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Newt Gingrich

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This example occurred more than twenty years ago, but it is a particular striking example of how politicians can apply propaganda techniques described on this site.

A popular Republican politician on his way to the top, Newt Gingrich clearly understood the power of propaganda. His political action committee (GOPAC) mailed a pamphlet entitled Language, A Key Mechanism of Control to Republicans across the country. The booklet offered rhetorical advice to Republican candidates who wanted to “speak like Newt.” It was subsequently awarded a Doublespeak Award by the National Conference of Teachers of English in 1991.

The booklet contained two lists of words. GOP candidates were instructed to use one set of “positive, governing words,” (glittering generalities) when speaking about themselves. A second set of negative words (name-calling words) were to be used against their opponents.

This is the list of negative words and phrases that GOP candidates were told to use when speaking about their opponents.

  • “Compassion” is not enough.
  • Anti-(issue) flag, family, child, jobs
  • Betray
  • Coercion
  • Collapse
  • Consequences
  • Corruption
  • Crisis
  • Decay
  • Deeper
  • Destroy
  • Destructive
  • Devour
  • Endanger
  • Failure
  • Greed
  • Hypocrisy
  • Ideological
  • Impose
  • Incompetent
  • Insecure
  • Liberal
  • Lie
  • Limit(s)
  • Pathetic
  • Permissive attitude
  • Radical
  • Self-serving
  • Sensationalists
  • Shallow
  • Sick
  • They/them
  • Threaten
  • Traitors
  • Unionized bureaucracy

This is the list of “positive, governing words” that GOP candidates were told to use when speaking about themselves or their policies.

  • Active(ly)
  • Activist
  • Building
  • Candid(ly)
  • Care(ing)
  • Challenge
  • Change
  • Children
  • Choice/choose
  • Citizen
  • Commitment
  • Common sense
  • Compete
  • Confident
  • Conflict
  • Control
  • Courage
  • Crusade
  • Debate
  • Dream
  • Duty
  • Eliminate good-time in prison
  • Empower(ment)
  • Fair
  • Family
  • Freedom
  • Hard work
  • Help
  • Humane
  • Incentive
  • Initiative
  • Lead
  • Learn
  • Legacy
  • Liberty
  • Light
  • Listen
  • Mobilize
  • Moral
  • Movement
  • Opportunity
  • Passionate
  • Peace
  • Pioneer
  • Precious
  • Premise
  • Preserve
  • Principle(d)
  • Pristine
  • Pro-(issue) flag, children, environment
  • Prosperity
  • Protect
  • Proud/pride
  • Provide
  • Reform
  • Rights
  • Share
  • Strength
  • Success
  • Tough
  • Truth
  • Unique
  • Vision
  • We/us/our
  • Workfare

A brief glance at the words on Gingrich’s lists suggests that they continue to be powerful tools in American political discourse. Words such as “vision, courage, lead, learn, commitment, empower, and freedom” are common to politicians on all sides of the political spectrum. Call-in radio hosts regularly use words like “ideological, liberal, bureaucracy, crisis, endanger, and lie” to discredit certain ideas.



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