In the early-1990s, a political operative named Frank Luntz became famous for his pithy talking points. He was really good at creating phrases that could shape the public imaginary. Every week, he’d host a meeting with Republican staffers on the Hill to offer them a new phrase that they should aim to get into news media, attempting to create a “drumbeat” of terms. This was very effective. You know many of Frank Luntz’ terms. Partial-birth abortion. Climate change. Death tax.

When congressional members started using those terms, they got the news media to do the work of amplifying the underlying message. It created coherence. And when you have a term or a phrase that creates coherence, you see how it shapes a cultural logic. Regardless of what you feel about Luntz’ particular terms, there is no question of his efficacy.

danah boyd on names.

This is actually from a much longer essay on internet-based data and news manipulation, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety if you haven’t already. But mostly I’m just pulling this one quote out as a reminder that the same person who invented the terms “partial-birth abortion”1 and “death tax”2 also coined “climate change”…

  1. More properly known as an intact dilation and extraction, a procedure almost exclusively used during miscarriages, extreme fetal anomalies, and similar scenarios, including those requiring the viewing of remains for grieving and/or forensic purposes. []
  2. Also known as the estate tax, and basically intended to try and mitigate the negative social effects of inherited extreme wealth. Rich people—especially those scheduled to get richer when their relatives die off—fucking hate it. []