Newt Gringrich played a pivotal role in making American politics more vicious, less honest, more destructive. Here, from a memorandum he circulated to freshmen members of Congress back in 1995, shortly after his Gingrich Revolution succeeded in taking over the House, is an illustration. It’s Gingrich’s advice about “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.”
To his fellow Republicans, newly crowned Speaker Gingrich provided this instruction about how to talk about the “Us” versus how to talk about the “Them.”
“Use the list below to help define your campaign and your vision of public service. These words can help give extra power to your message. In addition, these words help develop the pos[i]tive side of the contrast you should create with your opponent, giving your community something to vote for!
share, change, opportunity, legacy, challenge, control, truth, moral, courage, reform, prosperity, crusade, movement, children, family, debate, compete, active(ly), we/us/our, candid(ly), humane, pristine, provide, liberty, commitment, principle(d), unique, duty, precious, premise, care(ing), tough, listen, learn, help, lead, vision, success, empower(ment), citizen, activist, mobilize, conflict, light, dream, freedom, peace, rights, pioneer, proud/pride, building, preserve, pro-(issue): flag, children, environment; reform, workfare, eliminate good-time in prison, strength, choice/choose, fair, protect, confident, incentive, hard work, initiative, common sense, passionate
Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
decay, failure (fail) collapse(ing) deeper, crisis, urgent(cy), destructive, destroy, sick, pathetic, lie, liberal, they/them, unionized bureaucracy, “compassion” is not enough, betray, consequences, limit(s), shallow, traitors, sensationalists, endanger, coercion, hypocrisy, radical, threaten, devour, waste, corruption, incompetent, permissive attitude, destructive, impose, self-serving, greed, ideological, insecure, anti-(issue): flag, family, child, jobs; pessimistic, excuses, intolerant, stagnation, welfare, corrupt, selfish, insensitive, status quo, mandate(s) taxes, spend (ing) shame, disgrace, punish (poor…) bizarre, cynicism, cheat, steal, abuse of power, machine, bosses, obsolete, criminal rights, red tape, patronage.”
That was Gingrich. Here again am I:
Note, there was no concern about whether the words would fit any given person or idea of program from the side of the opponent. Language would simply be used as a weapon, without regard to truth or fairness. A tool of propaganda.
And if he was interested in a “Key Mechanism of Control,” just what was he seeking to “control”? It would seem to be the American people.
Control them. Not SERVE them.
Andy Schmookler is running for Congress in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia, challenging the incumbent Congressman, Bob Goodlatte. An award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, Andy moved with his family to Shenandoah County in 1992. He is a graduate of Harvard University and holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.