Wednesday, December 15, 2004

From the Lakoff Book Club

From tonight's mydd Book Club, highlights of Chris Bowers' thoughts on Don't Think of an Elephant

This is one of the keys to the entire idea of framing: progressives are so weak when it comes to using frames to articulate their beliefs that they do not even know how to talk to themselves about what they believe. We are unable to use short frames to evoke our own ideas, and instead resort to convoluted “hypercognition,” where long descriptions of simple ideas are required to explain our beliefs (read here: Al Gore and John Kerry). Because we have not invested the billions of dollars in think tanks and studies to learn how to talk to each other and evoke our beliefs in short frames, conservatives are far, far superior at framing than are progressives. Because of this, we are unable to evoke our frames in the minds of voters, end up reinforcing the frames of our opponents, and lose because their frame is dominant in the majority of the population.

Lakoff says that we must make the required infrastructure investment in think tanks, books, and language development that are required in order to better evoke our values to ourselves and to the 20-30% of the country that swings from one frame to the other. He notes that right now conservatives are able to invoke their entire worldview in just ten words: Strong Defense, Free Markets, Lower Taxes, Smaller Government and Family Values. However, progressive have a lot of work to do before they can reach that point:

"We progressives have a different ten word philosophy, but it won’t be as meaningful yet because it will take us a while to get our values, principles and directions out there. My nomination for a ten word philosophy versus theirs is the following: Stronger America, Better Future, Broad Prosperity, Effective Government, Mutual Responsibility."

Compare to the words at the top of the page here at Age of Reason (which come from here).

Meanwhile, Paul Rosenberg has this to say about the Right Wing Power Grab frame, which Democrats still haven't learned to transmit well enough:

Although Lakoff doesn't discuss this, the Right Wing Power Grab makes perfect sense in Strict Father terms. If conservatives really are so virtuous, and liberals really are so vile, then it makes perfect sense to say that only conservatives deserve to rule, and that virtually anything they do to win is therefore justified.  I believe that this is actually how conservatives think--although not necessarily consciously.

The book club also spent some time discussing the essentials of succeeding at the debate:

Show Respect
Respond by Reframing
Think and Talk at the Level of Values
Say What You Believe  

They are part of a much longer list. Among the gems.

An opponent may be disingenuous if his real goal isn't what he says his goal is. Politely point out the real goal, then reframe. Example: Suppose he starts touting smaller government. Point out that conservatives don't really want smaller government. They don't want to eliminate the military, or the FBI, or the Treasury and Commerce Departments, or the nine-tenths of the courts that support corporate law. It is big government that they like. What they really want to do away with is social programs -programs that invest in people, to help people to help themselves. Such a position contradicts the values the country was founded on-the idea of a community where people pull together to help each other. From John Winthrop on, that is what our nation has stood for.

But my favorite is a funny one: "If you remember nothing else about framing, remember this: Once your frame is accepted into the discourse, everything you say is just common sense. Why? Because that's what common sense is: reasoning within a commonplace, accepted frame," funny to me because I've always been acutely aware that to think of something as common sense is to cop out of arguing for it rationally.


At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"stronger america" and "better future" are sort of lame folks. They are so vague as to not say anything. Here are some alternative "short-hands for the left" for discussion:

"Safe for innovation" = America is great because people can take risks and fail, which requires a safety net but is also a pro-business voicing. This supports social security, college loans, small business loans, etc. and heck! "change" is in the title!

"Make friends not enemies" = let's do diplomacy and not just bomb. We are safer when talking, chatting. This is an old saying and will strike reason into many people. The danger here is being accused of appeasement, but the language is of "making enemies" not recognizing them...

"Strong through leadership" This suggests America should be strong and leading - but "leadership" implies you aren't going it alone - that people/countries are following.

"Four little girls in the church" = civil rights, anti-hate, note the word "church" as well as "little girls". very powerful message. and if someone doesn't know- they're going to ask - "what was the story with the four little girls?"

ok, that's it for now.



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