Skip to main content

For years, George Lakoff has been telling Dems the importance of "framing" - of taking charge of the narrative, rather than allow the Republicans set the terms of debate, and then trying to answer them on their own terms.

In a diary on this site, he has observed

 

The meaning of every word is characterized in terms of a brain circuit called a "frame."  Frames are often characterized in terms of the usual apparatus of mental life: metaphors, images, cultural narratives — and neural links to the emotion centers of the brain. The narrow, literal meaning of a word is only one aspect of its frame-semantic meaning.

A simple example: "Regulate":  When you hear the word, is is your immediate reaction to the thought of being regulated negative or positive?  I suggest the word has a negative connotation.

So why do we allow the Republicans to set the terms of debate using the word "regulation", with its negative connotations?  Regulations aren't an end in themselves, they're a tool for a purpose: the purpose is PROTECTION. (Protection against polluters, against fraud, against foolish speculation by banks, and so on and so on.)  Why do we allow the Republicans to come out sounding like the good guys when they say they want to cut the burden of regulation on our lives?  Why can't the Dems frame the debate from the beginning in terms of protection, and accuse the Republicans of wanting to do away with protections?  Don't even use the word regulation, except to point out that regulation is the mechanism by which protections are enforced.

But, Noooo....  All we get are mealy mouthed "Well, we need regulation for..." responses that work to the Republicans' advantage, because we've let them set the terms of debate.  All Democrats should be setting the terms of debate on this particular issue by coming out with a strong "Republicans want to remove protection" message (with examples of protections) - and let the Republicans respond to that.  

Will they?  I doubt it.  Not we have dems like Rahm Emanuel dismissing Lakoff's ideas like this:

What he doesn't realize, however, is that the whole notion that words matter more than reason is the Republicans' frame, and it's the wrong one for the country's future.

Relying on reason isn't enough.  If voters cast their ballots based on reason, GW would have got perhaps three votes in 2004: instead he got millions from voters who voted on the basis of emotion.  

Will the Democratic hierarchy wake up?  I doubt it.  Maybe when you hear the word "protection" from their lips more often than "regulation", we'll know they've caught on. But I'm not holding my breath.

Originally posted to http://ifonlytheydaskedme.blogspot.com/ on Sun May 23, 2010 at 09:41 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  T&R. One of my biggest beef. (4+ / 0-)

      Two days ago, Gibbs was having a harder time explaining what the administration has been doing since the day of the rig explosion off LA coast.  Tried as he could, it became hard to watch on Friday.

      I don't know if Plouffe or Burton had a hand in it but today on FTN with Bob Schieffer, Gibbs finally hit it out of the park.

      Framing matters and the Dems are so bad at it.  It is their I know better attitude that has deprived them a comprehensible thought on how to have this issue remedied.

      Gibbs and Dems, if you don't want to frame, fine.  Have a plan B on how to get your messages out.  Be on top of news cycles and stop chasing the news.  You are in power, supposed to have the bully pulpit. Use it or get out of the way. Overwhelm the media and the GOPers with information. Keep them busy to the point that they will fine it difficult to come up for air.

  •  zzzzzzzzz (0+ / 0-)

    Broken record. Obama knows what he's doing. Just wait.

    I get "suaviter in modo", Mr President. May we now have some "fortiter in re"?

    by tapu dali on Sun May 23, 2010 at 09:47:55 AM PDT

  •  left can't frame diddly while ignoring talk radio (5+ / 0-)

    the theory is useless as long as the left gives the corporate think tanks (previously centralized from the bush white house) a free speech free ride on 1000 UNCONTESTED radio stations to create whatever constituency they want within days out of an army of misinformed dittoheads, otherwise known as the GOP base or teabaggers.

    since losing the white house the rove-like  centralized message has been diffused (with the teabaggers-dittoheads who were directed to town halls instead of screaming  into the phones whenever limbaugh/hannity told them to- being pulled in different directions).

    now  a rove gillespie team is raising huge money and will probably get the talk radio machine back on track for 2010.

    every day they have been and can drive a talking points bandwagon out of limbaugh's studio right into hannitys studio and after 6 hours of UNCHALLENGED repetition and with many other wannabes and talking heads in the MSM jumping on board the red velvet cushions the left/dems/progressives are just dreaming when it comes to framing.

    can someone name anything the left has been able to frame the last 20 years that didn't flow naturally from common sense and unavoidable news? and how much of that was then framed over later with all the coordinated uncontested repetition possible ONLY with their talk radio monopoly?

    like my sig line says...

    Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

    by certainot on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:09:29 AM PDT

    •  Could you explain the difference (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burrow owl

      between "framing" and "spinning"?  I've read Lakoff and his occasional diary here and I'm still uncomfortable.

      I get "suaviter in modo", Mr President. May we now have some "fortiter in re"?

      by tapu dali on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:30:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The difference (5+ / 0-)

        "Framing" is the term used by cognitive scientists. "Spinning" is either 1. the derogatory term used by those who want to dismiss those insights without offering any substantive criticism, or 2. building a false counter narrative to turn attention away from what's actually happening.  

        Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

        by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:40:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I really am sorry (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          burrow owl

          But from my (and many other "hard" scientists') point of view, both are attempts to mold public opinion on the basis of "feelings" and "perception", not facts.

          Anyhow, others disagree, and that's fine. I'll sign off now.

          Thanks for the dialogue.  

          I get "suaviter in modo", Mr President. May we now have some "fortiter in re"?

          by tapu dali on Sun May 23, 2010 at 11:11:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "hard" scientists (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Garrett, EdgedInBlue

            Hmmm.  I would think the experiments listed by Lakoff in this post would be considered hard science.  Perform an experiment, tabulate the results, draw conclusions.

            Lakoff is proposing that the conclusions of scientific experiments be put into practice.  Sorry you think that applying knowledge of the way people think constitutes improper "molding" of public opinion.

            Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

            by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 11:36:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Superstitious views (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EdgedInBlue

            about the power and role of facts, are eye-rollingly out of touch with how people actually work, when coming from a scientist.

            Take your own comment as example. You are trying to mold public opinion. There are no facts in it. There is lots of metaphor, and use of emotion.

            "Hard," as a characteristic of science, the unreal nonfactual but associative metaphoric quality of it,  the symbolic transformations needed to do it, are Lakovian interesting.

            Why do we work that way? Why don't we work in facts, the way posited?

            Why is "feelings" rather than say "emotions" effective in argument? What is up with the emotional power of a scare quote?

            •  True (3+ / 0-)

              I didn't detail the experiments I alluded to - I just linked to a post that listed them, a post that also didn't give the full details of the experiments.
              To get the complete facts, you would need to go to the professional journals where the papers were published.

              I'm relying on the honesty of those reporting on the experiments.  If you feel that the reporting is distorted, I hope you will go back to the original scientists' papers to satisfy your quite reasonable desire to be sure of the facts.

              Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

              by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:18:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Once, when talking with a physics professor, (0+ / 0-)

                long ago, when I was young, I was laughed at for using "hard science".

                He wielded the social power of regret against me, for my silly unsophisticated worldview about it.

                Oh it was powerful. Effect of one embarrassment lasted all my life. Got deeply rooted in. Emotional manipulation works.

                •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Garrett

                  Oh it was powerful. Effect of one embarrassment lasted all my life. Got deeply rooted in. Emotional manipulation works.

                  But we still have Rahm Emanuel thinking that all Dems need to do is appeal to reason.
                  I'm not suggesting being dishonest, or hiding an agenda behind a disguise.  Just be forthright in putting a case forward on our terms - and don't end up trying to justify things in the terms used by our opponents, sounding on the defensive.

                  Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

                  by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:22:08 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  "Framing" is more like bullshitting (0+ / 0-)

        than spinning.  

        •  Re "Framing" is more like bullshitting (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          boophus

          So let's see, Burrow owl, if I have this right:

          Republicans: "Regulations are bad"  - getting a message out

          Democrats: "Protections are good" - bullshitting

          Ooookaaay...........

          Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

          by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:30:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  IMO you spin after, you frame before (3+ / 0-)

        if you want to take single payer off the table you give blowhards like limbaugh and hannity years of uncontested repetition to paint it as unamerican., reiforced with years of lies about canadian and european health care coming straight from the heritage foundation.

        when a prominent talking head mentions single payer as an acceptable option the dittoheads scream to the talking head's producers and single payer becomes unnacceptable and is reduced to public option.

        limbaugh and hannity frame that out too- it is socialism, unamerican- hoards of screaming dittoheads later named teabaggers make public option unacceptable and intimidate talk radio red state senators and enable the GOP politicians to oppose it, giving the interests of big insurance and big pharma a populist face. their interests are acceptable- free markets capitalism, etc.

        Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

        by certainot on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:09:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  PS - to finish (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, Trotskyrepublican

          the coordinated uncontested repetition only possible with the RW radio monopoly is great for framing - for determining or establishing the prevailing terminology, the acceptable terminology, or the prevalent terminology through repetition and volume.

          what has made it particularly effective for framing, and why progressives keep getting punked, is because the framing is all done out of their ear shot, while they're listening to music and before they notice it on TV later in the news cycle.

          the analysts/pundits often react and analyze after the framing is established and accepted as popular merely through repetition to 50 mil through 1000 uncontested radio stations.

          Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

          by certainot on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:42:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Single payer... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello

          ...was never framed as "the lower cost option" - i.e. removing insurance company profits from the nation's total health bill.

          Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

          by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:08:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The blunt reality (0+ / 0-)

        Framing is similar to spinning. And unfortunately messaging matters more than substance. Frank Luntz's main premise--"It's not what you say, but what people hear"--is correct.

    •  We'll never reach the Limbaugh audience (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Impasto, jayden, bluezen

      But they're only a small fraction of the population.  It's the fence-sitters that Dems need to reach with a compelling message.

      Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

      by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:31:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  an organized 20% - enough to make the difference (0+ / 0-)

        on bush, deregulation, iraq, health reform, climate action

        Progressives will lose all major messaging battles until they picket the limbaugh/hannity megastations and boycott those stations' local sponsors.

        by certainot on Sun May 23, 2010 at 11:55:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  a big framing issue (6+ / 0-)

    they call social security and medicare and 'entitlement'.  It is not an entitlement when you pay for it.  We send our money to the government through our salary and tax dollars in order to fund these programs for ourselves.  It is our money! We should call it what it is;

    Social Security is a self funded PENSION and Medicare is self funded HEALTH INSURANCE.  They are prepaid benefits that they should not be allowed to take away.

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:22:41 AM PDT

    •  And welfare is not, nor is Medicaid (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      phonegery, Trotskyrepublican

      and these programs, while as important as the two you mention are discounted and considered lesser because we continue with the 'entitlement' v. 'paid for' meme that the Republicans have filled your head with. By your analysis Medicaid and Welfare are optional, rejectable programs.

    •  "Entitlement" is simply the technical term (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Trotskyrepublican

      This is my problem w/ the framing nonsense: it infantilizes discourse and talks down to people rather than raising the level of discourse and treating participants as adults.

      •  "Raising the level of discourse" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        boophus, Trotskyrepublican

        I'm not suggesting dumbing things down.  Just asking to dispute on our terms, not theirs.

        In the example I've given, I want to defend the principle of protection, not have to justify the minutiae of regulations.

        Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

        by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:25:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Per Wikipedia, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Impasto

        you may be correct in the legal sense.

        In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit [1]—if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a "sense of entitlement").

        But to get the voters to vote for your candidate, the example that John Q used,  protection vs regulation, protection wins my vote.  We need to be protected against the powerful corporations that cut corners to save money, and end up polluting a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico. Rules, real rules, with monitoring and enforcement, will end up protecting us against the ongoing havoc a BP can cause.

        Better framing will help us get the votes, and the representatives, to enact laws that will get us those protections.

        What do we struggle against the most? The inevitable.

        by phonegery on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:48:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The importance of this topic cannot be (8+ / 0-)

    understated. Another great example of this is Arthur Finklestein. Old Art was the first to turn liberal into a derogatory term while consulting for one Jesse Helms campaign. Ironically, Mr. Finklestein married his long time partner in Provincetown, Ma.

    I discovered the meaning of life, but forgot to write it down.

    by dry heat dem on Sun May 23, 2010 at 10:37:46 AM PDT

  •  The spectacular failures of "deregulation" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boophus, bluezen

    ought to make reframing this one unnecessary. The mine disaster, the BP oil disaster and, of course, the global financial meltdown are all the result of deregulation. We just need to keep hammering this. Make sure that everyone remembers who it was that advocated deregulating everything; Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan and every conservative since.

    •  You seem to think everything has to be (0+ / 0-)

      reframed. Things that already resonate well are correctly framed.

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sun May 23, 2010 at 11:53:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You would think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello

      that what you're saying is true.

      The spectacular failures of "deregulation" ought to make reframing this one unnecessary.

      But the Republicans still seem to be getting traction on the meme of "excessive government regulation."  And it's just one example of how Republicans get to set the terms of debate.

      Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

      by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:29:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reason works for Democrats, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101

    Progressives, and liberals, not voters who are low-information types, and definitely NOT for conservatives and Teabaggers.

    A lot of intelligent Independents are also low-information voters b/c of varying circumstances, and many young voters don't watch the MSM at all -- especially news cycle programs.

    Framing the issue is the key.  Educating voters is essential.  Why does anyone think KKKarl Rove, Frank Luntz, Roger Ailes, etc., ad nauseum devote so much time and effort to framing and brainwashing?

    When you're in charge of the debate, you can define the terms of it.  When you own the dictionary, the next step is to rewrite history . . . helloooo Dick Cheney and the Texas School Board Textbook Committee!

    •  Framing shmaming. (0+ / 0-)

      People aren't brainwashed into thinking regulations suck; people are all too familiar w/ the suckiness of the regulatory state.

      No amount of framing will make people forget their unpleasant interactions w/ the state; what we need to do is to hammer home the benefits that are all too easily overlooked.

      •  Exactly what I'm saying (0+ / 0-)

        unpleasant interactions w/ the state;

        = regulations

        hammer home the benefits

        = protections

        Thank you for helping me make my point

        Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

        by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:43:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The trouble come when one gets the sense (0+ / 0-)

    the Protector wants to protect "you" from everything and everything from "you", and he's the best agent to do so.  

    Members of any particular subset of "you", of course, depends on who the Protector is.

    Using the protection frame would too often require the Protector to specifically identify the "yous" on each side.

    The Regulator, however, gets to imply he's regulating just a few of "yous" to the benefit of everybody else.  

    •  When a fence is put up in front of a scenic (0+ / 0-)

      overlook area after someone falls off and dies, is that protection or regulation?
      It protects people from some danger.
      It regulates where people can stand.
      How do you frame this issue? Which approach resonates best with you?

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:00:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As I said (0+ / 0-)

        You call it protection.  Regulation is the means of providing the protection. But refer to the protection first, then explain the means of ensuring the protection - don't jump to talking about regulation first, then follow with a justification.
        In the example you gave, a low wall wouldn't spoil the view, and a warning sign would be a good idea.

        Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

        by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:53:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  In the case you present, (0+ / 0-)
        1. Erect signs with text and graphics strongly informing folk there's a cliff here, and going over it will damage anything that does.
        1. Rely on the human instinct to individually protect that we don't want damaged.

        In general:
        I expect government employees to bust their ass to give me reliable information upon which to base decisions, the authority to do so, and the accountability for negligently or purposely disregarding said information to cause harm to persons or property.

        Occasionally, a law is required to codify my decision's limitations, my authority to make it, and the nature of the accountability. It should be a last resort, not a first resort.  

    •  of course (0+ / 0-)

      Protection needs to be coupled with what we're being protected from.

      Unsafe drilling practices would be a good one right now.

      Air pollution.  Water pollution. Unsafe drugs. There are a myriad of things we want and need protection from.  Let's specify them as examples, and get out in front of the issue, rather than let the Republicans rant about those unspecified regulations that threaten our freedoms.

      Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

      by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 12:48:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  b/c we suck at framing, defending our framing (0+ / 0-)

    A Democratic politics that relies upon framing is always going to be vulnerable to Republican counter-framing, never mind the questionable strategy of fighting the battle for the country and the world with a weapon that conservatives invented.

    The Republicans' greatest weakness is their complete unwillingness to live in the real world. For all their turgid rhetoric and truthiness, nothing they say holds up to even a cursory examination. Instead of fighting on their turf and by their rules, go for the jugular: bite hard and deep and hold on like a rabid pit bull.

    The American people aren't stupid. They might not like bureaucrats or having their tax dollars spent on people who aren't the same color as they are, but they know how rough things are right now and they know who's responsible. They're waiting for leadership who knows those things too, and isn't afraid to act on that knowledge and set things right. I can't emphasize 'leadership' enough; that, more than anything else, is what the American people are attracted to, and it's what the Republicans try above all else to be seen as doing, and it's easier for them because they can just push their cookie-cutter policies and are shameless enough to whine and lie.

    Democrats need to stop trying to play 11-dimensional chess. Stop trying to be all things to all people and focus on doing right by your constituents if you're in Congress and climb up to the bully pulpit and stay there if you're President. Introduce the bills that need to be introduced, and force the Republicans to vote against them, then tell everyone what happened. Do it again and again and again until the Republicans relent or are voted out of office.

    •  Not necessarily (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Trotskyrepublican

      A Democratic politics that relies upon framing is always going to be vulnerable to Republican counter-framing

      At the moment, the Republicans frame, and the Dems DON'T counter-frame.
      When did you last hear a Democrat reply to a Republican blast about "excessive government regulation" with a reply: "(So-and-so) wants to take away all those protections against dirty air, polluted water, does't want protection against more oil spills...... "etc.

      But if Dems raise protection as the meme first, what's the Republican counter-frame going to be?  They're reduced to "over protection", and then that's a debate that would (thanks,  burrow oil, for the expression) raise the level of discourse

      Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity. -- Alvy Ray Smith

      by John Q on Sun May 23, 2010 at 01:04:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Amen. (0+ / 0-)

    That is all.

    Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

    by EdgedInBlue on Sun May 23, 2010 at 02:32:56 PM PDT

  •  I just lost a lot of respect for Emmanuel (0+ / 0-)

    Is he that clueless? Framing is everything. And reason and framing aren't necessarily incompatible with each other.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site