Since the 1980s, wealthy conservative funding sources have plowed huge sums of money into creating think tanks to promote the radical right political agenda. The result of this seed money has been a seismic shift in how news and information is disseminated in the United States. It ain’t no liberal media anymore, folks.
By framing the debate with conservative catch-phrases, progressives, moderates, and liberals have been put on the defensive. In addition, by using or repeating conservative catch-phrases, the media, progressives, moderates, and liberals are actually doing the conservatives’ bidding for them. Through conservative tools like Fox New Channel and talking head pundits everywhere on talk-radio and television, these catch-phrases are repeated over and over again until they are part of the national lexicon. Here are a few examples of their recent catch phrases and why they are deceptive:
War on terror – by defining those despicable acts that took place on 9/11 as acts of war instead of heinous crimes, conservatives took advantage of the nation’s collective grief, shock, and outrage to pursue an authoritarian agenda. It also made it easier for them to push the more onerous and covert portions of the Patriot Act through Congress. Retired General and Secretary of State Colin Powell had argued at the time for the tragedy to be classified as a crime, but he was overruled by neocons in the Bush administration.
Defense of marriage – if there ever was a quick way to stir up religious conservatives, regardless of party affiliation, this catch-phrase would be it. For some reason radical conservatives think love and commitment can only be found between a man and a woman. Sounds awfully closed-minded, but consider the source.
Obamacare – by referring to health care reform as “Obamacare,” the conservatives are framing the debate based on the President’s image and popularity instead of the positive goals of reform itself. Not only does this alter the talking points, but it is sickly and subtly racist.
Partial-birth abortion – got to admit that this term does sound nasty, but that is because radical conservatives made this catch-phrase up to frame the debate in their favor. Technically, the proper term is “late-term abortion;” a rare, but necessary medical procedure, especially in those instances where the life of the mother is in jeopardy. Funny how those opposed to abortion in any manner claim to be on the side of life, except if you are the mother. No one is claiming these decisions are easy, but if you support life, then it should be at all stages.
Pro-life – how can you be pro-life, but then support capital punishment or sending our nation’s sons and daughters off to far-flung and continuous wars? That’s the great inconsistency. Secondly, why is the infant’s life more important than the mother’s life? Isn’t everyone’s life supposed to hold the same value? The proper term should be “anti-abortion.”
Death panels – to this author, no catch-phrase is more deceptive or inaccurate than this one. It relies on fear, especially senior citizen fear, to frame the debate. Never mind the positive attributes of health care reform or that private insurance companies have been making life and death funding decisions for decades, conservatives are framing health care reform as an economic development tool for the grim reaper.
Tax relief – considering the average tax bite in 2009 was the lowest it has been in almost 60 years, what is it exactly we need relief from? Personally, I would prefer relief from radical conservative lies and misstatements.
Needless to say, opponents to the radical conservative agenda had better get on the ball and pronto. At the very least, they need to take pages out of the conservative playbook and learn how to frame and/or re-frame the debate. More specific guidance on debate framing is also available in two fascinating publications written by University of California (Berkeley) Cognitive Science Professor George Lakoff. They are entitled The Political Mind and Don’t Think of an Elephant. To ignore this issue and allow radical conservatives to continue control of the framing will put many of the freedoms we know and love in deep peril.
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