All right, I admit it. I finally found an Israeli propagandist I can not only admire, but some day hope to be like, though it seems improbable, since Dr Frank Luntz is plainly so good at what he does. I don’t mean that in any snide way, incidentally, in case you thought I was trying to belittle the man’s skills. Far from it: Frank Luntz is a PR genius, a manipulator of meaning sans pareil.
I must apologise to all my right-on friends, but when you come across a master of his craft, you have to stand up and applaud.
After all, anyone who has been visiting this site since its shaky start eight years ago will be aware that I simply love language and its possibilities. You might not like the things that are said here, but I hope you’ll agree I do my best to maintain standards and therefore, when I come across a document like The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, I have to set aside my personal views.
Dr Frank Luntz is a man I might get on with very well if we happened to meet up in one of his favourite New York haunts. He seems to be a witty, erudite, articulate individual. I think I’d like Frank because we have much in common and although I will admit that I’d never be able to match his intellect, that’s the way life deals out the cards. There you go. We’re all born into an unequal world and I know Frank wouldn’t hold that against me.
Who is Frank Luntz, is that what you asked? Well, Dr Frank Luntz is the man who said It doesn’t matter what you say. It’s what people hear. And how right he is.
Ignore the oxymoron that he works as an analyst for Fox News and try to forget the dismal fact that he advised George W Bush. Frank is still a gifted spinner.
For years on this site, I laboured under the sad misapprehension that people listen to and read carefully what is being said, when in reality they do nothing of the sort. What actually happens is that they grab onto some trigger word or phrase that resonates with a pre-digested thought they prepared earlier.
How many times have I had to deal with some fool telling me what I really meant, instead of reading what I actually said? Dr Josef Goebbels (what is it with Doktors and propaganda?) understood this point very well, even if his assessment of the English is a little harsh..
The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness.
Dr Frank Luntz’s Global Language Dictionary is a handbook to be used by advocates for Israel — in other words all those thousands of volunteers across the world who go on radio and television articulating the Israeli position in their continuing struggle to correct false ideas about Israel’s righteous position.
The document correctly identifies the only media constituency relevant to Israel: the persuadables. These are the people who are not already implacably on the side of Israeli policy come what may, and therefore the language needs to be be seductive, rather than militant, much like — and I am truly sorry to be making this parallel but it seems so apt — much as Adolf Hitler needed to sound conciliatory in order to win over the moderates in the 1930s.
I thought it would be a good thing to take Dr Luntz’s spin handbook and turn it around. I thought it might be good to write as a Palestinian who had studied the Israeli spin handbook.
From here on, this is the Palestinian speaking, using the Israeli propaganda handbook, word for word, apart from the necessary substitutions.
Let me be clear at the outset that I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes when talking about Israel and for that I’m sorry. I hope those I hurt will forgive me. I care as much as the next man about the dangers that Israelis face. I hope that in time, they can find a way to live with their Palestinian neighbours in peace. I hope they can elect leaders who are willing to build peace.
I also recognise that we can’t roll the clock back, but we can move the clock forward and we can create new realities if only the Israeli government is willing to put aside the men of violence. It’s a basic right of all children, including the children of Israeli parents, to be raised without a culture of hatred. Children should not be raised to kill others. Israeli teenagers should not be gathering on hillsides to cheer the bombing of Palestinian children. No child should be abused this way. Israeli children deserve better.
It’s plain that ordinary, decent Israeli citizens are not driven by the hatred of the religious extremists, whose charter is clearly written in the Torah, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This charter calls for the slaughter of all enemies of Israel and even though the Israeli administration claims to have abandoned this, it is still in existence. When Israel renounces the extremists in its leadership, we hope and pray that peace will one day be possible.
We know that the Israelis deserve leaders who will care about the wellbeing of their people, and who do not simply take hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance from America and Europe, put them in Swiss bank accounts, and use them to support terror instead of peace. The Israelis need books, not bombs.
There is NEVER, EVER, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. NEVER.
Are Palestinians perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yes. But they want a better future, and they would work towards it, given a chance.
And we want Israelis to have a better future as well. They deserve a government that will eliminate the terror not only because it will make my children safer—but also because it will make their children more prosperous. When the terror ends, Israel will no longer need to have challenging checkpoints to inspect goods and people. When the terror ends we will no longer need a security fence.
Achieving peaceful relationships requires the leadership—political, business, and military—of both sides. And so we ask the Israelis … Stop using the language of incitement. Stop using the language of violence. Stop using the language of threats. You won’t achieve peace if your military leadership talks about war. You won’t achieve peace if people talk about pushing others to the sea or to the desert.
Palestinians know what it is like to live their lives with the daily threat of terrorism. They know what it is like to send their children off to school one day and bury them the next. For them, terrorism isn’t something they read about in the newspaper. It’s something they see with their eyes far too often.
Is it too much to ask that the Israeli leadership condemn all terrorist activities? Is it unreasonable to insist that they stop killing innocent children before Palestinians jeopardize their security and make concessions for peace?
See? It’s a multi-purpose spin manual.
As I said already, Frank Luntz is a genius and I applaud him for his gift.
Talk about Iran-backed Hamas terrorists and you’re on a winner. As Frank advises his students, stay well away from any talk of Palestinian families having been kicked off their land by Zionist terrorists because, as we all know, Arabs are the terrorists. Isn’t that right?
It’s a fascinating document, detailing with refreshing frankness based on solid research the propaganda that goes down well in the States and the kind of spin that crashes and burns.
Sometimes it falters a little as, for example in the way it handles Iron Dome.
Israel now longs for a time when it will have a rocket-shield that will be able to protect from rockets in Gaza so Israel no longer needs to go to war there to stop the rockets
Hmm. I suppose Dr Frank will have to re-work that paragraph in the next version of his spin manual.
The manual also offers plain advice on hard questions.
If an interviewer asks if you were ever under rocket attack, just lie and say yes.
Have you spent time where the rocket attacks occur?
If you haven’t, then you shouldn’t be fielding questions on television about this issue. Palestinian spokespersons have been very effective by saying they have been to the locations of the attacks and therefore can more accurately report on what’s really going on. You simply must be prepared to respond to this question with “Yes, I have been there, and let me tell you how terrifying it is…”
Avoid the religious justification for taking Palestinian land even though that is your only justification for taking Palestinian land, and of course, when all else fails, just bullshit them until they shut up.
If you get bogged down in justifying proportionality, again, use rhetorical questions.
Rather than affirmatively stating the exact measure of force that should be used in these situations, use the rhetorical question to compel your debate partner (or the audience) to reach the answer that is obviously favorable to you: “Every day Hamas deliberately fires rockets into Israeli communities…
— “What do you think is a justified response?”
— “How do you propose Israel can stop these rocket missile attacks?”
— “What is a legitimate response?”
This is wonderful stuff, which every student of misinformation should study and again I applaud Frank Luntz for his skill, but when taken in conjunction with some of the stuff the Israeli embassy to Ireland has been putting out, the message is disturbingly redolent of messages many decades ago in Europe.
Wonderful though Dr Luntz”s linguistic gift is, do we want to let language carry us down that appalling highway again?
Oh, and by the way. One final warning from Dr Frank. Don’t ever talk about separate but equal. Ever. It would carry too much resonance of apartheid and naturally Israel would never, ever engage in that sort of obscenity, being a moral, upstanding democracy and a beacon of freedom in the Middle East, even if it did happen to be a longstanding ally and supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
But that was in the past and we can’t go back there, right?
Meanwhile, Israel’s Condor Legion continues to pound the Guernica of the East.
Here’s Penn and Teller on Frank.