Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rhetoric Has an Impact

The way the rhetoric is flying around the health care debate, you'd think we were still in the middle of a presidential election.

Politicians know better than anybody that rhetoric has an impact -- just ask Sarah Palin. Her op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, "Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care," uses that nasty, nasty phrase "death panel" when referring to the Obama plan.

She knows there was never a plan for a "death panel" just like she knows it's inflammatory language. And, she knows that people hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe, regardless of the facts, so she uses phrases like this to create support among those who (a) have no common sense and (b) don't do any research or fact-checking of their own.

Now how smart is that? Politicians -- not just Palin -- do an amazingly good job of leveraging peoples' fears and ignorance. Their goal isn't to inform. It's just to convince the population that the opponent's stance is unacceptable -- "Vote for me! I won't (insert awful thing here)!"

It's not a communications tactic that I use or like in my own business, but it's effective. And it's one you can use when working to sway public opinion or to sell products or services. But be careful if you do. You might be mistaken for a politician. Make sure that fits with your business goals.

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