Screen grab via Comedy Central
Frank Luntz is arguably one of the biggest reasons the United States has been able to dodge taking action to address climate change for so long -- in an infamous memo (which was leaked and obtained by a green group), he revealed the rhetorical tricks and talking points conservative politicians should employ to confuse the public about the state of climate science. Politicians still rely on these talking points today, and they've been infuriatingly effective.
Today, we get a glimpse of the man behind the curtain, in this segment from last night's Colbert Report, where Luntz explains the tricks of the trade to everyone's favorite faux-right wing pundit. Watch:
Colbert is consulting the top GOP spinmaster for advice on promoting his new satirical-but-very-real Super PAC. Notice how Luntz explains how "oil drilling" became "energy exploration" -- a term that still persists today. And you've got to love Colbert's riff after the global warming bit: "that's brilliant, not manipulative."
Here's the Guardian on Luntz's now-infamous memo, back when the confidential document first leaked in 2003: "the leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz, concedes the party has "lost the environmental communications battle" and urges its politicians to encourage the public in the view that there is no scientific consensus on the dangers of greenhouse gases."
And here's the meat of the memo itself:
"The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.
"Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."
The phrase "global warming" should be abandoned in favor of "climate change"
Why? Because, as Luntz explains, "the party should describe its policies as "conservationist" instead of "environmentalist", because "most people" think environmentalists are "extremists" who indulge in "some pretty bizarre behavior... that turns off many voters". Notice all those "key words"? It's the genesis of an effective strategy to marginalize environmentalists as fringe radicals and weird hippies. And in the video above, Luntz shows, step by step, exactly the ways in which politicians communicated those talking points.
And it worked. Look around -- anyone that continues to believe that there is no consensus amongst scientists that human activity is warming the planet was duped, and continues to be duped, at least in part by this man.