Why The Winning Words Project?
Because there is a compelling need to respond with moral strength in support of progressive policies that have been falsely defined by the GOP for decades. The Left, and Progressives in particular, have allowed ourselves to become defined by the Right, and they are ratcheting up the rhetoric with abandon in this election. It's imperative that we define ourselves, and that we do so the right way.
We have allowed our American political discourse to become corrupted with faleshoods and deceptions.
For decades the agenda of the political dialog has been set by the right wing messaging machine:
- The GOP Minister of Propaganda, Frank Luntz and his "handbooks."
- The GOP Propaganda Media Outlet, Fox.
- Compliant Republican party members who regurgitate their memes at every opportunity.
- "Think Tanks" like The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.
- Lee Atwater’s protégé and Smear-Master extraordinaire, Karl Rove.
This has been literally a war of words, with the right wing not just presenting positions for our rational consideration, but using carefully-crafted word choice to mold our very assumptions about government. For example, taxes are nothing more than the nation's income—and ultimately, an investment in America itself—intended to be divvied up among those who benefit from that investment and based on an individual's, family's, or corporation's income. But the right wing has convinced everyone—unfortunately including our Democratic leaders—that simply talking about the need to increase our nation's income, aka raising taxes, will cause lost jobs and economic calamity.
And the left wing’s own “messaging machine” has been missing in battle during this process. Democrats, liberals, progressives, and even moderates are left struggling to articulate how the right wing policies destroy our communities, our economy, and our country’s moral leadership.
The fundamental problem has been one of how we on the left understand and approach communication. We have a great advantage over the right wing, which is that the factual truth is on our side—“the truth has a liberal bias.” But we’ve also learned, both through the example of what’s happened in politics in the last 30 years, and in numerous social science experiments, that simply telling the truth is not effective for changing political opinions.
Our goals are:
- To develop effective moral language and framing around the progressive solutions for the issues facing America—to create the “winning words.”
- To provide resources enabling Democratic, liberal, progressive, and moderate campaigners to successfully communicate about progressive policies, and to effectively fight against right wing language and lies.
- To especially focus on language and tactics to communicate effectively with so-called “swing voters,” who aren’t true believers of either the left or right.
Do we want to be "The Frank Luntz of the Left"?
Luntz facilitates conservative agendas by a market-driven approach, driven by polling and focus groups, intending to influence people to vote in ways that benefit a select few at the expense of the rest of the nation, and often at the expense of even themselves.
To accomplish this, Luntz formulates what are basically ad slogans designed to sell a vision of America that demonizes the liberal and progressive world view; a view that respects American traditions of social justice, equality for all, preserving a social network for those less fortunate, and conserving our planet for future generations.
So how does one go about getting people to oppose those moral positions? It’s easy; create lies and distortions of the truth using deceptive language and misleading frames.
And this dishonesty is the biggest reason that progressives have been suspicious of using moral frames for messaging: we prefer honesty! So, no, The Winning Words Project does not want to be seen as "The Luntz of the Left." However ...
What Frank Luntz has known for decades, and what progressives now know, is that framing works.
For example: framing is why you now drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water, when the original instructions for use called for taking one or two as needed. But since the market had been fully penetrated and the makers of Alka Seltzer wanted to find a way to sell more product, they confirmed with the medical people that two tablets would be both effective and harmless, and a new campaign slogan arose: "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is."
Does anyone take only one Alka Seltzer anymore?
Advertising, marketing, and framing do not have to be lies. They can be 100 percent truthful and pack the same punch. Witness "The War on Women."
That is how The Winning Words Project envisions our mission; not to become "The Luntz of the Left," but to be a counter to Luntz and cohorts, framed by moral values. To recognize that words matter! To promote Winning Words!
So how will we do that?
First and foremost by engaging you. We, the people, have finally recognized the power of our collective voices. The Occupy movement (OWS) didn't just raise awareness of the existence of income disparity in this country—that had been in the news for months before the first sleeping bag was rolled out at Zuccotti Park. No, what OWS did was to speak in unison on the damage this disparity has done to our economy, and to create a frame that perfectly illustrates the problem with simple imagery - an umbrella under which we can talk about a host of issues related to the welfare of this country, from student loan debt to the housing crisis: The 99 Percent vs. The 1 Percent.
And when that frame took hold, our elected representatives had no choice but to listen and to start working on what needs to be done to fix this very real problem.
To that end, The Winning Words Project will be both a learning tool and a megaphone. We will help formulate the best way to frame messages on a variety of political topics and give you the tools to spread those messages far and wide; in your communities, to the media, and to your elected representatives and those hoping to attain office.
The Winning Words Project will also help those unfamiliar with the concept of framing and its importance. We will help you learn how to come up with frames of your own, and how to (and how not to) debunk right wing frames. The Winning Words Project website will provide a place for you to hone your framing and messaging skills, discuss your ideas with others, and publish your work that frames the issues of this election.
What you can look forward to at The Winning Words Project:
We will have a diverse group of guest contributors who will share their work with us on this site. Among those already on board are:
- Patrick Sharma; author, historian, and writer for the Huffington Post, whose work has also appeared in Politico, and US News & World Report. He is currently writing a book on Progressive messaging.
- Tina Dupuy; nationally syndicated op-ed columnist and managing editor for Crooks and Liars.
- Karoli; contributing writer for Crooks and Liars.
- Bob Cesca; media producer, host of The Bob & Chez Show, and popular Huffington Post contributing writer.
- Richard Eskow; writer for Campaign for America's Future, whose work also appears at Crooks and Liars.
- Joe L; originator of the outstanding blog, StopFramingUs.com.
- Tom Benson; contributing writer for Little Green Footballs.
We and our contributing writers will expose the history of message framing, how and why the right wing have been able to embed their world view into our political consciousness, discuss how distorted language has facilitated dangerous and un-American legislation all across this nation, outline today's issues that need progressive framing in order to be implemented as policy, and cover the election and the issues that are—and that should be—front and center in the debate that will prevail upon the American public to choose our next president.
There will also be:
- Primers and "How To" posts on framing the progressive moral message that will help you tell our story among your friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
- A "sandbox" to play in: A community forum to discuss columns on this site, right wing memes that need debunking, and anything and everything framing language- and progressive morals-related.
- Your own page within the site where you can write your own blog posts for the community to read, discuss, learn from, and share with others.
- Petitions you can sign regarding framing-specific policies that will be directed to our elected representatives. And links for contacting elected officials and their campaigns.
- A community events organizing tool so you can work together with your neighbors on letter-writing campaigns, schedule meet & greets with elected officials for them to hear your views on how you want them to frame the issues they take back to Washington, stage street-corner rallies that present the progressive frames we've hashed out here, etc.
- Full integration with Twitter and Facebook to help you spread the message farther and wider. (Note: When you register via Twitter and are asked to authorize this site to "post tweets for you," that does not mean that we or the site will ever post tweets as you. It means that you will be able to tweet directly from this site, which will transmit those tweets "for you" without you having to open Twitter in a new tab or window to do so.)
- And much more as we continue to grow our community.
Please take a moment to register and become a member of The Winning Words community. We look forward to working together to make our vision of the country we believe in a reality.