Language Matters: Political Spin

What kind of economic system is in place in the United States?

If you answered “capitalism,” the Republican party would disagree with you.

It’s not capitalism, it’s “economic freedom.”

That’s what GOP pollster and master spin doctor Frank Luntz is advising Republicans to say, anyway.

As we’ve talked about before in discussing the pro-life or pro-choice issue, language plays an important, though deceptively subtle, role in influencing the public’s ideas about political topics.

The word “capitalism” has gained a bad reputation lately, being connected to themes of corporate greed and CEOs who make themselves wealthy at the expense of the ordinary working citizen.

“Economic freedom” is a much more positive phrase. ¬†After all, in America, who would dare to speak out against any kind of freedom?

This type of linguistic spin to influence voters is not uncommon.

Universal health care became “government-run health care.”
Corporate bonuses were called “pay for performance.”
Taxing the rich changed to “taking from the rich.”

See how that works?

Language is a powerful tool for persuasion, and in order to be a language-savvy consumer of media, especially news media, the ability to spot deliberately influential language is vital.

What other examples of political spin (from either party or from other countries) have you noticed in the news?

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