“Language Massaging”: Frank Luntz Hired By Washington Football Team To Convince People Name Isn’t Horribly Racist
The Washington, D.C.-area NFL franchise has commissioned veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz to conduct some focus groups to see how American football fans feel about the franchise’s name, which is a vile racial slur.
Luntz has also previously consulted for the NFL on matters related to the ongoing lawsuit 4,000 former players filed against the league relating to concussions, and has appeared on ESPN representing the league, but in this case he appears to be working just for the team in question, with the disgusting and offensive name. That team, named after a wildly derogatory name for American Indians, has received a great deal of criticism for its name recently, including a trademark lawsuit and a letter from 10 members of Congress urging a change.
Luntz isn’t just going to get a feel for what people think of the name. Luntz’s specialty is crafting language to sell conservative policies or discredit liberal ones. You hire Luntz not to merely poll, but to figure out how best to sell people on something. It seems reasonable to assume that team owner Daniel Snyder, who has vowed to never change the name, is working now on how best to convince people that his team’s name is not a repellent racial epithet. Luntz’s specialty is renaming things to sound more appealing, but in this case he’ll be crafting the best possible language to use when explaining why something shouldn’t be renamed. (Luntz was reprimanded by American pollsters’ official professional association for his work on the 1994 GOP “Contract With America,” because he was suspiciously vague about how many people he actually polled after claiming that polls showed that Americans loved the contract.)
Luntz is actually fantastically good at his job — so good that he’s convinced quite a few seemingly intelligent liberals that Luntzian language-massaging is the secret behind all conservative electoral success — which is why he is basically Fox News and the House Republicans’ message-crafter-in-residence. He renamed the estate tax “the death tax.” He told the GOP to refer to Democratic healthcare reform as “a Washington takeover” and financial reform as a “big bank bailout bill.”
ThinkProgress reports that Luntz sent out an email survey designed to find eligible focus group participants. The survey asked about the team’s name directly, asking respondents to select either “I find the name offensive and they should change it” or “I don’t find the name offensive and they should keep it as is.”
This Washington football team was named by one of the most vehement racists in the history of American professional sports. When George Marshall bought the team in 1932, they were called the Boston Braves. He changed the name — to a slur, because he was a racist — and moved them to Washington. He made “Dixie” one of the team’s fight songs and refused to hire black players well into the 1960s. The NFL integrated in 1946 but Marshall’s team held out until the federal government actually forced them to field black players in 1963. The all-white Washington teams of the 1950s and 1960s were among the worst in the league, but segregation was more important to Marshall than winning football games. The NFL had actually already been racially integrated until black players were suddenly banned in 1933. Interviews with owners suggest that Marshall was responsible for the ban.
This is the man who named the team and white supremacy and racism obviously informed his every decision. In his will he insisted that his foundation not spend any money on “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.” It is extremely hard to believe that this man selected the name — specially changed the name from a less offensive term for American Indians to this term — to “honor” anyone, the usual argument used by the team’s modern defenders.
The current owner of the team, an incompetent lying corporate buffoon named Dan Snyder, is not as racist as George Marshall. (Few living people are.) He is merely dumb, vain, greedy and stubborn. He attempted to sue the Washington City Paper out of existence for printing a story that accurately described him as a thin-skinned moronic avatar of greed dedicated to bleeding fans of his team dry. He eventually dropped the case.
The City Paper, it should be noted, refuses to use the teams’ name, and refers to it as the “Pigskins,” which would be a fine replacement. The Kansas City Star has a similar policy but, notably, none of the other major Washington-area media outlets do. If the Washington Post — or Disney-owned ESPN! — adopted a similar policy, it could actually force a change, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. Some Post columnists have written about their opposition to the name, but the paper needs access to the team to be able to have a sports section. It should be noted that even Jack Abramoff knows the name is gross. (It should also be noted that he and Snyder were quite friendly: “A few seasons later, I was given first choice of the new suites in the former press section and our expenditures at Fed Ex Field grew exponentially.”)
That Snyder is hiring Frank Luntz suggests a certain amount of concern that nationwide blasé acceptance of his team’s name may be coming to an end. He certainly didn’t seem to take criticisms particularly seriously before — his team’s P.R. desk has usually just pointed to a couple of polls and dismissed critics as unimportant — but now he is writing letters to Congress and working out a P.R. strategy. That’s good. It means he’s losing. But it doesn’t mean he’ll lose. The team has successfully fought public pressure for decades, and the NFL has other high-priority P.R. nightmares distracting it from taking the controversy seriously. And soon we’ll begin hearing some much more convincing arguments in favor of the name, courtesy of Luntz and whatever other high-priced professional spinners Snyder hires.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, June 12, 2013
As one of the world’s largest news outlets, the Associated Press’s linguistic mandates significantly shape the broader vernacular. So when the organization this week decided to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” it was a big victory for objectivity and against the propagandistic language of bigotry.
Cautious AP executives did not frame it exactly that way. Instead, editor Kathleen Carroll portrayed the decision as one in defense of grammar, saying that the term “illegal” properly “describe(s) only an action” and that it is not an appropriate label to describe a human being.
“Illegal,” of course, has been used as more than a mere label — it has for years been used as an outright epithet by xenophobes. They abhor the notion of America becoming more diverse — and specifically, more non-white — and so they have tried to convert “illegal” into a word that specifically dehumanizes Latinos. Thus, as any honest person can admit, when Republican politicians and media blowhards decry “illegals,” they are pretending to be for a race-blind enforcement of immigration laws, but they are really signaling their hatred of Latino culture.
How can we be so sure that dog-whistle bigotry is the intent? It’s simple, really. Just listen to who is — and who is not — being called an “illegal.”
Almost nobody is uses the term to attack white immigrants from Europe or Canada who overstay their visas. Nobody uses the term to describe white people who break all sorts of criminal laws. Indeed, nobody called Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter an “illegal” upon revelations about his connection to a prostitution service, nor did anyone call Bernie Madoff an “illegal” for his Ponzi schemes.
Instead, the word is exclusively used to denigrate Latinos who entered the country without authorization. Coincidence? Hardly — especially because the term “illegal” is used to describe Latinos whose immigration status is not even a criminal matter.
Yes, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted back in 2008, though “the whole phrase of ‘illegal immigrant’ connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime,” in fact “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.”
If Christie runs for president in 2016, he will likely get flak for that comment from anti-immigrant Republicans. But he was 100 percent correct.
“‘Illegal presence’ as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code,” notes the Newark Star-Ledger, adding that while it is “a violation of civil immigration laws (and) the federal government can impose civil penalties” a person “cannot be sent to prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities.”
Recognizing these facts is not to condone unauthorized entry into the United States. But it is to note a telling discrepancy: Latinos with non-criminal immigration status are called “illegals” but white people committing decidedly criminal acts are not called the same. Worse, the term is used so often and in such blanket fashion against Latinos that it ends up implying a description of all people of Hispanic heritage, regardless of their immigration status.
What’s amazing is that Republican media voices, which so often invoke such incendiary language, simultaneously wonder why the Republican Party is failing to win the votes of people of color and consequently losing so many elections. Somehow, the GOP doesn’t understand what the Associated Press realized: Organizations — whether political parties, media outlets or businesses – can no longer expect to insult and slander people of color and still have a viable audience.
Those that do not realize that truth will inevitably find themselves as lonely and as marginalized as today’s GOP.
By: David Sirota, Creators.com, April 5, 2013
For as long as I’ve lived in Arkansas — most of my adult life — people like the now-famous state senator Jason Rapert have made most of the noise and lost most of the elections. Now they’ve come to power, courtesy of Southern Republicans’ cult-like rejection of President Obama and large infusions of corporate campaign cash. And with the state legislature in session, the tragi-comedy is under way.
It’s happening all across the South. Sample news story: “Representatives approved a bill titled ‘The Church Protection Act of 2013′…85-8, to permit concealed handguns in churches and other houses of worship.”
Because Jesus, of course, was all about smiting them dead before thou art smitten.
Anyway, “famous” may be an exaggeration with regard to Sen. Rapert. But a YouTube clip of the man haranguing a 2011 Tea Party gathering about his anger at “minorities” running the country has gotten Arkansas lots of unfavorable national attention. Meanwhile, his indignant, if not particularly honest, denials have succeeded only in generating more ill will and bad feeling.
Full disclosure: this same Jason Rapert is also my neighbor in rural Perry County, AR. He invited us to a Memorial Day Picnic three years ago, where his bluegrass band provided the entertainment. He’s a genial host and a terrific country fiddler and guitarist. A few days later, his wife graciously dropped off a CD the band had recorded. She pretended not to mind when my horse left deep hoofprints in their yard. The couple has two lovely young daughters.
However, the same fellow is also a stone religious crank who’s absolutely certain that God agrees with every one of his opinions; also that everybody who disagrees with God and him is going straight to hell. Jason’s not shy about telling you about it, either. He once advised me to leave the U.S. on account of supporting Obamacare. I reminded him that my side had won the 2008 election. (And good luck finding a country without “socialist” health care and with indoor plumbing.)
But I’d never have suspected him capable of the kind of insidious rhetoric he displayed for the Tea Partiers. The video, first unearthed by Lee Fang in The Nation, captures Rapert in full revivalist mode. No, his speech wasn’t “racist” in the simplistic way liberals often charge. I’m confident he’d vote for Condoleezza Rice, for example.
It’s not President Obama’s color that offends Rapert’s sensibilities—although I’m less sure about his audience’s. It’s everything else about the man that makes him suspect from a paranoid, neo-nativist perspective.
Delivered in a countrified drawl that’s more his preacher’s voice than the one he uses in his daytime job as an investment advisor, Rapert’s speech hits all the conspiratorial high spots: Obama’s supposedly missing birth certificate; his sympathy with gay rights; also, most ominously, his secret belief in the wrong God.
Anyway, here’s the business end of Rapert’s speech:
“You’ve got to change the hearts and minds of the people that live around you. You’ve gotta pray. It says ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.’ And I wonder sometimes when they invited all the Muslims to come into the White House and have them a little Ramadan supper, when our president could not take the time to go attend a National Prayer Breakfast — I wonder what he stands for.
“You know what, what they told us is …what you do speaks so loudly that what you say I cannot hear. I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is not goin’ to save us. We’re gonna try to take this country back for the Lord. We’re gonna try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in.”
Does it help to know that President George W. Bush never missed a Ramadan dinner? Nor has President Obama skipped a National Prayer Breakfast. New York magazine posted photos of him presiding at every single one.
What’s most alarming isn’t Rapert’s racial views, but his continuing indifference to the truth and his disdain for religious liberty. His views are scarcely distinguishable from those of the Know-Nothing party of the 1850s. Then it was German and Irish Catholics who were suspect; today, it’s Muslims.
Over time, it’s a losing strategy. Eventually, Americans come around to supporting the First Amendment and rejecting religious bigotry.
How things will play out in the shorter term is harder to say. It’s one thing to dislike Obama, quite another to embarrass an entire state, region and political party. Arkansans in particular have been touchy about their image dating back to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and beyond.
If politicians like Rapert don’t learn to moderate their tone, even in the South their ascendancy could be a short one.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 6, 2013
How fitting it is that this weekend’s shabbat observance, which I plan to share with the B’nai Tzedek Congregation in Potomac, coincides with two other weekend celebrations: Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the swearing-in of President Obama.
There is much to commemorate: the exodus to freedom from slavery in Egypt; the life and legacy of America’s foremost civil rights leader; and a changing United States that reelected its first black president.
But delve deep below this weekend’s celebratory moments and consider our world with introspection, and you might well be led to an observation that King made in 1954, one that still holds true.
In a sermon in Detroit, he said that you didn’t have to look far to see that something was basically wrong with our world.
Society, he said, has more knowledge today than people have had in any period of human history, whether the topic is mathematics, science, social science or philosophy.
“The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough,” King preached, “but it’s as if we aren’t good enough.”
The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, he said, but that our moral genius has not caught up.
Through our scientific advances, such as the building of jet aircraft that can transect the globe, we have made the world a neighborhood, King said.
But morally, he said, we’ve failed to make it a brotherhood.
Consider these words: “It is high time to assess how many [members of parliament] and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security threat.”
Do you think those evil thoughts were expressed during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich? Marton Gyongyosi of the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party of Hungary spoke those words last fall.
The fire of anti-Semitism that reduced a once-thriving Hungarian Jewish population to a third of its size still smolders. The smoke also rises in other parts of the world.
Some government leaders condemned Gyongyosi’s remarks, belatedly. But there are plenty of others, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who belong in Gyongyosi’s camp.
They remind us, just as King preached at the tender age of 29, that we still aren’t good enough. King declared that some things are right and some things are wrong, eternally and absolutely.
And there still exists one undeniable wrong that must be faced.
Despite scientific and technological advances that have taken us to places unthought of only a few years ago, in 2013 bigotry has global dimensions. It represents a moral challenge to the world.
King spoke of creating a worldwide fellowship that lifts concern “beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” Embrace all mankind, he said.
Now that is a tough call for an American president, to move from national to ecumenical concerns.
Fixing the economy, rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening the middle class, managing the debt, protecting our homeland, defending the vulnerable and changing gun laws are presidential priorities that can’t wait. They all cry out for action.
But bigotry is a global curse, a growing cancer on the world. Can America turn a blind eye to hatred?
Would that the questions stopped there.
Is hatred a popular subject for a reelected Barack Obama to address? The polls would probably say no.
We have enough on our hands here at home, is the common answer. What do ethnic and religious rivalries have to do with us, anyway?
Besides, is it good politics? The politicians probably would universally say no. There are no votes in taking on world hate.
But is it the right thing to do?
King would say yes.
Not because he believed that a word from the president of the United States would change the world.
But King might contend that the president of a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse nation founded on the principles of liberty and equal rights — however haltingly observed in the past — has an obligation to take sides against bigotry wherever it is found.
King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“We are” he said, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. What ever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Bear this in mind as we gather this weekend to remember, rejoice and observe.
By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 19, 2013
“Guns, Slavery And The Holocaust”: The Nonsensical, Offensive Argument That Gun Rights Help Protect Minorities From Oppression
They still save the Hitler invocations for the special occasions, so you could tell earlier this week when Matt Drudge went with his absurd Hitler and Stalin homepage about Obama and guns that we are at what the paranoid right thinks of as a watershed moment. Let’s hope to God it is. Drudge’s page was of course crazy: The whiff of fascism in this gun debate sure isn’t emanating from the White House, but from the direction of the forces using the techniques for which Hitler was famous during his rise to power—accusing the other side of doing precisely what he and his henchmen were doing, inverting the truth on its head in ways that offended common sense and morality at every turn.
Let’s start with yesterday’s news about Gun Appreciation Day, the invention of a certain Larry Ward. He is planning the big day to coincide with the president’s inauguration, set for Monday, January 21. When reminded by a CNN interviewer that this was also the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Ward, like all propagandists, was ready with an answer: “I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”
It’s always a tip off when they say King “would have agreed with me.” We’re about to endure another round of this again, when King day comes and conservatives dish out the obligatory “King would be a conservative today” columns. It’s completely ridiculous, as is the idea that armed slaves would have managed anything more than the wholesale slaughter by their far better-armed masters of many of their number.
But Ward, it turns out, walks a well-worn path of gun advocates trying to pretend that they pursue the policies they pursue for the sake of the powerless. In the 1970s, the first big gun debate in the country after the 1968 Gun Control Act—which the NRA supported—concerned Saturday Night Specials, the small, cheap handguns used in many crimes in that decade when street crime skyrocketed. The NRA needed an argument that might land sympathetically on the ear of a natural foe, and then-leader Harlon Carter, the man who politicized and radicalized what had theretofore been a moderate and sensible group, found one. As Rick Perlstein notes in The Nation, Carter dubbed the Saturday Night Special “the girl’s best friend,” arguing that it was “small enough to fit into a woman’s purse.”
This all brings us back to Hitler himself. He’s been used before by gun advocates, as Gavin Aronsen wrote in Mother Jones, and in the same way as above: If Hitler hadn’t barred Jews from owning guns, then the Holocaust might never have happened. Wayne LaPierre took up this line of argument in the mid-1990s.
So there you are—guns, you see, aren’t merely or even really for sportsmen, or for homeowners seeking to protect their property and family. They’re for oppressed minorities to fight off the oppressor; and even to make revolution. To believe that armed Jews could have prevented the Holocaust requires so many gargantuan leaps of faith about how that might have happened that it’s completely fantastical and ridiculous. No one can seriously believe this. They say it purely for propagandistic purposes. A person who can use the Holocaust for present-day propaganda purposes will do pretty much anything.
In a rational world, in the wake of the massacre of 20 six- and seven-year-old children, the NRA would be saying: You know, you’re right; we more than anyone else advocate safe and legal gun use, and we more than anyone else have an interest in seeing to it that things like this don’t happen. So let’s sit down and craft some laws. That was what the NRA did, in fact, until the 1970s, when the right-wing started smelling political advantage in pressing the many fronts of the culture war. But that isn’t our world, and so we have the grotesque spectacle of the NRA using this massacre and the government’s attempt to do something about it to rile gun owners to the point of insurrection.
I hope Biden comes out with tough recommendations Tuesday. Even if the administration has to back down from a couple of things eventually and settle for less than it wanted—and less than we need—I hope at least that Obama and Biden are willing to do us all the simple honor of speaking the truth about the gun lobby. If they can’t be defeated just yet, they can at least be spoken of as the monsters they are. And if Newtown is not fated to result in wholesale changes in gun laws, at least it might be remembered 10 or 20 years from now as the beginning of the end of the NRA, the start of a period when the lies lost some of their force.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 12, 2013