News from the Noise Machine, Item 1

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Bush Administration

In today’s New York Times, Judith Warner weighs in on Ann Coulter (“Think Naughty, Think Small, Think Not.”).

Leaving the issue of not-so-latent homophobia aside — dwelling upon it, in this context, is a matter of shooting ducks in a barrel — what I found particularly shocking in Coulter’s comments was their studied juvenility, the sheer idiocy of their language. “Faggot” and “total fag,” like other political pearls of our time — such as “bring it on” and “girlie men” — are just epoch-making in their stupidity. …

…All this led me this week to think of Frank Luntz, the hot political consultant and wordsmith who wrote the lyrics for the 1994 Republican revolution. In his new book, “Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear,” Luntz puts forth the argument that using the “uplifting, ennobling tone” of famed political scribes like Ted Sorenson and Peggy Noonan is not the best way to capture the attention of Americans today. Instead, to communicate with the people — the real people of “small town, middle America” — and to speak straight to their hearts, minds and entrails, you’ve got to put “yourself right into your listener’s shoes.”

In other words, think small. “Use Small Words” is Rule 1 of his strategy for successful communication. Rule 2: “Use Short Sentences.”

This is the most interesting part, IMO:

Luntz has a doctorate from Oxford; Coulter has degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan Law School. Conservatives generally like to run with the idea that liberals are elitists, living “in a world of only Malibu and East Hampton,” as Coulter’s recent blog posting on the “crock” of global warming put it. But isn’t there something elitist, if not wrong, I wondered aloud to Luntz, about condescending to — or coddling or enabling — the imagined verbal limitations of the less-educated “other”?

Luntz did not much appreciate the question.

“It’s not condescending — it’s pandering,” he said of Coulter’s most recent performance. “Everything about the book says what she did was not just wrong but reprehensible. Those aren’t words that work. She broke every rule.”

“God, I really hate it every time she speaks,” he fumed. And, he added, if I were to even think of mentioning him in the same breath as her, “I will really, seriously raise hell.”

At a Conservative Women’s Network lunch at the Heritage Foundation last week, a question was raised, over dessert, about how conservative women should deal, “as women,” if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president. The guest speaker, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer in Washington, hemmed and hawed, shared some thoughts about Wellesley College and Barbara Bush, blushed, then concluded, “We’ll let the redneck guys who just aren’t ready to vote for a female commander in chief take care of the woman thing.”

Sounds like a plan. Sounds to me, too, as if the Republican noise machine may just have a monkey wrench in its machinery.

That the professional pundit class (like Luntz) think they can teach other Washington GOP insiders how to talk to ordinary folks always struck me as weird, but they’ve been getting away with it for a long time. Go figure.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Matt  •  Mar 7, 2007 @8:45 pm

    Judith Warner, not Judith Miller. (you can be forgiven for still having Scooter on the brain)

  2. maha  •  Mar 7, 2007 @9:02 pm

    Matt — thank you for the correction.

  3. joanr16  •  Mar 7, 2007 @9:17 pm

    Glad you changed it. If I had read that Judith Miller wrote a thoughtful piece, the shock might’ve killed me.

    Can’t wait to see how the Coulter enabler-textbook writer raises hell. Snort.



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