“Lie of the Year” Goes to My Guy of the Year: Frank Luntz   1 comment


What images and feelings burst into your mind when you hear the name “PolitiFact“?  Why would you call your website that? Because you’re simply and sincerely being self-descriptive? Or because you think it will help lend your proprietary fact-checking site instant credibility to casual clickers-through on Google?

The man who I believe could explain this best is the man PolitiFact.com named as the father of 2010’s prestigious Lie of the Year. Pollster Frank Luntz, the left’s it-girl for venom and jealousy as it pertains to political language, receives the honor for “A government takeover of health care.” According to PolitiFact, “The phrase is simply not true.”

Luntz thinks that “Takeovers are like coups,” in that “They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.” Two thousand pages of legislation that Speaker Pelosi said needed to be passed before we could find out what’s in it doesn’t amount to a “takeover” says PolitiFact. The article takes quite a bit of time for rebuttal to why conservatives think “takeover” fits well enough, including the awful comparison that “State laws require drivers to have car insurance,” and the confirmation that “Other news organizations have also said the claim is false.” Weak analogy and bandwagon fallacies are part of the standard by which PolitiFact judges the Lie of the Year.

The meat of PolitiFact’s justification for naming “A government takeover of health care” its Lie of the Year asserts that Obamacare doesn’t have a public option, government isn’t directly owning anything, and private companies are still in control. Requiring mandatory health insurance and ushering in heavy regulation does not amount to a takeover– depending on your point of view. I’m not sure that the bill’s official name, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” is any more accurate than “a government takeover of health care.”
It seems like PolitiFact is using a very literal sense of the term “takeover” and rules out the possibility that an entity can take over an industry without directly ruling it by dictatorship. It sounds like Republicans used a more nuanced sense of “takeover” and don’t rule out that requiring everyone to buy health insurance and then regulating the industry with 2000 pages of legislation just might fill some people’s idea of a takeover.

In any case, “Lie of the Year” is an opinion piece by PolitiFact. To masquerade as objective fact and try to stand behind the impressive sounding “PolitiFact” name just gives me the creeps. However, they do give Frank Luntz his due diligence in crafting effective language. They don’t seem to understand him in the same sense that I think of him after reading his books. My sense of the guy isn’t necessarily any more valid than PolitiFact’s, or anyone else’s, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think they have him pegged correctly. The longer this persists, the longer they and the left misinterpret the guy, the longer it will be until they can harness the power of language the way he does it.

Whenever I read an article criticizing Luntz, I think to myself, this can’t possibly be how the guy sees himself. And how he views his own work seems to play into its effectiveness. I’m not saying that Luntz’s critics never bring up good observations or make accurate assessments, but they only want to understand his work from their own point of view. They project who they think he is onto what they think he’s doing, and that impedes their ability to capture the essence of his work. Not that I’m any better at interpreting how he works, but I’m pretty sure he’s misunderstood by others too, especially liberals.

Part of it is that Luntz doesn’t tip his hand. I’ve read his books, reviewed his memos that have been made available, and as much advice as he gives, I get the feeling he’s holding back. Holding back in the sense that how his mind really works and what he truly draws from his methods are things he keeps to himself. He provides the most effective message he’s capable of providing, but maintains his trade secrets. Critics and haters can salivate over leaked memos all they want, but if they try to construct an identity and essence of Luntz based on those alone, they’re not going to figure him out.

Honoring Luntz with the Lie of the Year doesn’t demonstrate an understanding of the dude and will do little to reveal new information. Accusing him of lies and propaganda, because they can’t do what he does, isn’t going to be that effective because nobody else has his messaging skills. Kinda ironic that the person they need to spread the word that Frank Luntz is a dangerous liar is Frank Luntz.

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One response to ““Lie of the Year” Goes to My Guy of the Year: Frank Luntz

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