Friday, March 04, 2005


Create a poll. Ask questions like:

Clean Air. For or Against?

Clean Water. For or Against?

Choices. For or Against?

When framed in this way, which is clear and straightforward...most people would proclaim that they are for clean air, for clean water, for choices, and so on. And so those whose livelihoods include dirtying up the water and air, or taking away people's choices...frame the question differently.

Industry regulations. For or Against.

So suddenly the issue is not clean air, rather it is regulations.
But polluters are catching on. And so with one hand they take away the restrictions on polluting, and with the other, call it something that sounds appealing to the "clear" (literally) majority, by calling it something that sounds warm and fuzzy, like "Clear Skies", "Healthy Forests", "No Child Lying Liars" wait, I think it was "No Child LEFT BEHIND". A take off on "Kiss My Left Behind", no doubt...

The whole idea of "compassionate conservatism" is, Lakoff writes, an Orwellian construct masking the true intent of the policies. The key craftsman of this strategy is "the right's language man, Frank Luntz," who notes that conservatives can gain the upper hand--even when science is against them--by using language strategically. "People who support environmentalist positions like certain words," Lakoff writes in Elephant. "They like the words healthy, clean and safe because these words fit frames that describe what the environment means to them. Therefore, Luntz says, use the words healthy, clean and safe whenever possible, even when talking about coal plants or nuclear power plants.

I was turned on to George Lakoff in the mid-80s, when my Semantics teacher put "Metaphors We Live By" on the reading list. It was tremendous then, and remains so. A smallish book, I would highly recommend it to those interested in language, metaphors, politics or Lakoff.

Anyway, you needn't remain framed.
Here are some keys to the escape hatch:

Lakoff and Framing in the News

Clear Skies, Healthy Forests: Why Language Matters
E/The Environmental Magazine, CT - Mar 3, 2005

Recommended Reading for Liberals
Political Gateway, FL - Mar 1, 2005

Thinking of Jackasses
Atlantic Online - Mar 1, 2005

Tribe looks forward to the past
Taipei Times, Taiwan - Feb 26, 2005

Dean, Lakoff, and the Elephant.
BlueOregon, OR - Feb 24, 2005

Don't think of framing this
Lincoln Journal, MA - Feb 23, 2005

War of words over Social Security
The Green Bay News-Chronicle, WI - Feb 15, 2005

How Progressives Can Start Winning Again By Renaming Their Opponents and Reframing The Debate
Common Dreams - Feb 9, 2005

don't think of an elephant! (review) - Feb 5, 2005