Newt inflates his word power

Washington - Forget political correctness. Newt Gingrich and the Republican hitmen who now run Congress were never a very PC bunch in the first place. Their new creed is verbal correctness: scientific choice of the right language to promote conser vatismand skewer Democrats, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The search for the mot juste is nothing new in poll-driven, public-opinion obsessed US politics. The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, would spend hours before every speech trying out sound-bites. Bill Clinton regularly market-tests them before focus groups. But no one is as seriously into the business of words as Chairman Newt.

HarperCollins was ready to pay the Speaker of the House the mind-boggling advance of $4.5m (£2.9m) for two books. He has been in the job barely a month, and four anthologies of Newtspeak nuggets have already been published. And then, of course, there is the patented Gingrich manual of propaganda. First issued to devotees and would-be imitators in autumn 1990, Language, a Key Mechanism of Control, is suddenly the hottest political lexicon in town. It consists of 131 entries, half "optimistic positive governing words", half what are euphemistically called "contrasting words".

The latter include such 1995 Gingrich staples as "pathetic", "sick", "liberal", "traitor" and "hypocrisy", to be applied, says the guide, "to an opponent, his record, his proposals and his party". Read them, memorise them, it continues. "Remember, like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used."

And they are being used - so much so that President Clinton, a prime target of the vitriol, yesterday implored the annual National Prayer Breakfast, grouping America's great and good, Republican and Democrat alike, "for the grace of God not to use the power of words to divide and destroy".

Is Newt listening? Maybe. His pollster, Frank Luntz, has circulated a memo to House Republicans on how to describe the spending cuts Republicans are trying to push through. Never target "programmes", he says, but "bureaucrats". "Charities are OK; orphanages are not." And don't talk about slashing government, he advises. Better to "put government on a diet". With the average American having gained four pounds in the month to New Year's Day, Mr Luntz observes, "the diet analogy plays well this month".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee