Thursday, May 27, 2004

framing political thought

patrick logan points to this two part discussion with berkeley linguist george lakoff on the use of language to frame political issues.

Right now the Democratic Party is into marketing. They pick a number of issues like prescription drugs and Social Security and ask which ones sell best across the spectrum, and they run on those issues. They have no moral perspective, no general values, no identity. People vote their identity, they don't just vote on the issues, and Democrats don't understand that. Look at Schwarzenegger, who says nothing about the issues. The Democrats ask, How could anyone vote for this guy? They did because he put forth an identity. Voters knew who he is.


Also, within traditional liberalism you have a history of rational thought that was born out of the Enlightenment: all meanings should be literal, and everything should follow logically. So if you just tell people the facts, that should be enough — the truth shall set you free. All people are fully rational, so if you tell them the truth, they should reach the right conclusions. That, of course, has been a disaster.

while i agree that republicans have utilized and subsequently benefitted from framing much more than progressives, i am not sure that i want the left to follow suit. my association with the left stems partially from their proclivity to treat the electorate as rational adults -- i am not entirely against some of the goals of the conservative movement, but i find their recontextualizations and over-simplifications extremely off-putting.

if progressives do end up mimicing their conservative bretheren, i worry that politics will sink even further into the quagmire. the o'franken factor is a perfect example of this. i understand the intent, and i sympathize, but i just can't deal with it. (btw, is it just me, or does janeane garofalo look totally hot with the blonde hair?)

on a related note, design observer talks about the use of marketing in the recent indian elections. i thought the discussion and comments were quite interesting.

and finally, here are some other articles by george lakoff on language and politics/war.


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