Political Branding: Language Can Shape the Debate

By Mark Skoultchi

April 27, 2009

I was interviewed recently for a piece on how language can impact political dialog. The article (“The Semiotics of Conflict”) questions whether the term “apartheid” can be used to describe the situation in Israel vis-a-vis the treatment of Palestinians. I was impressed by the author’s ability to address the question without necessarily taking a side in the debate. (I want to emphasize that my comments were meant to be completely neutral on the subject as well.)

Still, it is interesting how in the last few years, “branding” has started to shape political debate with increasing significance. The classic examples of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” have been joined by “Death Tax” (formerly “Estate Tax”) and “Climate Change” (formerly “Global Warming”). These new euphemisms/dysphemisms are all geared toward shaping opinion long before any pros or cons have been considered. In today’s soundbite-driven world, the “brand” of the topic itself can really impact public opinion. Perhaps lobbyists should be hiring naming consultants like me.

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