear on Fox for an interview, Democrats and Progressives must “create and repeat their own powerful frames through which to characterize the issues and their solutions.” And that’s exactly what Jesse LaGreca does.

Based on this interview and subsequent television appearances, Jesse LaGreca certainly has a future in activism, political communications, and, if he wants, politics too.

Alan Grayson Shines Spotlight on Republican Propaganda Machine

When it comes to political communication, former (and would-be once again) U.S. House Representative Alan Grayson of Florida gets it. Not only does he come up with simple and dramatic language in his own communications (who can forget his description of the Republican health care plan as “don’t get sick” and “if you do get sick, die quickly”?), but now he’s shining a much-needed spotlight on the Republican messaging machine, and its guru Frank Luntz.

In a recent Huffington Post piece, Grayson took aim at Luntz and the Republicans for their use of the phony term “job creators” to describe large U.S. corporations which have been eliminating jobs in America and creating them in China, India, and other foreign countries. Grayson points out that “job creators”, as well as other oft-repeated fake and misleading Republican phrases such as “death tax”, “energy exploration”, “climate change”, and “government takeover” are nothing short of propaganda.

Whether or not Alan Grayson makes it back to the U.S. House of Representatives, it’s a sure bet that he will continue to employ his sharp communications skills and his ability to point out Republican propaganda wherever he hears it.

How to Take Over a Political Debate in 48 Hours

How do you plant a political message and watch it grow into an expression on the tip of everyone’s tongue? If you’re the Republican Party, you take a term like “class warfare”, get your leaders and like-minded pundits to say it over and over, and, within a couple of days, it’s stuck in voters’ brains like a successful television commercial jingle.

It doesn’t even matter that you’re fighting a real plan with a mere label. Your phrase becomes the basis for the debate. Then, President Obama has to come back first by denying that he’s guilty of the label being applied to him, and then embracing the label as a badge of honor.

Either way, it’s much better when your side controls the frame and the labels that get applied to you and your opponents.