Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Daily Show Reveals Luntz For The Master Manipulator He Is

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewed Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz for an April 19 piece on "town hall meetings" featuring President Bush discussing his Social Security privatization plan.

But clearly, the point of "correspondent" Samantha Bee's piece was to expose Luntz as a master manipulator. And Bee succeeds beautifully.

Skip over the jokes Bee inserts, and all kidding aside, Luntz's insights were just a little bit scary.

Here's an unofficial transcript of the piece, "Hall of Same":

BEE (voiceover images of President Bush at town hall meetings): As he barnstorms across the country to sell his Social Security reforms, President Bush has introduced an exciting innovation: the fake town hall.

In these stirring non-debates, pre-screened citizens are free to voice their president's opinions. And pepper him with the toughest of compliments.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN AT TOWN HALL MEETING: I'm very happy to have you as a president. (Applause)

BEE (voice over): So why is a fake town hall so much better for our democracy?

LUNTZ (speaking to Bee, identified as "Conservative Image Consultant"): A real town hall can be very dangerous if it gets out of control. A town hall that gets out of control, a town hall where the speaker cannot command the respect and the control of the audience, can look very bad on television.

BEE (voiceover images of Luntz on news programs): And let's understand imagery. For many years, the Republican Party has relied on his expertise as a pollster and strategist to hone their message.

LUNTZ (on Fox News Channel): There is such a thing as "security moms."

BEE (voiceover): From renaming the estate tax the "death tax," to hleping label relaxed emissions standards the "clear skies initiative," Luntz has made a brilliant career spraying perfume on dog turds.

BEE (to Luntz): What's a really important features (sic) of a fake town hall?

LUNTZ: To me, the most important component of a successful town hall is the visual. It's the backdrop.

BEE (voiceover): And at a fake town hall, that backdrop includes the people.

LUNTZ (to Bee, while they watch video of a town hall meeting): There he's got an African-American, he's got an Asian, there's your female he's got. It's one of everybody. It's almost like the rainbow, uh, wedding line.

BEE (voiceover): Wow, what and incredibly representative sampling ... of Democrats.

Another vital component: language.

LUNTZ (to Bee): When you want to communicate, even the sounds of the words matter. And the ideal is to use words that begin with the same letter.

BEE (voiceover images of town hall meeting): For example, this banner reads "Strengthening Social Security." That's a big improvement over the original text: "Creating Vast Opportunities For Wall Street To Generate Enormous Commissions Without Addressing The Actual Problem."

BEE (to Luntz): I'm going to read you some words. Help me warm these up a bit.


BEE: Drilling for oil.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Responsible Exploration for Energy."

BEE: Logging.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Healthy Forests."

BEE: Manipulation.

LUNTZ: Explanation and education.

BEE: Orwellian.

LUNTZ: ...


Luntz didn't have an immediate answer for Bee on that one.

Media critics and others have long marveled at Luntz's skills, while at the same time targeting lazy "journalists" -- such as the folks at MSNBC -- who offered Luntz as an objective source on various topics, and even allowing Luntz to run on-air focus groups to discuss issues during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Luntz is paid very well to give his Republican clients ways to talk about political topics in sunny, pleasing ways. In effect, his job is to manipulate the language so his Republican clients can manipulate public opinion.

Is it Orwellian? Some critics would say yes. Calling something the opposite of what it is -- such as the "Clean Skies Initiative" -- seems to fit the bill. And Luntz is a master at creating such sunny, pleasing terminology.

Do the Democrats have similar folks at their disposal? Conservatives could toss out several names, I'm sure. But no one has been able to get a political party to speak with one voice, the way Luntz has with the GOP. Luntz has published a manifesto on what words Republican politicians should and should not say (you can download it here.)

No one working for the Democrats can make such a claim.

So when you hear President Bush use a term to explain a policy -- and then hear the same term used non-stop by conservative politicians and pundits alike -- remember the Daily Show piece. Think twice, and do some independent research, because those who mindlessly accept those sunny, pleasing words are simply being manipulated.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democrats only wish they had a man like Lutz on their team. With a guy like him they could easily sway the country into accepting gay marriage; the ACLU's assualt on our borders, culture and religion; John Kerry (yuk); Barbara Boxer (double yuk); the Nineth Circuit Court; and a host of other ill-conceived actions and proposals aimed at destroying the core of America's character. NOT!!! Thank God Lutz is working for the Good Guys.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous joe said...

You know, you can always count on at least one conservative yahoo to post something with all the subtly and understanding of a caveman.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently, according to Ms. Bee, Jon Stewart, and by extension, jabbs, the following groups are not actually capable of being Republicans - Blacks, Asians, and women. It is interesting when one's belief set is so clearly exhibited , unintentionally. It is very telling.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Oh please. So typical -- rather than address JABBS' point, the "conservative response team" pulls an Ann Coulter, taking things woefully out of context to the point of inaccuracy. Does it make you sleep better at night knowing that you have to deceive yourself?


3:32 PM  
Anonymous D & C said...

We've documented some Luntzisms on a blog we've developed that is designed as a sort of "countermemo." Check out our suggestions at

D & C

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is that taken woefully out of context? The clear implication was that blacks, asians, and women are not or should not be Republicans. How else should that comment be taken ? Enlighten me ...

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than focus on the point JABBS made, you took what was a sarcastic punchline from Bee's piece and made like it's a serious point.

Do you watch the show? It was a punchline that got a laugh. Bee's satirical point was that Luntz wanted to make sure the various races were seen -- to present "the image" that represented all people.

Read the callous way that Luntz refers to the "rainbow" standing behind Bush, and consider the greater context of what Luntz is trying to do.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, it is funny to think that a black, an asian, or a woman could be a Republican. Please, explain this to me. Enlighten me. I do not care if it was a punchline, when Ms. Bee said it, or if it made people laugh - I suppose that Democrats must think it funny that some blacks, asians, or women could ever be anything other than Democrats. However, jabbs has held the interview as a whole out as a way for people to peer into the soul of the Republicans. When this interview is used in such a manner to make Republicans look bad, it is acceptable? Taking the same interview in the exact same context, and pointing out an instance that Democrats look to be a bit closed minded is beyond the pale though, as this was clearly just comedy. Which is it ?

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When have Jon Stewart and the people of The Daily Show *not* criticized the existing government, be it Republican OR Democratic? The interview was amusing and opened up just enough debate to, hopefully, reach its viewers and get them actually thinking about Frank Luntz. And one must not forget, it's FUNNY!

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You obviously didn't get the point of the joke.

The point was not that Asians, Blacks or women can't be Republicans. It was that Luntz wanted to create a false image -- by putting together a "rainbow" coalition of people.

Look at Luntz's comments: "he's got an African-American," "there's your female he's got." He doesn't look at these people as people. He looks at them as objects. Objects that can be manipulated, to create an image.

But hey, continue to try to play the race card. If that sort of Ann Coulterism makes you sleep better at night, so be it. We agree to disagree.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you are seriously haveing a debate over the contents of the Daioly Show. The entire show is comedy and it is pathetic that people rely on it for news.(which Jon Stewart admits himself). Everyone have a sense of humor here.....none of this means anything.

And Stewart will make fun of anyone but clearly would rather make fun of conservatives. His prerogative.....and he is great at it in my opinion.

There are many actual issues out there to discuss. This is just dumb.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Vestal Vespa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Vestal Vespa said...

The ACLU is assaulting our borders . . . oh, sorry "assualting" our borders?

News to me. And I'm not familiar with the "Nineth" Circuit Court, either.

But then, of course, grammar, social studies and good spelling are all part of the liberal dominant dogma in our public schools and universities. Props to you, "anonymous" for so bravely fighting against the oppressive liberal plan and expressing yourself instead with all the capability of a six-year-old.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Chin Shih Tang said...

But what can one do about it? It works. The American people are fooled yet again.

Either the Democrats can play the game, and descend to their level, or they can try to stay above it, and talk over the people's heads.

I choose to talk straight. Even if no one follows, at least I have expressed myself. No guilt.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for the link.

9:26 PM  

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