When the attention of the general populace centers on a particular topic and we try and make some sense of it, certain phrases emerge around different positions: Global warming, death tax, working poor, etc.
These phrases become shorthand for how we understand the topic. The media grabs hold of them and sets them in stone. But for many businesses, industries and politicians, these phrases can be slightly, er, inconvenient.
Take drilling for oil for example. The term "drilling" makes us think of raping the planet over and over. We're just making big deep holes in the Earth's crust in hopes of finding a big subterrainian pool of oil that we can then harvest and burn and further pollute the planet. That's what oil companies do for a living and it sounds rather unsavory. Let's try "Engergy Exploration" on for size. I love a good adventure! Yay! That sounds like fun. Suddenly you've removed the unsavory connotations from the front end of the discussion (which is where most public discussions end anyway).
This is what Republican pollster Frank Luntz does for a living. And he's pretty damn good at it. So good, in fact, that Republican politicians and companies hire him to advise them. He has a whole new crop of euphamisms that he's putting out there these days and here they are:
Capitalism > Economic Freedom: In the age of "Occupy Wall Street" (#OWS) capitalism has gotten a very bad rap. If the protesters are to be believed, it's simply not working for 99% of the gereral population. But who's going to argue with the idea of economic freedom? That's what capitalism theoretically represents, right? Now, the net result of this economic "freedom" is that the rich get richer and the middle class gets their ass kicked back down to the ranks of the poor, who get poorer. But if it's not economic freedom, then what is the answer?
Middle Class > Hardworking Taxpayers: Since the middle class is gone anyway, let's get rid of the term, too and dismantle this idea of classism. Having it as part of our political lexicon just reminds everyone that they're missing and that the rich screwed them. Hardworking taxpayers, well, they're everyone. Even the rich are hardworking taxpayers. Sort of.
Government Spending > Waste: The less government is involved in the economy the more money corporations are allowed to make at the expense of everyone and everything else. So let's minimize its contribution by dismissing everything it does as a total and complete waste of money. Of course, if you take all of that government waste out of the equation, the first thing that would happen is a big violent free-for all.
Entreprenuer > Job Creator: Easier to spell! But that's not all! This would make all rich people job creators and all poor people the beneficiaries of the rich people. That's fantastic! Who's going to rise up against a bunch of job creators? Who's going to want to tax the job creators? Of course, if these job creators were actually creating jobs then we'd have more than we currently have, now wouldn't we?
See how we do that? We just tweak to re-frame and suddenly the people in power are harder to attack. Other advice from Luntz, "Tell the occupiers: 'I get it,' always blame Washington, and never ever say you're willing to compromise. That sounds weak."
So as you start to hear some of these phrases make their way into the public debate, think of Frank. And think, "Bullshit."