Feb
01
1995

'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control'

Since winning control of Congress, Rep. Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) has constantly complained about "destructive" and "negative" coverage from the "liberal elite media."

For example, when asked on Nightline (11/29/94) about his reference to the Clintons as "counter-culture McGoverniks," he first insisted that he had been misquoted--"I used the term McGovernite, not McGovernik--it was one of those things that the Times picked up and therefore it's now history" (actually, at least four different newspapers--including the New York Times--quoted Gingrich in their November 10 editions as calling the Clintons "counter-culture McGoverniks")--and then blamed the media for selective reporting:

I didn't say that to attack the president, I was asked an analytic question. But because I am now the next speaker, I am learning that everything I say has to be worded carefully and thought through at a level that I've never experienced before in my life.

In fact, the new speaker of the House--who once described his goal as "reshaping the entire nation through the news media" (New York Times, 12/14/94)--has given a great deal of thought to the media and how to manipulate them. One Newtonian axiom is "fights make news" (Boston Globe, 11/20/94). Another skill he has taught to Republican candidates through his political organization, GOPAC, is how to create a "shield issue" to deflect criticism:

"A shield issue is just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion," a GOPAC training tape advises. "You better find a good compassion issue where, you know, you show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center, and all you're trying to do is shield yourself from the inevitable attack."

But the clearest expression of Gingrich's philosophy of media came in a GOPAC memo entitled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control." Distributed to GOP candidates across the country, the memo's list of words for Democrats and words for Republicans was endorsed by Gingrich in a cover letter: "The words in that paper are tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually tested ideas and language." Next time you hear Gingrich complain about media focusing on the negative, refer back to these lists.

As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We Are a Majority," Langauage is listed as akey mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates, we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."That takes years of practice. But we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.

This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that, like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used....

Contrasting Words

Often we search hard for words to help us 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 attitudes... 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

Optimistic Positive Governing Words

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 positive 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