Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Ray McBee, our St. Louis "Kerry volunteer-in-chief" e-mailed an article to Kerry supporters that he called a course in Republican 101. Here's what McBee had to say about the author of the article, George Lakoff:
George Lakoff has been one of the world's best-known linguists for nearly 40 years. Professor Lakoff is widely recognized for his research on metaphorical thought, the embodied mind, and the structure of language. But in recent years, his application of cognitive science and linguistics to politics has brought him to national attention.With colleagues at the university of California, Professor Lakoff founded the Rockridge Institute, a new political think tank dedicated to reframing political thought and political debate in this country. He has a new book to appear in August, DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! WHAT EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VALUES AND THE FRAMING WARS.

My last two blogs summarized a Harper's article on building a new progressive movement. That article introduces Lakoff's ideas because his think tank is doing the kind of catchup theorizing Democrats need to get busy about. He analyzes how the GOP frames issues, and I'm sure he'll have ideas about a similar strategy for Democrats. After all, framing issues should be a lot easier for us since we're trying to figure out how to help people, not scam them into believing that gay marriage is more of a threat than giving their money to the rich. Here's the beginning of the article Ray McBee sent:
Framing the Dems
How conservatives control political debate and how progressives can take it back George Lakoff On the day that George W. Bush took office, the words "tax relief" started appearing in White House communiqu├ęs. Think for a minute about the word relief. In order for there to be relief, there has to be a blameless, afflicted person with whom we identify and whose affliction has been imposed by some external cause. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, thanks to some reliever. This is an example of what cognitive linguists call a "frame." It is a mental structure that we use in thinking. All words are defined relative to frames. The relief frame is an instance of a more general rescue scenario in which there is a hero (the reliever), a victim (the afflicted), a crime (the affliction), a villain (the cause of affliction) and a rescue (the relief). The hero is inherently good, the villain is evil and the victim after the rescue owes gratitude to the hero. The term tax relief evokes all of this and more. It presupposes a conceptual metaphor: Taxes are an affliction, proponents of taxes are the causes of affliction (the villains), the taxpayer is the afflicted (the victim) and the proponents of tax relief are the heroes who deserve the taxpayers' gratitude. Those who oppose tax relief are bad guys who want to keep relief from the victim of the affliction, the taxpayer. Every time the phrase tax relief is used, and heard or read by millions of people, this view of taxation as an affliction and conservatives as heroes gets reinforced.

I noticed an example myself during the Democratic convention. In order to refute Democratic ideas, Republicans opened an office in Boston which they called the "truth squad"--a nauseating term in its corniness but the kind of framing Republicans specialize in. And besides the issue of framing, Lakoff has ideas about the source of the different worldviews between Dems and Republicans. Professor Lakoff is all over progressive news sources recently. To read a brief column about his ideas,
click here.


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