Pundit Watch: Frank Luntz

Beware of pollsters with agendas.

A pollster is supposed to be someone just culling data from a statistically significant portion of the population, right? Someone with one eye on politics, and the other on science? Well, if you consider the efficacy of propaganda a scientific end, Frank Luntz is your kind of pollster.

Specifically, he's a Republican pollster. Has been since the 1994 "Contract with America" that rolled Repubs into Congress in a record wave, for which he was responsible for the language that enthralled too much of the nation. These days, he's often called "strategist" as much as he is "pollster"—or, to be on the safe side, FOX has sometimes referred to him as a "pollster/strategist", which should be a contradiction in terms, even if it's not in today's political world.

Presumably, Luntz gets work because of his cheap-sportcoat affability. He looks like a guy that you'd meet eating quarter chicken wings during Happy Hour at TGIFridays. He's relatively amusing, but perhaps more importantly, he seems to think that he's funnier than he actually is. And that's part of his charm, too. He's non-threatening. He's something of a buffoon who might have some useful information. This is how he gets people to talk to him, part of how he disarms them, and a big step toward manipulating their opinions for his own paid-for ends.

Luntz' qualifications for punditry are rooted in his experience in political linguistic manipulation, which both led to and developed from his ideas in his book Words that Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. Which is actually pretty flat-out honest of the guy. Luntz is, at heart, just a garrulous and amoral pseudo-intellectual, more concerned with causing a purposeful effect rather than caring what that effect is or does.

So here's the question: are Americans so jaded by our own political process that we need demagogues-for-hire like Luntz, disguised as pollsters we can trust, to put the whole thing in skewed but sound-byte-ready perspective?

Or maybe that's a question worthy of Frank Luntz himself. -- Teague Bohlen

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