Deception & Misdirection

Selling Out the Public’s Unconscious Mind


Last year, Capital Research Center ran a series on how the Left gains an advantage in public debates by linguistic sleights-of-hand that take advantage of the public’s “unconscious mind.” It often works with non-ideological or mushy-middle citizens, but sometimes left-progressives simply must descend their ivory towers to Places That Aren’t New York City and talk to conservatives. When this happens, the linguistic tactics that activists use can stand out like a sore thumb. Case in point: the de Beaumont Foundation’s recent report on how to convince the “Conservatives in the Mist” that lockdowns are good, actually, and not infringements on Americans’ civil liberties previously restricted to The Man in the High Castle and other dystopias.

The New Euphemisms

Presumably believing right-wingers to be small-minded sheep, the Foundation’s report proposes such masterful reframings as calling lockdown orders “stay-at-home orders.” It apparently hopes that softer words will obscure that the orders still confine healthy citizens convicted of no crime to their homes on pain of fine or imprisonment. Similarly, the government shouldn’t call itself the government but rather “public health agencies.” Oh, and for good measure, activists shouldn’t brand their orders “orders,” but rather “protocols.”

Fronting the public relations campaign for this rebranding of authoritarianism is longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He is perhaps best known for holding the cable-television “Luntz’s Dunces” focus-group panels of ostensibly undecided voters responding to presidential debates. But the real energy behind the project isn’t the survey’s “Republican” face, but its principal funder, the de Beaumont Foundation. De Beaumont, which received its full endowment in 2014, is a private foundation focused on government-controlled public health approaches, principally funded by and named for the late creator of the Brookstone specialty retail chain. It is one of many left-progressive “health policy” advocacy groups that use health advocacy as cover for a broader left-wing agenda.

De Beaumont’s CityHealth project provides clear evidence of this. In addition to giving cities points on its scoring scale for the usual nanny-state restaurant regulations, draconian anti-smoking legislation, and Prohibitionist anti-alcohol rules, it rates cities on their “complete streets” policy (a euphemism for restrictions on the choice to operate a private car), labor union–aligned paid sick leave mandates, and even “affordable housing/inclusionary zoning.”

De Beaumont’s outside funders also align with this liberalism-under-cover-of-stethoscope. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—which spent over $20 million promoting Obamacare, funds projects encouraging the adoption of soft-drink taxes, and runs projects targeting private cars—has funded de Beaumont Foundation, as has the multi-issue left-wing W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Focus on the Facts

In our series on the Left’s linguistic tactics, Tim Daughtry proposed, “Keep your arguments simple and relevant.” By keeping our eyes fixed on simple and relevant facts—that lockdowns are lockdowns, destroy lives and livelihoods, and are unprecedented deviations from our constitutional liberties—we can resist the haphazard attempts at persuasion by left-wing ideologues and avoid becoming one of the “dunces.”

To borrow the stirring words of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, we should not “shelter in place when the Constitution is under attack” and “even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical.”

Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
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