Monday, October 27, 2008

The Luntzification Of Canuckistanmikitaville


Donald Gutstein has a very interesting post up at The Tyee in which he details how much of Canada's corporate media amplified the Luntzian message being spoonfed to them, right from the beginning, that Stephane Dion was John Kerry while Stephen Harper was the Decider.

I found the following passages especially illuminating:

No sooner was Dion crowned leader than the Conservatives pulled out all the stops to implant a Dion-as-flip-flopper frame in voters' minds, attempting to define Dion for the voters before Dion did it himself.

For this work, they turned to Frank Luntz, then a prominent Republican spin doctor, a master at framing the political debate through his use of language. He's credited with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 via his bogus Contract with America.

Luntz visited Canada in May 2006 to meet privately with Harper and to address the shadowy Civitas Society, whose members include Harper's then chief-of-staff Ian Brodie, his long-time political mentor Tom Flanagan, and Environment Minister John Baird. Montreal Gazette reporter Elizabeth Thompson heard Luntz tell the 200 libertarians and neoconservatives that voters want someone who is credible and they can trust more than someone who shares their ideas. "More than anything else, they want to know you are a straight shooter," he added.


Harper kicked off the flip-flop campaign in the House of Commons during the debate over the extension of sunset provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act regarding preventive arrests and investigative hearings. The Liberals had enacted the law in 2001 and Liberals were voting against an extension. This was a flip-flop of colossal proportions, they charged. The accusations of Liberal flip-floppery were relentless, occurring 33 times over the next three weeks. Most were about the Anti-terrorism Act, but accusations of flip-flopping spread to Liberal policies on Kyoto and sending troops to Afghanistan. Harper himself used the term five times.


One vehicle for disseminating the flip-flop message was the nightly Mike Duffy Countdown segment on CTV, where the Conservative frame was provided a friendly welcome. Anti-Dion ads played during the commercial breaks were reinforced by Duffy's guests.

Government Whip Jay Hill led off by slamming "the flip-flop on Afghanistan, or the flip-flop now of the anti-terrorism act ..." Next, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day skewered Dion's flip-flop on the anti-terrorism law and its implications for the Air India investigation. Jay Hill was back several days later, as the vote on the anti-terrorism law extension neared. Harper appeared the same evening, repeating the phrase "abruptly flip-flopped" he used twice in Parliament. Apparently abrupt flip-flopping is worse than gradual flip-flopping.

Conservative strategist Roxanna Benoit couldn't understand why Dion needed to flip-flop, parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre hoped Dion would flip-flop once again on the environment and backbencher Garry Breitkreuz accused Dion of being like a fish out of water, going flip, flop, flip, flop, repeating the phrase for the benefit of slow learners in the audience.

Apologies for pasting so much of Mr. Gutstein's piece - but it's really, really good.

Thing is, now that this garbage has proven effective, what's the likelihood that it's not going to get even worse?

And, just in case anybody from They Tyee stops by here occasionally...... we've noticed your turn back to harder- edged analysis at the expense of some of the fluffiness in the last few weeks....and we like it..... a lot......and if it came about because your readers told you that's what they wanted when you surveyed them a few weeks ago, all the better.
And, for the record, we too were onto the Luntzification thing back in the Spring of 2006, as was Alison, who is currently throwing a little light on a much scarier, darker no-longer-stealth-frame.
Dr. Prole does a great job of handing Mr. Luntz his hat here.


No comments: